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Proactive vs. Reactive Security - How Threat Intelligence Can Help

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Some bad things only need to happen once. As far as cybersecurity goes, one data breach is enough for online users to deem an organization unsafe. Still, many organizations seek comfort in the idea that, since something has not happened before, it likely never will – like a cybercriminal attack, a data leakage or a hack. What’s more, they seem certain that their employees and customers will simply avoid accessing dangerous links. This type of thinking makes most organizations perfect targets for cyberattacks.

For solid protection against the ever-growing threat of cyberattacks, a company should combine reactive and proactive approaches to security. Depending on how much an organization invests in building these defenses, one could say it’s aiming to at least keep up with the constant developments of the risk landscape, if not be a step ahead, with the proper proactive and threat intelligence setup.

What is proactive security?

Proactive security is based on the defense protocols the security team sets up to prevent attacks. Among other things, it consists of threat hunting and penetration testing to assess vulnerabilities, and it includes network and endpoint monitoring to identify suspicious behavior and isolate potential threats until the security team can intervene. Another important component of proactive security is represented by employee education programs meant to reduce the risk of breaches caused by inexperienced employees.

The benefits of proactive security

1. Reduces the number of possible attacks

Many attacks committed by cybercriminals could be easily prevented by organizations. Proactive security sets up a first filter against them. The more thorough a security team is in setting up defenses, the better the organization is protected. Be it keeping up to date with the latest types of attacks, or constantly scanning for vulnerabilities, or keeping employees informed of potential threats. They all contribute to keeping data safe.

2. Keeps up with the evolution of the risk landscape

People tend to be more wary of the threats they understand, meaning the ones they have come across and acknowledge as threats. However, cybercriminals, whose goal is simply to breach an organization’s network, will seek new ways of attack. They will constantly try to build better, smarter malware. By the time organizations get a notion of the “new” type of attacks directed at the industry, cybercriminals are already developing other ways of breaching networks. A purely reactive stance can prove costly in this case.

3. Discovers vulnerabilities

Organizations may simply have faulty systems. Whether getting online was done in a speedy manner with less care for the security aspect, or some network features simply remained unsecured as time has passed and nobody thought of checking up, vulnerabilities can give fraudsters a way in. As mentioned, many attacks could be prevented if only organizations did more to protect their data.

4. Discovers internal threats

Reactive protocols are usually directed toward external threats. Internal menaces, like employees actively trying to breach the network, or those who are simply inexperienced or careless with the security protocols, are disregarded. Proactive security checks for all threats directed at an organization, regardless of where they come from.

5. Saves the concentrated efforts of the security team for the real breaches

Preparing a team with reactive protocols is vital. After all, once an attack has taken place and damages start to be registered, swift intervention is mandatory. Even if it is mainly about damage control.

Once your vulnerabilities are discovered, they are exposed. Cybercriminals communicate among each other, and one breach opens the way for others. Having a security team work only when incidents happen, under stressful conditions and constantly putting out fire after fire, is exhausting. And it is dangerous to burn out reactive resources, especially if this is an organization’s only line of defense.

What is reactive security?

Reactive security is deployed after the first signs of a successful attack become visible. The security team effort is then set in motion to assess the situation, understand the attack stage, deflect it or, when it’s too late, to limit the damages. Certainly, this type of defense must exist in any organization, but it is best for it to not work alone.

Reactive security does not address latent threats and may never discover the more elusive ones. These protective measures are only deployed when an attack starts causing visible harm.

The disadvantages of reactive security

In more military terms, proactive security is like ordering soldiers to keep a lookout so they can see a charge being prepared, or simply building better defenses and putting up barriers in time. Reactive security is like deploying your forces only after a breach has become obvious and, unfortunately, when it has made an impact. Given that not all attacks are discovered on the day of the first successful penetration of defenses and that it can take months to cause visible harm, while still draining the network of sensitive information, relying solely on reactive measures is ill advised.

The best option for an organization is to combine proactive and reactive types of security. The first tries to limit the number of breaches, while the second reacts when a breach occurs. This type of layered approach provides better defenses and brings the additional benefits of improving compliance with privacy (like GDPR) regulations worldwide.

How can Threat Intelligence help?

Relying on a Threat Intelligence solution is part of a proactive security protocol. It means thinking ahead and looking into the developments of the cyberattacks to better understand the shifting tactics of the attackers and periodically re-evaluate defense and manage an organization’s risks.

The whole issue revolves around the concept of reducing risk probability and impact, taking the necessary precautions even if they feel useless now to an organization that has never suffered such problems in the past. Threat Intelligence supports risk analysis by tapping into the surface and dark web data feeds about the most-recent industry attacks. Then it can take an in-depth look to determine the best practices to mitigate these risks. Finally, it helps you set up a multi-layered defense system.

For a very long time, it was thought that cybercriminals were ahead of the game, constantly coming up with new ways of breaching databases and stealing valuable information. And it all came down to who was more motivated to develop their skills: the criminals who only stand to gain if they get more and more creative? Or organizations that can register immense losses with only a few vulnerabilities?

Learn more about real-life, contextual threat intelligence solutions.

 

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