Cybersecurity teams have a single goal: to keep the business safe from malicious entities. However, the path to achieving this goal is not easy; it is often fuzzy and gets more challenging as businesses become more digitized. Businesses face an ever-growing array of cybersecurity threats, and 74% of CEOs are not confident about overcoming these threats. Thwarting modern cyber threats requires the adoption of a resilience-first cyber security strategy. This article delves into the three major approaches to formulating effective cybersecurity strategies: cybersecurity, compliance, and cyber resilience. Balancing these three components is necessary and strategic, particularly in cloud environments. We will explore how integrating these elements effectively can fortify an organization's defenses against malicious attackers and ensure business continuity.
Understanding the Trifecta
Understanding the trifecta of cybersecurity, compliance, and cyber resilience is essential to the success of security organizations. This is often not straightforward as organizations have different cyber risk appetites and leadership cultures.
Cybersecurity: At its core, cybersecurity is the practice of protecting systems, networks, and programs from digital attacks. These attacks often aim to access, change, or destroy sensitive information, extort money from users, or interrupt normal business processes. With the increasing volume and sophistication of cyber attacks, robust cybersecurity measures are more critical than ever.
Compliance: Compliance refers to measures implemented to enable adherence to laws, regulations, and guidelines designed to protect user data and privacy. This includes regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Compliance ensures that organizations are not only protecting their data but also respecting their users' legal rights and privacy.
Cyber Resilience: While cybersecurity primarily focuses on prevention, cyber resilience is about the ability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from cyber-attacks. It’s a more holistic approach that includes Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (BCDR) planning. Cyber resilience acknowledges that, despite the best efforts in cybersecurity, some attacks may succeed. Hence, it’s crucial to have plans in place to minimize damage, maintain essential functions during an incident, and quickly recover normal operations afterward.
The Interplay Between Cybersecurity, Compliance, and Cyber Resilience
The synergy between cybersecurity, compliance, and cyber resilience is crucial. Cybersecurity measures, such as firewalls, encryption, and intrusion detection systems, form the first line of defense against attacks and play a vital role in ensuring compliance with industry and governmental regulations.
Compliance, in turn, drives organizations to adopt higher standards of cybersecurity. While many organizations understand what cybersecurity measures are required to keep attackers away, some of these measures are not implemented due to conflicting priorities. The fear of falling on the wrong side of compliance regulation turns the tide. Yet, this change is often short-lived as compliance is often a one-off, check-box activity to get a certification that makes regulators and customers happy. In reality, the true position of security may be far from the impression presented by compliance, especially as the days go by and environments drift away from the status when compliance is conducted. A good approach for adopting a more efficient compliance approach is continuous compliance; it focuses on actively maintaining compliance dynamically and continuously. This approach bridges the gap between cyber security and compliance.
Cyber resilience is not yet regulated as a part of compliance, though some compliance regulations may check some components of cyber resilience, e.g., incident response that aims to facilitate recovery. However, cyber resilience is not a static virtue; it is about the current and future state, not the past. This makes cyber resilience hard to regulate unless regulations are dynamically conducted. Essentially, cyber resilience is a capability that should be built on top of existing cyber security and cyber compliance capabilities. It should be planned from the onset and not an afterthought; otherwise, achieving it could seem undaunting. The fact that cyber-attacks are not wholly avoidable implies the need for organizations to plan to roll out cyber resilience as part of the overall security strategy.
Adopting A Resilience-First Security Strategy
Despite its growing importance, organizational cybersecurity strategies often downplay cyber resilience. However, in an era where cyber threats are becoming more frequent and severe, building cyber resilience is no longer optional but necessary. According to a recent Accenture report (The Resilient CEO), 74% of CEOs are not confident about the organization's capability to survive attacks. Based on this, it is foreseeable that the future of cybersecurity lies in cyber resilience.
