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How Your Business Can Achieve True Cyber Resilience

August 12, 2019

Cyber resilience has lately become an industry buzzword.

Indeed, it is a highly important concept that should not be missing from your organization’s security strategy. In fact, your entire cyber security plan should be built on the pillars of cyber resilience.

Of course, you are already prepared for data breaches and cyberattacks. But what happens if disaster hits you? Will your business still be able to function properly? That being said, organizations should be fully aware of what cyber resilience means and how it can be achieved.

What is cyber resilience and how to achieve it

If you aren’t sure what cyber resilience is, you’re not alone. There are multiple definitions, however, here is a brief explanation of it:

Essentially, it is a matter of how an enterprise reacts to data breaches and cyber attacks, at the same time successfully managing to continue its daily operations. Businesses today are forced to function in an ever-evolving threat environment, where traditional security practices are simply not keeping up. Thus, they need to shift their focus to a more pragmatic approach and resort to cyber resilience strategies to guarantee their continuity.

Why does cyber resilience matter?

Building a higher and bigger ‘fortress’ around your enterprise is a common practice that is often failing, as threats are constantly adapting. For instance, if your employees are targeted through social engineering practices, they are likely to willingly, yet unknowingly, give away your most sensitive information, transfer money to cybercriminals, or provide login credentials.

Let’s put it this way: the human body deals with health issues. Suppose someone catches chickenpox. Once the body is infected, the immune system will trigger an alert and start the recovery process. The rest of the body will keep functioning, although some parts of it may not function to their fullest potential.

Nonetheless, it will keep working. The antibody that was created by the immune system to remove the chickenpox will remain in the body and the next time this virus tries to make the person sick again, the antibody will be prepared. It will instantly stop the infection from developing.

Similarly, cyber-resilient companies should be able to protect themselves, and if the protective measures fail, they should adapt, survive, and learn from these events to successfully stop others in the future.

The number of malware infections and cyberattacks has skyrocketed in recent years. Under these circumstances, we are no longer in the position to ask ourselves if our organization will be attacked, but try to anticipate when it can happen, how, and by whom.

Think of the costs involved in repairing the damage.

The Ponemon Institute noted that 1 million breached records would translate into losses of roughly $39.4 million for businesses. But when using cyber resilient practices, IT security departments quickly detect and mitigate potential threats before they spread, at the same time lowering costs.

However, the consequences of data breaches and attacks aren’t only to be looked at from a financial standpoint. The implications extend to a broader spectrum, covering repetitional damage as well. In terms of reputation, it will be highly challenging to regain your customers’ and the general public’s trust after a data breach. Eighty percent of consumers in developed nations will abandon a business if their personal information has been leaked in a data breach.

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Cyber security and cyber resilience: what’s the difference?

Simply put, cyber security refers to the defensive measures meant to keep malicious actors away when they’re trying to break into your IT systems. This is a basic cyber security tip that will prevent most of the attacks.

On the other hand, even though heavily connected to cyber security, the cyber resilience concept emphasizes the way an organization responds once an attack takes place. Therefore, an important aspect of cyber resilience is that it implies you are capable of continuing your normal business operations despite adversities.

Cyber security and cyber resilience should not be perceived as standalone concepts, as they are without doubt overlapping and greatly depend on each other.

Cyber Security Cyber Resilience
Focused on preventing cyberattacks by all possible means. Centered around the idea that incidents could happen anytime, so while it’s ideal to prevent them, you should always be capable of continuing your operations in spite of difficulties.

In other words, cyber resilience is based on a holistic approach that outweighs cyber security.

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6 steps to create a complete cyber resilience program

It’s time for organizations to transition from a classical information security approach to one of cyber resilience.

According to the NIST Special Publication 800-160, cyber resiliency should be based upon four high-level goals: Anticipate, Withstand, Recover, and Adapt.

NIST’s Cyber Resiliency Goals


In short, you need to be conscious of the current threat landscape and be able to anticipate future dangers. You are also required to have the appropriate processes in place if cyber disaster strikes, so your business is not disrupted. Or in any case, be able to recover promptly.

Here are the steps that will pave your way to true cyber resilience:

1. Evaluate your environment

Start by asking yourself a few vital questions, such as:

  • How vulnerable is your organization to the current threat scape?
  • Where is your data stored? Who has access to it?
  • Do you update your operating system and software as soon as new patches are available?
  • Do you provide cyber security training sessions for your employees?
  • Are you aware of the existing vulnerabilities in your systems?
  • Do you have Penetration Testing programs in place?

