The global average cost of a data breach in 2023 was $4.45 million. Compared with 2020, this is a 15% increase. Not only is the cost to recover from a data breach increasing, so is the frequency of data breaches. The recent breach at Change Healthcare reportedly cost them $23 million in ransom to get their data back. And that cost is only the beginning. Paying for the investigation and repairing the fallout will be several million more … not even factoring in the loss of trust and confidence by their customer base.

To mitigate the risk of a cyber attack, organizations must fortify their network defenses with proactive and comprehensive strategies as cyber adversaries’ attacks become more frequent and grow more sophisticated. In this era of uncertainty, the key to preparedness for many companies lies in a two-fold approach.

Digital Twinning

Digital twinning is a strategy of creating an exact replica of your network and using it to test out various cyber-attack “what if” scenarios in a safe environment – being your own hacker if you will – so that your real network remains untouched. With this “sandbox” in place and an AI smart program, your network security team can try different penetrative tactics to probe your digital twin network to find its vulnerabilities, much like the hackers of today do. Once vulnerabilities are found, they can create and apply patches to mitigate these risks and the digital twin can be retested. Once the patches are verified as working, they can then be applied to the real network.

Continuous Monitoring

Unfortunately, a cyber security plan is not a set-it and forget it plan. At its core, it is a proactive and continuous comprehensive approach to reducing the risk of a cyber-attack on your organization’s computer network. And in today’s environment, the approach must go way beyond the reactive measures of yesterday by emphasizing continuous data collection, analysis and correlation. It is also not a one-time event but a system of perpetual vigilance that allows organizations to try and stay one step ahead of cyber adversaries.

The primary benefit of continuous monitoring, of course, is having a system in place that can identify threats early on. Furthermore, employing advanced analytics and machine learning helps go beyond signature-based detection and recognizes anomalies that may indicate potential threats. This proactive stance is crucial in the dynamic landscape of cyber threats, where speed in identification is often the difference between containment and catastrophe.

Minimizing the impact of Cyber Attacks

Regardless of vigilant and continuous monitoring, not if, but when breaches occur – and they inevitably will – the monitoring system in place plays a pivotal role in isolating compromised systems and containing malware. This identifying and containment strategy limits the scope of an attack, preventing the spread of the malicious intent within the network. In the aftermath of a breach, the ability to mitigate the impact swiftly and effectively is a testament to the value of having a continuous monitoring system in place.

Knowing the risk is half the battle, especially in the realm of cybersecurity. Continuous monitoring gives organizations valuable insights into attacker tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs). Organizations can strengthen their security controls and create an adaptive defense architecture by understanding how adversaries operate.

Beyond the resiliency afforded, a continuous monitoring system shows an organization’s dedication as to the adherence to the stringent regulations and compliance standards now in place regarding cybersecurity. Though continuous monitoring, organizations can proactively address compliance requirements and avoid the pitfalls of non-compliance – both tangible and non-tangible.

Finally, the financial burden of cyberattacks extends far beyond immediate remediation costs. Minimizing the impact of breaches and optimizing incident response significantly reduces the overall economic toll of cyber incidents. It transforms cybersecurity from a necessary expense into a strategic investment that goes far beyond safeguarding data and the supporting the bottom line.

A Continuous Monitoring Example

To offer complete visibility, a comprehensive monitoring plan must consider every endpoint in your network, and the software your company uses. As such, the first step is assessing every asset within the corporate network. In our world of remote work and bring-your-own-devices, this must include devices technically outside your company’s network, but that have that access to your network.

Selecting the most suitable technology and monitoring tools is a crucial choice. To have complete visibility, the monitoring architecture established must account for every attack vector that can be used to launch a cyberattack. Considering the expanding nature of today’s attack surface, choosing the right tools is paramount.

For instance, a lot of enterprises start with a Security Information and Event Monitoring Tool (SIEM), followed by Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) and a Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) solution:

  • SIEM searches for patterns that make it easier for security teams to recognize attacks, breaches, and technical problems.
  • EDR collects data from each endpoint and uses AI to determine threats.
  • UEM utilizes remote capabilities to keep track of device compliance. Furthermore, non-compliant devices, once identified, can be flagged and managed remotely.

Smaller companies will have to create a system that works for them based on their size and that fits into their budget. In today’s world, it is not a matter if a company can afford to have a system or not, it is a matter of having the right system in place for their company.

Evolving World of Cybersecurity

The chosen tools must seamlessly integrate into the company’s existing cybersecurity ecosystem. But once a company has a reliable architecture in place, it is not the end. Because the cybersecurity world is always evolving, there will always be new risks to identify. Therefore, continual improvement and refining are necessary in response to the changing threats. Regular reviews and updates ensure vigilance and resiliency in the ever-changing cyber threat landscape.

Security must go beyond the IT professionals in your company and include regular training and workshops for each employee on the latest cyber threats and attack strategies. For example, many cyber-attacks begin with an email phishing campaign, which starts at the employees’ email inbox. Knowing how criminals breach security will help them notice the minute details and signs that could help them identify and report an attempted breach.

And finally, a good monitoring architecture should also include an incident response plan. It provides the ability for organizations to record, respond, and learn from cyberattacks through incident reporting. Having well-defined incident response procedures in place ensures that organizations can react swiftly and decisively to mitigate potential damage when a threat is detected.

Through digital twinning and continuous monitoring, a company can mitigate the risk of a cyber-attack. And with a good incident response plan, they can minimize the damage done and learn from that attack. The world of cyber-attacks is changing fast, and organizations must adapt to the current threat or suffer the consequences of procrastination.

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Kness retired in November 2007 as a Senior Noncommissioned Officer after serving 36 years of service with the Minnesota Army National Guard of which 32 of those years were in a full-time status along with being a traditional guardsman. Kness takes pride in being able to still help veterans, military members, and families as they struggle through veteran and dependent education issues.