Organizations should adopt a resilience-first security strategy to save costs seamlessly (in the long run) and become resilient. This approach has a lot of advantages, though it might seem counter-intuitive when considered superficially. A resilience-first security strategy is better understood when viewed via the lens of outcome-based security mindset rather than an output-based approach. The emerging regulations in the European Union, such as the Cyber Resiliency Act (CRA), indicate the importance of adopting a resilient-first cybersecurity strategy. The CRA proposes adopting cybersecurity strategies that are typically security-focused and achieve compliance along the way, i.e., as a by-product.
Similarly, some organizations adopt a compliance-first approach and mostly struggle to achieve cybersecurity. Compliance should be a by-product of security and not vice versa. Therefore, some organizations adopt a security-first approach and hence achieve compliance as a by-product. Strategically, adopting a resilience-first approach provides several benefits, especially the achievement of cybersecurity and compliance objectives as by-products.
A resilient-first approach is powerful and future-proof. In recent years, the rate and sophistication of cyber-attacks have continually increased, and cybersecurity measures struggle to catch up with this trend. Hence, a more effective approach consists of adopting a resilient-first approach, which guarantees security and compliance as by-products.
Organizations can start by assessing their current security posture and identifying gaps in their ability to prevent, respond to, and recover from cyber incidents. Implementing a cyber resilience strategy involves a shift in mindset - from a purely defensive approach to one that includes proactive planning, continuous monitoring, and adaptation. The benefits of a resilience-focused approach are manifold. It enhances the organization's capacity to deal with cyber incidents, ensures business continuity, maintains customer trust, and safeguards organizational reputation.
The Balancing Act
Balancing cybersecurity, compliance, and cyber resilience requires a nuanced approach, considering cost, technological integration, and security enhancements. Let us look at these in the following sections:
Cost Efficiency: Investing in technologies and processes that provide maximum protection and compliance without unnecessarily inflating the budget is crucial. This could involve prioritizing investments based on risk assessments and choosing scalable and cost-effective cloud solutions.
Technology Synergy: The technology used should serve all three aspects harmoniously. For example, investing in a security information and event management (SIEM) system can enhance cybersecurity, aid in compliance through better data management and reporting, and improve cyber resilience by enabling faster incident response. A good guide would be understanding the NIST Cyber Resiliency Engineering Framework (CREF) and using it as a guide for technology acquisition.
Security Optimization: The balancing act also involves optimizing security protocols to address immediate cyber threats and long-term resilience. This could mean integrating real-time cyber threat intelligence into cybersecurity measures, automating compliance processes to reduce human error, and developing robust disaster recovery plans to ensure business continuity. It is noteworthy that BCDR does not really offer resilience if routine resilience testing is not conducted.
Strategic Resource Allocation: Effective resource allocation is critical. This means assigning skilled personnel where they are most needed, such as SOC teams for real-time monitoring and quick response and compliance experts for keeping up with regulatory changes. Essentially, an understanding and implementation of people, processes, and technology aspects of cyber resilience is imperative.
Regular Reviews and Adjustments: The balance is not static. Regularly reviewing and adjusting strategies in response to evolving threats, changing regulations, and business growth is essential. This dynamic approach ensures that resources are efficiently used, and investments remain relevant.
Employee Training and Awareness: Training employees in best practices for security and compliance reduces the risk of breaches and non-compliance. It’s a cost-effective way to bolster the human element of the cybersecurity strategy.
Mitigant Cloud Security Platform
One of the challenges in balancing cloud security, compliance, and cyber resilience is the lack of enabling tools. Security teams struggle to juggle the underlying duties that facilitate these requirements, thereby leading to frustration, higher costs, and failure to achieve the objectives. The Mitigant Cloud Security platform mitigates these challenges by providing a single platform that enables security teams to fulfill these objectives easily. Organizations can leverage the Mitigant platform to align with several cloud and Kubernetes security benchmarks, implement cybersecurity measures, and adopt cyber resilience mechanisms such as the approaches specified in the NIST CREF.
Co-Founder & CTO, Mitigant. | Contributing Author - O'Reilly Security Chaos Engineering Book. | AWS Community Builder