Reactive vs Proactive Cybersecurity

Cybercrime is expected to cost the world’s economy $10.5 trillion annually by 2025. Although it’s almost impossible to wrap your head around a number like that, the reality is that security threats are real, and they affect virtually everybody, from large multinational corporations to individual businesses and everything in between.

Cyberthreats are becoming considerably more dangerous. Attackers are able to adapt to new security compliances; therefore, in this cat and mouse game, you’ll have to stay one step ahead and protect your business. Implementing a thorough, well-planned, tailor-made to your needs cybersecurity strategy will help you get the edge on attackers.

Proactive and reactive cybersecurity strategies are the most popular approaches an organization can take to deal with threats.

In this article, you’ll understand what reactive and proactive security is all about, effective ways to apply them, and finally, you’ll be able to tell which approach is more suitable to your needs.

Let’s get started!

What Is Reactive Security?

Most likely, all businesses that understand how devastating a cyberattack can be have tried out several network security solutions. You probably have in place tools like antivirus programs, firewalls, and threat monitoring programs to name a few. If the unfortunate but possible scenario of an attack happens, you have created a plan that allows you to act methodically against it. 

All team members know exactly what to do during the attack, and once the threat is over, you have well-documented procedures to determine what went wrong and what actions you should take to avoid similar incidents.

The above demonstrates a typical reactive approach. Reactive strategy is actually very straightforward to understand. Your company faces a data breach, for example. As a result, your security team reacts to it, at first by identifying it, then by defending against it, and finally by restoring potential damages.

Reactive Security Measures

A reactive cybersecurity strategy is a valuable tool in your arsenal to secure your business. Below you’ll see a few of the most practical reactive security measures you can adopt for an efficient and effective reactive approach.

Vulnerability assessment: Vulnerability assessment reviews an organization’s systems and evaluates whether or not there are any security weaknesses. It’s a reactive measure because it discovers known vulnerabilities rather than new ones. The vulnerability assessment approach involves the identification, analysis, risk estimation, and finally, the solution of the security risk. It’s a great way to assess your systems against common threats like cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks and SQL injections.

Disaster recovery plan: A disaster recovery plan is a set of policies designed to help an organization execute recovery processes and mitigate damages after a cyberattack. The plan thoroughly describes the actions a business should take during and after any kind of event, whether it’s a cyberattack or a natural disaster. It adds a certain amount of clarity, and all team members know exactly what they’re supposed to do under a high-stress situation like this.

Endpoint detection and response: Endpoint detection and response, or EDR for short, is a set of tools used for real-time monitoring and automated responding to threats on endpoints. By implementing it, you can gain valuable insights into the behavior of threats and how to prevent them. EDR has features like alert triage or incident investigation suitable for threat hunting– i.e., detection, analysis, and reaction to cyber threats.

Incident response: The incident response describes the actions a company takes to handle security incidents, data breaches, etc., effectively before they escalate and cause severe damage. By establishing a clear incident response, you can assess the situation and act accordingly to mitigate potential damage and reduce the overall cost of the attack. Finally, it helps you to adjust your plan to prevent a repeat of the incident.

Currently, most organizations use a reactive approach to secure themselves. And although this approach is excellent to deal with known security threats as soon as they happen, the cyberattack landscape changes drastically, and new threats emerge every day. A proactive approach to cybersecurity comes to fill the blank spots of a reactive security strategy.

What Is Proactive Security?

A proactive cybersecurity strategy is based on prevention instead of detection and response to cyberattacks which is the main focus of a reactive approach. In simple terms, the core idea of a proactive approach to security is what actions you can take before an attack happens to prevent threats in advance. Proactive security goes beyond the implementation of some tools. It requires a deep understanding of your infrastructure and your customer base, so you can subsequently understand what vulnerabilities you might face and stop them.

Proactive monitoring of your entire network infrastructure is essential for a successful proactive strategy. As a result, you can detect and fix weak spots before cybercriminals can take advantage of your network. Rather than waiting for attacks to happen, you take the fight to them with a proactive cybersecurity strategy.

Proactive Security Measures

A proactive cybersecurity strategy has several measures you can take to achieve a high level of security. See a few examples below.

Penetration testing: Penetration testing refers to a type of legal, white-hat hacking performed in a controlled environment. The goal is to test your systems and find weaknesses following the process an actual cybercriminal would follow. You are imitating an attacker; you check for vulnerabilities and weak spots that could give you access to your systems. If there are any, you have the opportunity to fix them before an actual hacker can exploit them.

Building a security culture: A staggering 95% of cybersecurity breaches are due to human error. Having the best tools is a no-brainer for all companies. Still, you won’t see significantly better results without combining them with a cybersecurity culture change that begins with your most valuable asset, your people. 

Security awareness training will educate your team members to avoid simple mistakes cybercriminals could take advantage of or detect early signs of an attack. At the end of the day, your cybersecurity strategy is as strong as your weakest link.

Data loss prevention (DLP): Data Loss Prevention, or DLP for short, as you can tell from its name, refers to the process of preventing sensitive data loss or data leakage. With DLP, businesses can secure their data and meet regulatory requirements. DLP tools help you track sensitive data and monitor them. If something unusual happens, like a file change that wasn’t planned or anything out of the ordinary, it immediately takes action and prevents the attack.

Attack surface management: An attack surface of a business includes all internal and external digital assets, like servers, computers, databases, third-party vendors, etc., that potentially could present as a target of a cyberattack. With an effective attack surface management plan, you can continuously identify, classify, prioritize and manage your devices. This managed security approach provides you with valuable insights about your infrastructure that will help you prevent your assets against all attacks.

Proactive threat hunting: Proactive threat hunting is about detecting sophisticated and stealthy cyberattacks that are difficult to find with traditional security measures. It’s common for attackers to remain hidden even for several months in a network before launching an attack. With threat hunting techniques, your team members can detect them and stop them before the threat escalates.

Which Strategy Should You Choose?

For a successful cybersecurity plan, it’s important to implement both reactive and proactive strategies. Proactive measures will be the foundation of your defense because, as the saying says, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Still, reactive measures are also vital because unexpected events are possible in the ever-changing cybersecurity landscape. Ideally, you can use them together and reach the maximum level of security available.