Saturday, April 13, 2024

People cannot be patched


Training course

When an organization is aware software is vulnerable, it focuses on patching systems to mitigate the risk. Likewise, when security technology becomes outdated, newer versions plug the gaps. However, with people there’s no patch or update readily available.

Instead, a workforce needs to stay abreast of the current threat landscape to ensure the company remains in a good position to combat cyber risks. However, almost 80 percent of leaders lack confidence in their team’s ability to tackle cyber threats effectively. This highlights a substantial weakness in current cybersecurity strategies.

Well-prepared and resilient personnel should be central to an organization’s cybersecurity strategy, especially in the face of more complex and dynamic cyber threats. Security leaders must recognize that while technology is essential, the true resilience of an organization lies in a capable and well-trained team.

The need for a people-centric cybersecurity culture

Our research found that 65 percent of directors are anticipating a cyberattack within a year, but nearly half of them acknowledge that their organizations are not adequately equipped. This shortfall is often exacerbated by inadequate measures to evaluate and enhance the cyber capabilities of their workforce, leading to delayed skill development. Whilst technological defenses are essential, they must be balanced with a robust, people-focused cybersecurity strategy to counter threats effectively.

This comes from the top, and the role of leadership in developing a cyber-resilient workforce cannot be understated. To build a strong cybersecurity culture, it is crucial to embed cyber exercises and realistic drills at every organizational level. Leaders should champion and facilitate ongoing educational and awareness programs, making cybersecurity a shared duty across all staff.

Implementing continuous, dynamic training and development programs are vital. These initiatives should be interactive, challenging, and based on real-world simulations, ensuring all staff, including the most seasoned, are continuously honing their skills. This proactive approach is essential, for readiness before and after a cyberattack and at all stages of the threat lifecycle. Such steps are key to enhancing the organization’s cybersecurity posture and fostering an environment where resilience is a collective, ongoing effort.

Overcoming complacency in cybersecurity skills development

Many believe that C-Suite executives and IT heads are the only ones having to deal with the toughest cyber challenges. However, research shows that junior staff face 5 percent more challenging cyber tasks than seniors, highlighting the risk of complacency in experienced staff. This necessitates rigorous, role-specific cyber drills for all, fostering resilience and countering any false security sense.

However, complacency in skill development impacts the overall security framework of organizations. Key decision-makers’ failure to continuously enhance their skills can weaken the organization’s response to cyber threats, creating a dangerous illusion of a decent security set up. This situation is especially perilous when the most seasoned professionals are unprepared for new types of cyberattacks.

Organizations need to proactively tackle this challenge by instituting specific strategies that encourage continuous learning and skill verification among senior staff. This approach should involve role-specific training and exercises to ensure readiness against evolving cyber threats.

Full-spectrum readiness for cyberattack phases

Building cyber resilience requires workforce preparedness for all stages of a cyberattack. While many organizations accurately handle initial stages, they often falter in the later “after the boom” phases. This involves responding to and recovering from an attack, where significant gaps in readiness are commonly exposed. Skills needed at this stage, such as forensic analysis, incident response, and system recovery, go beyond technical expertise, necessitating strong communication, strategic decision-making, and business continuity planning.

A comprehensive approach to cyber risk mitigation means being equipped for early detection and prevention and effectively managing the later stages, including detecting persistent intrusions and countering attackers’ sustained efforts. Recognizing and strengthening capabilities in these later phases is vital for leaders to ensure a comprehensive defense against the entire spectrum of cyber threats.

Crafting a strong and adaptive cybersecurity strategy

Addressing cybersecurity from a people-centric perspective fundamentally differs from simply fixing technical or procedural issues. It involves preparing individuals through engaging and resilience-building cyber exercises, moving away from an over-reliance on technology.

Adaptation is key. This means adjusting thoughts and actions in response to cyber threats, allowing individuals to learn from mistakes and understand their vulnerabilities. It’s about moving away from unhelpful behaviors like denial and inflexibility towards a more adaptable approach.

Alongside this, effective communication within teams and across the organization is vital, especially in times of crisis. It ensures that information flows smoothly and that everyone is aligned in their response to threats. Confidence also plays a significant role. This includes technical skills and the emotional resilience needed to manage cyber threats effectively. Building confidence is essential for ensuring that individuals and the organization as a whole are both competent in handling cybersecurity challenges.

Growth is another critical aspect. Cyber threats present stressful situations but also opportunities for learning and self-improvement. Embracing a mindset of continuous development is crucial, as attackers often have the initial advantage.

Ultimately, the entire workforce must develop a mindset that values continuous learning and adaptation in response to evolving cyber threats. By fostering this mindset, organizations can significantly enhance their overall cyber resilience.

In summary, as people cannot be patched, hence it is important to provide training and spread awareness. Addressing complacency and fostering a culture of ongoing learning is crucial. By doing so, organizations can create a vigilant, adaptable workforce that, in tandem with technological defenses, forms a harmonious, resilient front against the ever-changing cyber threat landscape, safeguarding their digital future.

Image credit: Matej Kastelic / Shutterstock

Max Vetter is VP of Cyber at Immersive Labs.

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