Reactive Cybersecurity or Proactive Cybersecurity: Which Should You Choose

December 20, 2022
IT Security

Reactive Cybersecurity or Proactive Cybersecurity: Which Should You Choose

What’s your approach to cybersecurity: reactive or proactive? Is one IT security approach better than the other?

Reactive cybersecurity is self-explanatory. It’s a form of cybersecurity that enables you and your team to react to an attack. That usually entails discovering the breach, removing the attacker, and assessing and repairing any damage.

Proactive cybersecurity is what it sounds like as well. You take proactive measures to prevent an attack from happening.

Given that cyberattacks these days are almost inevitable ─ at least that’s what the media keeps telling us ─ and there’s a need to get the most out of IT security budgets, it seems like the emphasis should be on the reactive side. If an attack is going to happen anyway, let’s focus our resources on how we deal with it.

The problem with that line of thinking is that it can leave your organization vulnerable to attacks. Despite the frequency and increasing sophistication of cyberattacks, there are ways to avoid them or minimize the chance of them occurring. If you don’t take advantage of these preventive measures, you’re leaving the door open to potential disaster or, at the very least, business disruption and all the adverse effects that come with it.

Fortunately, your cybersecurity strategy doesn’t have to take an either-or-type of approach. Reactive and proactive cybersecurity both offer benefits.

The Outside-to-Inside Approach

Integrating tactics from both proactive and reactive cybersecurity strategies can provide a more robust, comprehensive, and effective way of protecting your organization’s IT assets. Think of this strategy as a series of layers, similar to the defense-in-depth approach we discussed in previous blogs, that extend from the outside of your systems to the inside.

Outside Defense

The joint proactive-reactive strategy starts with a solid defense to prevent attackers from entering your IT systems. The initial layers close security gaps, employ tactics to identify new and emerging threats, and employ preemptive measures to thwart threats before they become attacks. If the first layers fail, there are additional layers that take up the cause.

Zero trust fits in here too. It’s a cybersecurity strategy in which security policies are applied based on context established through least-privileged access controls and strict user authentication rather than assumed trust. The idea is that only those who must have access to your systems are allowed to access them. No one else gets in.

Other proactive measures include:

  • Disk encryption/protection, which entails encrypting hard drives to strengthen data security in the event that physical devices are lost, stolen or misplaced.
  • Security awareness training to keep employees at all levels of your organization up to date on the latest security best practices and the continually evolving security threats they must avoid.
  • Multi-factor authentication requires multiple steps to grant system access to authorized individuals and groups.
  • Cybersecurity risk assessment and security gap analysis to continually identify and plan for defending against vulnerabilities and emerging threats.
  • Vulnerability scanning and management to automate many of the tasks involved in inspecting and identifying weaknesses and gaps in your existing cybersecurity defenses.
  • Penetration testing involves hiring hackers to test your system.
  • Patch management to ensure timely, prioritized patch installation.

Taking Security Inside

Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as 100% security effectiveness. Sometimes cyberthreats do become cyberattacks and find their way into your IT systems. That doesn’t mean all is lost. There are still all the traditional “inside” tactics and tools, such as firewalls and network appliances, to help stop some of these breaches from becoming full-blown disasters. Security solutions such as Managed Detection and Response (MDR) also work well at this point to keep attacks from doing damage.

Software agents are installed on individual endpoints to monitor activity and collect data into a centralized database. Drawing on machine learning and behavioral analysis, MDR identifies and automatically addresses suspicious activities ─ including ransomware ─ with both intelligence- and rules-based responses.

Threats are stopped before they can execute. Non-threats can proceed without disrupting operations. Information about both is used to continually enhance the service’s ability to detect and protect against existing and emerging security issues. The service provides protection even if an endpoint is offline to support remote workforces. In addition, it can help ensure endpoint compliance with data security standards.

Incident Response

As mentioned previously, attackers can still get into IT systems. Sometimes they go unnoticed for a long time, giving them more time to wreak havoc – often when least expected. That’s why intrusion detection systems are so important. And once something is detected, there’s no time to waste in responding, which is why detection systems should be accompanied by a “response” component.

This is an example of reactive tactics that have a proactive spin. The idea is that how you’ll respond to a cyberattack or other intrusion is already determined. In other words, you’re ready for whatever happens.

SIEM, SOAR, and XDR solutions are critical here. These products all collect and analyze security event data for the purpose of threat detection and response. They also have a shared goal of helping security teams reduce alert fatigue and streamline incident response processes. Managed security operations center (SOC) services are also beneficial as they centralize the essential monitoring and incident response functions to a team of experts that can best protect your company’s data assets.

The US Signal Approach

As has been noted many, many times ─ there’s no single, all-encompassing solution that will solve an organization’s cybersecurity needs. However, numerous solutions can be assembled or added to an existing IT security setup, creating a multi-layered approach that is both proactive and reactive. That’s how US Signal likes to approach security needs.

We take the time to understand our customers’ security needs and devise solutions that best meet them. That may entail a single security solution that closes a security gap. Or it could require layering on managed security services to a highly secure cloud service. The ultimate solution depends on numerous factors.

For information on how US Signal can address your security needs – from both a reactive and proactive perspective, contact us.