Of course, these are merely a few questions. Your evaluation should be much more extensive. If you don’t have the proper resources to conduct an in-house analysis, you can always choose to collaborate with third-parties.

For instance, CISA’s Cyber Resilience Review (CRR) is a free, non-technical assessment that will help you evaluate your cyber security practices. Designed to determine your existing organizational resilience and to offer a gap analysis for improvement, the CRR evaluates programs and practices across domains such as risk management, incident management, service continuity, and others.

2. Develop your defense and prevention plan

As I’ve already pointed out, having the right means of protecting your environment and avoiding cyberattacks is mandatory when following both the cyber security and cyber resiliency philosophies. Some of the common risks you should be prepared against are malware, insider threats, business email compromise (BEC), phishing/social engineering attacks, DDoS (Distributed Denial-of-Service) attacks, and more.

So, here are some elements you should include in your protection and prevention plan:

  • An Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) solution
  • Firewalls
  • Privileged Access Management software
  • Encryption software for your stored and transmitted data
  • Security software for your mobile devices
  • An email security solution
  • Strong authentication methods

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Ensure the defense tools you’re using are proactive rather than reactive. Employ artificial intelligence and automated security software whenever possible. Study threat intelligence reports so you can better understand the cybercriminal business model and stay ahead of threats.

3. Design a backup and recovery plan

If your organization is under attack, is all your vital information backed up so you can effectively resume your operations? Make sure you follow these steps to quickly get your business back up and running:

  • Conduct an inventory of all the assets that should be backed up and recovered in case of a cyber emergency.
  • Decide how often you should perform database backups.
  • Choose the physical locations of your data centers. Ideally, they should not be in the same geographical area, because if an entire region goes down, all your digital assets will be lost.
  • Regularly test your backup and recovery processes to be certain they work.

4. Have a Penetration Testing program in place

Ethical hackers will help you discover any cyber weaknesses in your organization. This means you should have someone try to ruin everything you have created before malicious actors get the chance to break into your IT environment.

Another important aspect that should not be forgotten is your people, as they must be tested as well. Why? Because they can often be exploited and allow cyberattacks to take place without their knowledge. For example, you can simulate social engineering campaigns (send your employees phishing emails) and observe their behavior.

This point brings us to the next essential step in your cyber resilience plan.

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5. Train your employees

Cyber resilience is all about approaching information security in a way that encompasses both technology and people.

While it may be simple to have a single person or a team responsible for your cyber security, that will prove to be an awful practice. In a cyber-resilient organization, communication needs to be facilitated across all lines of business. All your employees must be aware of cyber threats and be properly trained and familiar with the cyber security best practices.

In essence, ongoing cyber security education is key. Untrained employees can be your highest threat, while educated people can ultimately prove to be your best defense against intruders. Foster a positive cyber security culture, where everyone is encouraged and supported to learn and report suspicious behavior.

6. Adapt, learn, and predict

To demonstrate a true cyber resilient behavior, your organization must be able to adapt in times of change. Another crucial phase is to learn from past attacks and be able to determine in due time when similar events will take place.

Based on what you have learned, make the necessary adjustments in your cyber resilience strategy. Find ways to better address environmental changes and modify systems to reduce future risks.

Who should be responsible?

Your cyber resilience transformation should start from the highest levels of your organization. First of all, your key decision-makers need to be in sync with regards to your cyber resilience messaging.

Secondly, even if everyone is ultimately responsible for sustaining a cyber-resilient culture, business leaders need to be advocates for cyber-resilient practices and ensure that cyber security education is an ongoing process.

3 takeaways for your cyber resilience strategy

  • Cyber security is mostly about defense and reaction, while cyber resilience more about anticipation and continuity.
  • Create your IT systems in such a manner that even if malicious actors manage to break into your environment, your business operations continue without interruptions.
  • Choose a proactive approach over a defensive one and advocate for cyber resilience by design.

Bottom line

Start practicing cyber resilience, don’t limit yourself to cyber security.

Cyber resilience strategies will truly put digital security at the core of your business. Nurture an environment where the newest and most advanced threats are tackled with proactive defenses. Start using efficient strategies that will keep your organization in a functional state even in times of a cyber disaster.

Challenge the way you think about cyber security. Change your mindset to achieve true cyber resilience.

Interested in learning more about cyber security? Read our complete glossary of cyber security terms to increase your knowledge!

Related content: A Complete Glossary of Cyber Security Terms →

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