Every organization, from the smallest businesses to Fortune 500 companies, is subject to data breaches. A company stands to lose time, money, and brand reputation during an attack, making it vital to prevent cybercrime and take steps to mitigate it when it occurs. Proactive approaches are the most important factor for avoiding cyberattacks.
Here’s what businesses should know about proactive safety measures and how to implement them to keep information secure.
Proactive and Reactive Cybersecurity
Many businesses are on high alert as cybercriminals ramp up their illegal activities. 2021 saw a 7% increase in cybercrime compared to 2020, with losses totaling almost $7 billion.
Proactive cybersecurity involves taking steps to prevent cyberattacks from happening in the first place. In contrast, reactive cybersecurity is exactly what it sounds like — doing damage control after a data breach.
Both are important components of cybersecurity. Proactive measures, such as antivirus software, are like vaccines for a computer network. It’s often easier and cheaper to use proactive cybersecurity than react to threats as they occur.
However, a strong reactive cybersecurity plan is critical for any company when malware or viruses inevitably slip through the cracks. Reactive measures are like an immune response during an active infection. They usually include four phases:
- Containment: Security teams locate which servers and devices the attack targeted. Then, they disable remote access, change all organization passwords and install security patches.
- Investigation: How widespread was the attack? Who caused it, how long did it last, and which vulnerabilities made it possible? Security experts try to answer these questions and locate the malware. They also determine how much the data breach costs the company.
- Informing: After an attack, companies often issue press releases to inform stakeholders about what happened. They may also contact law enforcement or insurance providers.
- Remediation: Finally, it’s time to craft a detailed report outlining how the data breach happened and take proactive steps to prevent a recurrence. Security teams usually revamp their cybersecurity plan to better prepare for future attacks. They often use the ISO/IEC 27001 standard to examine and improve security measures.
The Benefits of Proactive Cybersecurity
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Like insurance, proactive cybersecurity measures cost a small amount of money overall, but they protect against potentially catastrophic damage to brand reputation, revenue, and productivity.
Incident responses and investigations are costly and eat into valuable time. Proactive cybersecurity results in fewer incidents, which means greater savings. The result is that companies will have more money, time, and expertise to address any threats that do pop up.
Proactive cybersecurity improves data safety and compliance by stopping exploits before they occur. It prevents data loss and the costly recovery process of cleaning up after an attack, including the awkward step of informing stakeholders their information, was compromised. Strong security preserves brand reputation and ratings. It may not make headlines, but breaches certainly do.
Furthermore, not constantly fending off security risks improves productivity and lowers stress. It allows people to focus on their work without being sidetracked. When threats occur, security teams can analyze them rather than take immediate action to contain them. The result is a happier, more efficient workforce that is less prone to burnout.
Proactive security measures allow the security division to avoid bad actors by researching system vulnerabilities. Specialists can perform penetration testing to find weak points in the network and take steps to remedy the issue. They can also use threat hunting to quell any malicious code before it becomes evident. With all of this done beforehand, proactive cybersecurity can greatly minimize the damage that results from a cyberattack.
Additionally, proactive cybersecurity improves compliance. This often requires data monitoring, so taking steps like conducting risk assessments and using antivirus software helps companies avoid penalties for data breaches. Complying ensures a smoother work environment with less red tape.
Proactive Cybersecurity Measures
Businesses should use these proactive security techniques to prevent data breaches. Implementing them is vital for keeping private information out of the wrong hands.
1. Monitoring for Anomalies
Cybersecurity monitoring software looks for malicious code, authorization and authentication failures, strange network traffic, and malformed database queries. It can issue alerts or shut systems down when it detects something unusual. Monitoring software is often the foundation of a proactive cybersecurity plan.
2. Cybersecurity Awareness Training
Proper employee training is one of the most crucial aspects of proactive cybersecurity. For example, phishing and social engineering attacks exploit people’s naivety to insert malware into a system or steal login credentials.
Employees should be able to recognize suspicious activity. They should also learn how to protect their computers by using strong passwords, logging out when inactive, and using multifactor authentication to log in.
3. Threat Hunting
Security teams can search their computer networks for malware and viruses before a threat presents itself. It’s a lot like getting an annual physical at the doctor — there may not be anything wrong, but early detection of a problem usually leads to better outcomes.
Threat hunting can be manual or automatic. Analysts often use machine learning software to aid them in threat detection.
A firewall monitors and controls network traffic. It plays a crucial role in blocking unwanted traffic and reacting to real-time threats. Firewalls help analyze cybersecurity breaches after they occur.
5. Penetration Testing
White hat hacking — hiring professional hackers to test system security — is a $4 billion industry in the United States. One of the main services these ethical hackers perform is penetration testing. If you’re interested in ethical hacking jobs, you’ll discover valuable opportunities in this field. The test involves trying to access a network just like a bad actor would, and it can reveal vulnerabilities the business should take steps to correct.
6. Anti-Spam, Anti-Malware, and Antivirus Software
These types of software do exactly what their names imply. Anti-spam usually protects email inboxes against phishing attempts and scams. Antivirus software uses signature-based detection to prevent viruses it has encountered before, while anti-malware employs heuristic-based detection to identify threats it has never seen.
7. Taking Inventory
Inventorying all assets, including mobile devices, routers, servers, switches, and Wi-Fi hotspots, allows security teams to identify potential risks. Legacy systems and outdated infrastructure can pose vulnerabilities to a network.
8. Risk Assessments
Conducting a risk assessment usually involves hiring a third-party contractor. The security contractor inventories company assets and examines the infrastructure for potential vulnerabilities. It then determines how much risk a cybersecurity breach would pose and how likely it is to occur.
9. Updating Security Plans
Cybersecurity threats are constantly changing. Businesses must adapt their security plans to reflect these changes. It’s often important to conduct penetration testing after updating a security plan. Additionally, hosting a cybersecurity refresher course where everyone is briefed on the changes is wise.
10. Strong Passwords
Strong passwords are among the easiest and most effective ways to prevent cybercrime. Employees should use long, complex passwords that contain a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols to protect their computers. Complicated passwords are much harder to crack by guessing or using brute-force attacks. They should be changed regularly to ensure they can’t be hacked.
11. Multifactor Authentication
Multifactor authentication (MFA) means using a phone or other mobile device to get a one-time login code. After employees enter their username and password into the system, they receive a text, email, or phone call containing a single-use passcode to complete the login process.
Systems that use MFA are extremely difficult to hack because bad actors need access to both the computer and the phone and the login credentials.
Staying One Step Ahead
All cybersecurity plans should include proactive and reactive security measures to protect companies from cyber criminals. Proactive steps are the most important in saving time, money, and energy, while reactive strategies are vital for fighting inevitable problems. These two approaches protect businesses against cyberattacks and preserve their reputations and credibility.