Creating An Effective Cyberattack Defense Plan—Before It’s Too Late

cyberattackA new survey conducted by Microsoft and Marsh found that two-thirds of 1,300 senior executives polled said cybersecurity was a top five risk management priority for their company. But while companies fear the impact of a cyberattack, only 19 percent are highly confident in their organization’s ability to prevent and respond to a hack. In fact, only 30 percent have developed a plan to respond to a cyberattack.

Businesses of all sizes can begin to create a cyberattack response and prevention plan by first identifying vulnerabilities. IT and security departments should run regular incident tests to identify weaknesses and strengthen the security program. Go beyond checking to make sure that software is up to date, although this is also important because most companies are way behind on security patch updates. Realistically prepare for the fallout of an attack by creating faux incident scenarios and run them through the organization in order to critique shortcomings and identify areas for cybersecurity improvement.


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Once vulnerabilities are identified and you have an understanding of how the organization will respond to an attack on the individual level, start fixing any holes. Employee (user) awareness training about cybersecurity risks will never be enough. Users are always going to be the first line of defense against an attack, but they are also the weakest link. Continually testing and retraining will keep users on their toes if and when a real threat occurs.

Take stock of company hardware devices and rank them based on value to the organization. This will help you determine where security efforts should be a greater focus. For example, if you have 100 servers and 2 of those servers allow the other 98 servers to work, then those 2 servers should have a higher value and importance.  The same thing applies to critical applications. Look at the structuring and segmenting of your company’s networks as well. Many organizations segment based on performance when security should be considered as well. Instead of only building a perimeter of defenses against cyber-attacks, layer them through the network. Otherwise, you will have a “hard candy shell, soft center lollipop” defense where it will only be a matter of time and a number of attacks before criminals breach your outer layer and devour the data inside.

When a cybersecurity breach does occur, the first steps any company should take are basic – notify the legal team to determine legal risks and fallout and be transparent. Once you know what information should be legally made public, immediately inform shareholders, employees and customers. Being upfront about what data has been breached will help with your public image, as long as you demonstrate that you are making every effort possible to mitigate the negative impact and prevent a breach in the future. You will also want to immediately contact an outside security team that can work with your internal departments to determine what went wrong and build better defenses.

Part of responding effectively to a data breach is knowing the value of your assets and how the information taken could be exploited. By knowing the value of your data, you can determine how to respond to attackers. But, any company that has been through a breach will agree, it is better to spend money on cyber defense upfront than try and clean up and rebuild reputation after a breach.

John Barchie
John Barchie is a senior fellow with Arrakis Consulting. He has twenty years of experience in computer networking, particularly IT and cybersecurity, and the majority of his career has been spent developing security protocols for Silicon Valley corporations including Symantec, Paypal, PG&E, KPMG and OpenSky.

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