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How can you prevent a cyber attack? Unfortunately, you can’t. But you can control how prepared you are to respond to a potential attack. 

As cyber threats become more sophisticated and frequent, organizations must ensure they are ready and able to defend themselves in real time. This requires maintaining a state of cyber readiness — a position in which organizations can identify, respond to, and recover from cyber attacks swiftly and effectively.

Crucial elements of cyber readiness include having a comprehensive incident response plan, efficient threat detection capabilities, proactive prevention measures, regular employee training, and regular testing and updating of security controls.

So how do you prepare for the worst? Let’s dive into some best practices that can help your organization maintain a constant state of cyber readiness and stop bad actors in their tracks.

Cyber Readiness Best Practices

As a cybersecurity professional, you must prepare for the worst-case scenario. The more prepared you are, the greater your chances of preventing or minimizing the impact of an attack. Cyber readiness is crucial to achieving this goal. 

By prioritizing cyber readiness, you can minimize or altogether prevent the loss of sensitive data, damage to your organization's reputation, and financial losses resulting from a cybersecurity breach.

With these eight tried-and-true best practices, you’ll be well on your way to achieving cyber readiness.

1. Cybersecurity Program Assessment 

A cybersecurity program typically involves reviewing organizational policies, procedures, and technical controls to ensure they adhere to industry best practices and regulatory requirements. Since new threats are always emerging, program assessments should be conducted regularly.

2. Assess Vulnerability Testing 

In addition to regularly evaluating your cybersecurity program, it's also important to assess your vulnerabilities. Vulnerability testing involves identifying weaknesses in an organization's security infrastructure, applications, and network that attackers could exploit. This testing can be conducted through network scanning, penetration testing, web application testing, and more. Finding your weak spots and addressing them head-on minimizes the likelihood of a successful cyber attack.

3. Manage Information Governance, Privacy, and Security 

Organizations should have proper information governance policies to manage data privacy and security. Information governance is a structured framework of policies, procedures, and processes that manages an organization's information assets in a compliant manner, protecting sensitive data and ensuring appropriate disposal. Regularly reviewing and updating information governance policies is crucial to cyber readiness.

4. Prioritize Compliance Requirements 

Compliance requirements vary by industry and location, from GDPR to HIPAA to PCI DSS. Organizations must prioritize compliance to avoid fines, legal penalties, reputational damage, loss of sensitive data, and security threats. It’s important to stay on top of evolving regulations and ensure proper reporting measures are in place to prove compliance. 

5. Use Multifactor Authentication 

Multifactor authentication (MFA) provides an additional layer of security to protect against unauthorized access to sensitive data and systems. MFA requires users to provide at least two forms of authentication to access their accounts or systems, and it is a low-cost, effective tactic to help prevent phishing and other credential-based attacks.

6. Perform Third-Party Audits and Assessments 

Third-party audits help organizations identify vulnerabilities, ensure compliance, and identify areas for improvement. Third-party assessments are conducted by independent security experts with access to advanced tools and tactics that may not be available to an organization's in-house team.

7. Analyze Your Software and Assets 

Regularly analyzing software, firmware, hardware, and other assets can help organizations identify and patch system vulnerabilities. Regular software and asset analysis can also help organizations identify the presence of shadow IT.

8. Train Your Employees With Crisis Simulations 

Employees are often the weakest link in an organization's security posture, unintentionally creating vulnerabilities. The most effective way to ensure employees are prepared to respond to a phishing attempt or other types of incidents is by providing them with opportunities to practice their response. 

This type of training is called crisis simulations, which offer employees realistic training scenarios where they must identify and respond to potential security incidents. Such simulations can improve the incident response time and the overall cyber readiness of an organization by identifying areas for improvement and reinforcing best practices.

5 Ways Cyber Ranges Can Help Achieve Cyber Readiness

Crisis simulations are an important component of cyber readiness. After all, practice makes perfect. And the more realistic, immersive, and personalized the simulation is, the more prepared your team will be to respond to a real attack.

To tailor crisis simulations to your organization’s unique technology environment and create more realistic scenarios, it’s also recommended to use a cyber range. Cyber ranges allow employees to train, test, and practice responding to various security threats in an immersive environment where they can experiment with organizational-specific response tactics, security configurations, tools, and products.

Cyber range exercises are an essential component of a comprehensive cybersecurity readiness strategy. They offer a highly efficient and cost-effective way to optimize an organization's security teams, protocols, and overall posture. Let’s take a look at the benefits in greater detail:

1. Increased Practice and Preparation With Live-fire Exercises

Cyber range exercises allow cybersecurity teams to practice their response to everything from a low-level incident to an advanced persistent threat. These live-fire exercises allow security professionals to learn from their mistakes and adjust their approach accordingly, increasing the team's preparedness and confidence when a real attack inevitably occurs.

2. Enterprise Readiness

Cyber range exercises not only improve the effectiveness of cybersecurity teams but also improve enterprise readiness. Customized simulations can be incorporated into broader organizational training drills and scenarios, allowing staff in various departments to practice how they would react to phishing emails or alerts from the security team. These exercises can help uncover gaps in the incident response plan, inadequate protocols, or insufficient staff training. This proactive approach to cybersecurity helps create a more secure and resilient organization.

3. Optimized Security and Tech Stack

Cyber range exercises are also useful in optimizing an organization's security and technology stack. By simulating different types of cyber attacks, security and IT teams can identify which technologies are effective — and which aren’t. In advanced cyber ranges, security teams can evaluate new products, test patches before they go into production, stress-test how existing defenses withstand a real attack, understand how quickly incident detection systems are triggered, and more. This allows security and IT to adjust their tech stack accordingly to ensure their security portfolio functions as intended. 

4. Replicate Attack Scenarios

Cyber range exercises simulate different types of cyber attacks, including phishing attacks, ransomware, and advanced persistent threats. These exercises replicate realistic attack scenarios, providing employees with a better understanding of attackers' tactics, techniques, and procedures. By learning about attacks in a more hands-on way, security and non-security teams alike can build confidence and proficiency before the real threat emerges. 

5. Actionable Analytics and Reporting

Security leaders need to report on various aspects of their security programs, and reporting typically includes information about the people, processes, and technology involved in security. Cyber range exercises improve the reporting process by unearthing a wealth of data and analytics. With detailed metrics and analytics from these exercises, security leaders can report on the state of their security program with greater accuracy and precision. They can also use this data to make better decisions because it informs activities like budgeting and resource allocation and quarterly goals and priorities.

While it’s impossible to prevent bad actors from attacking your organization, you can do the next best thing: practice blocking  them from gaining access and limiting the damage when they do. By implementing cyber readiness best practices, your organization can develop the skills and processes to respond to a security incident effectively. Ultimately, these will help build employee confidence and ensure your organization is prepared for anything. 

Final Thoughts

As cyber threats evolve and become more sophisticated, a proactive approach to security is more important than ever. Achieving true cyber readiness requires not only the right tools, processes, and training but also familiarity and repetition with these safeguards. 

By repeatedly practicing responses in real time, with the help of cyber ranges, your entire organization can be better prepared to respond to a cyber attack. At SimSpace, we offer a range of cyber readiness solutions that can help organizations identify vulnerabilities, train their employees, and improve their overall cybersecurity posture. 

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your organization achieve cyber readiness and better defend against cyber threats.

Blog bySimSpace
SimSpace is the leading innovative cyber security platform for enabling risk reduction through operational quantification, testing and training. No other organization has SimSpace’s depth of experience in creating high fidelity cyber ranges with unique user and adversary emulation techniques.