Cyber security is no longer an optional, isolated function in the world of business. It’s now a necessity particularly when it comes to disaster recovery and business continuity planning.
Digital transformation and immediate ‘work from home’ measures brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic have only sped up the ferocity and frequency of cyber attacks. Recent high-profile attacks, which have plagued the likes of T-Mobile and Activision, demonstrate that if cyber vulnerabilities are exploited, they can disrupt operations and cause irreparable financial or reputational damage. These notable hacks reinforce the need for businesses to adopt a proactive approach to assessing and addressing cyber risks, rather than a reactive one.
Integrating cyber security into the frameworks of continuity and disaster recovery is crucial for maintaining optimum resilience in the fast-paced, increasingly digital business landscape. In a world where transparency and availability are growing in importance, business owners cannot afford to be lax about safeguarding customer and stakeholder data. Their reputation and long-term future may be at stake.
This short article examines the vital role that cyber security plays in minimizing downtime and damage in the event of a security breach, disruption, or network intrusion.
The Growing Threat of Cyber Attacks
Cyber attacks are growing in sophistication and frequency. Estimates show that cybercrime is now costing the global economy in the region of $8 trillion. High-profile incidents like the Colonial Pipeline attack demonstrate how extensively cyber attacks can impede and disrupt operations which, in turn, can have profound knock-on effects on the rest of the organizations involved throughout various supply chains.
The proliferation of remote work has expanded the attack surface. Vulnerabilities like unsecured endpoints, insufficient access control, poor network segmentation, and unpatched software (among others) all pose risks. Security flaws and weak spots exist within these various threat factors, presenting prime targets for exploitation by malicious actors.
The fact that this threat surface is only growing with each passing day only escalates the need for proactive, urgent responses. Business owners - even if they deem their estate to be of little value to a cybercriminal - must demonstrate accountability and transparency in tackling cybercrime at all levels.
Proactively identifying and mitigating cyber risks shouldn’t be confined to specialist organizations; all companies need to take steps to safeguard data by all legal and ethical means. This ranges from implementing regular system and network patching, enabling two-factor authentication (TFA), investing in vulnerability assessments and penetration testing services to identify weak spots, and educating their staff, suppliers and stakeholders on the dangers of cybercrime. And all of this is just the start.
The Cybersecurity Imperative for Continuity Planning
Cyber attacks can severely disrupt operations, resulting in extended periods of downtime, reputational harm, and financial losses, among other outcomes. As such, businesses need to firmly incorporate cyber security protocols and prevention measures into their business continuity and disaster recovery frameworks.
As far as continuity planning is concerned, defined cyber security procedures matter to prevent:
- Service and operational disruption - Ransomware and DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks can prevent companies from delivering core services or products, thus impacting their clients and customers. Simultaneously, this will result in costly downtime and lost revenue, and even put the data of consumers or suppliers at risk, depending on the breach.
- Destructive attacks - Some severe cyber attacks may be politically or financially motivated, resulting in operations being ground to a standstill. These incidents often prompt executives to pay large ransoms to prevent sensitive or incriminating data from potentially being leaked.
- Compliance and regulatory issues - Cyber incidents often trigger regulatory, compliance and legal issues if customer data is compromised. Companies could be issued with fines, lawsuits and mandates which can only worsen the financial and reputational damage they could suffer.
- Loss of consumer trust - Often, breaches and cyber incidents erode consumer trust and leave an organization’s reputation in tatters.
Integrating Security into Continuity Frameworks
To enhance their resilience and cyber security posture, organizations must adopt a multi-layered approach that integrates cyber security into their disaster recovery programs.
The key steps involved in this process include:
- Assessing the full realm of cyber risks.
Organizations must conduct activities ranging from vulnerability assessments to threat modeling to proactively identify security gaps, flaws, and risks. If they operate in a private or hybrid cloud environment, it can pay off to consult a professional third-party cloud security consulting firm that can conduct a series of assessments and exercises to explore their current cyber risk profile.
From this, organizations can prioritize remediation based on the potential business impact that could be felt should an endpoint, device, system, or network be exploited.
- Establishing cyber-focused continuity plans.
Develop and implement individual incident response, disaster recovery and continuity plans that detail steps, should specific cyber attacks materialize. Whether dealing with ransomware, DDoS, phishing, social engineering, or any other type of cybercrime, it’s important to have defined steps. Ensure that these are outlined in watertight policies and provide continual staff training and reminders to refresh their knowledge.
- Securing and backing up critical assets.
Take steps to safeguard critical business data, systems, and assets, through a mixture of cloud storage and servers, as well as native, on-site servers and physical hardware. Maintain air-gapped, encrypted backups to aid recovery should you suffer a destructive cyberattack, where data can be restored from the last known safe point, and ideally, the threat contained.
- Implementing controls and best practices.
Leverage cyber security best practices around access controls, network segmentation, endpoint security, and software and hardware patching. Prioritize fixes for the vulnerabilities that pose the greatest risk to business and consumer data, and implement regular processes to check that security is at its optimum performance.
- Maintaining situational awareness.
Stay apprised of the threat landscape and adjust plans accordingly. Monitor for emerging cyber risks that may impact continuity preparations, and maintain a level of adaptability regardless of your infrastructure. Whether hybrid, remote, or face-to-face, one of the most commonly exploited barriers to entry is humans, so regular cyber awareness and training is essential to mitigate all critical data.
- Evolving Threats - With cyber threats growing more severe and sophisticated, organizations can no longer afford to silo cyber security.
- Integration Importance - Integrating security across continuity planning and preparations is critical to operational resilience and enhances preparedness against attempts to compromise data and assets.
- Breach Commonality - Many firms have reported at least one cyber breach or incident in their lifetime. It's unreasonable to assume that your organization is never likely to be a prime target.
- Proactive Approach - By tackling cyber risks head-on and integrating security into continuity programs, companies can rapidly detect, respond to, and recover from cyber disruptions.
Benefits of Proper Execution - If executed correctly from the outset, customer data can be safeguarded and operations can continue uninterrupted, with negative fallout and repercussions kept to a minimum.