No successful cyber risk management strategy is simple. An effective strategy has multiple layers and considers challenges from all angles. This is why simply reacting to cyber attacks after they’re already happening is not enough. Certainly, you do need to take action in the event of an attack, but there’s much more work that should be done before a threat ever rears its head. This is the proactive side of risk management.
Proactive vs. Reactive Risk Management
When cybersecurity companies discuss proactive vs. reactive risk management, they’re talking about a comparison, not a competition. One is not better than the other, and the two are not at odds. On the contrary, proactive and reactive risk management should be working in tandem at your organization to form a complete cyber risk management strategy. Still, it’s important to understand the distinction between the two.
Proactive risk management involves taking steps to prevent cyber attacks from happening in the first place. It encompasses all the actions you take to prepare for cyber threats before an attack actually occurs. A great example of a proactive cybersecurity measure is vulnerability testing.
Reactive risk management is all about limiting damage from cyber attacks when they happen. No matter how effective your proactive management is, it would be irresponsible to assume a breach is impossible. If one does occur, reactive measures like anti-malware tools and cyber insurance go into effect to contain and control the damage.
Proactive Cybersecurity Actions You Can Take Now
It’s extremely important to prioritize proactive cybersecurity so you’re ready when an attack happens. If you lean too heavily on reactive measures, you could find yourself scrambling when an attack takes you by surprise. Here are a few examples of proactive cybersecurity measures you should be taking now, if you aren’t already.
- Perform penetration tests - Penetration testing reveals the weaknesses in your cybersecurity strategy. Understanding your weaknesses is foundational to preparing for future attacks. You should perform penetration tests on a regular basis.
- Monitoring - You should always be monitoring for emerging cyber threats. You need to prepare a strategy for detecting breaches if you hope to have any chance of recognizing them with enough time to combat them.
- Prioritize risks - Not every risk demands your immediate attention. Some, however, very much do require prompt remediation. It’s essential to prioritize areas of risk as you detect them so you can patch the biggest holes first. You don’t want to leave your organization at serious risk in one area while you work on minor issues in another area.
- Ensure employees have good cyber hygiene - one of the most common ways cyber criminals gain access to networks is poor employee cyber hygiene. Make sure you’re providing all your employees with plenty of training and resources to help them maintain good personal cybersecurity best practices.
- Keep all software up to date - You need to keep all your software applications patched with the latest updates to avoid accidentally leaving a backdoor open. Regularly updating your anti-malware software is also critical if you want to be equipped to repel the latest malware iterations.
Benefits of Proactive Cybersecurity
Taking steps like these to improve your proactive cybersecurity can have a major impact on your ability to defend against threats. Let’s break down some of the specific benefits you could see.
1. GAIN CONTROL OVER RISK MANAGEMENT
Taking steps to assess risks before a threat comes along allows you to seize full control of your cybersecurity strategy. You can make informed decisions about which issues need to be prioritized and what specific steps need to be taken to remediate vulnerabilities.
2. PREVENT THREATS
Statistics show proactive risk management truly works to prevent cyber attacks. According to the cybersecurity resource allocation and efficacy index (Q2 2020), the COVID-19 pandemic greatly increased the use of remote, proactive cybersecurity measures. 66.4% of survey respondents from across North America and Europe increased their proactive risk identification spending shortly after the outbreak, and 76.5% reported an increase in cybersecurity efficacy during the same time.
3. MAKE REACTIVE SECURITY EASIER
When you’ve proactively made a plan for defending against cyber threats, it’s easier to spring into action when one occurs. An effective cybersecurity strategy involves both proactive and reactive measures that each benefit the other. By identifying weaknesses and preparing for the most likely threats ahead of time, you can be ready to act quickly and decisively when an attack is detected.
4. KEEP UP WITH EVOLVING RISKS
Cyber threats are constantly and rapidly evolving because cyber criminals are always looking for new ways to get around your defenses. This means your cyber security strategy needs to be highly adaptable. If you aren’t paying attention to emerging threats, you’ll find yourself lagging behind and woefully underprepared for the latest threats. A proactive approach to cybersecurity ensures you remain aware of new developments in cyber crime and take concrete preventative actions.
5. CONTINUALLY IMPROVE CYBERSECURITY
Proactive risk management naturally comes with a positive side effect: your security is always improving. When you aren’t taking any proactive measures, it’s easy for your strategy to stagnate. Once this happens, it’s only a matter of time before a threat you weren’t prepared for comes along and shakes you out of your complacency. Don’t wait for an attack to reveal your weaknesses. Find them yourself and fix them before they can be exploited. This is easy to do when you’re already proactively monitoring your security system.
6. ENSURE COMPLIANCE
It’s difficult to remain compliant with regulations if you don’t have an in-depth understanding of your organization’s risk. A proactive security strategy prioritizes thorough cybersecurity risk assessment and uses best practices to mitigate those risks. When you’re already going to these lengths to understand the state of your security, you can be confident your organization will pass a compliance audit anytime. Proactive risk management also introduces another layer of security measures on top of your reactive measures. A multi-layer security plan is required by some regulations.
7. BOOST CUSTOMER TRUST
Gaining the full trust of your customers is one of the biggest challenges any business faces. You’ve worked hard to earn that trust — it’s the result of months and years spent carefully cultivating a trustworthy brand image and nurturing positive relationships with customers. A data breach can destroy the reputation you’ve struggled to build in one move. A proactive security strategy is your first line of defense against this disastrous outcome. Not to mention, showing customers you care enough about their data to pre-emptively protect it is just another way to build trust.
Proactive cyber risk management is an essential component of an effective cybersecurity strategy. The benefits proactive measures bring to the table are indispensable in the rapidly changing world of modern cybersecurity. However, it’s important to remember that your proactive strategy is only a component. It isn’t meant to replace your reactive strategy — you need both working in tandem for comprehensive protection.