Cybersecurity Awareness Month: The Perfect Time to Implement and Mature Your Cyber Response Strategy

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and it’s a great time to take a closer look at the cyber resilience components of your business continuity and resilience plans to ensure your organization is on the right path to not just prevent potential cyber events, but to be prepared to respond to the new inevitable—when an incident happens.

What is Cybersecurity Awareness Month?

Cybersecurity Awareness Month, sponsored by the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), takes place each October in the United States.

The purpose of the month is to encourage individuals and organizations to do their part when it comes to cyber protections, including taking proactive steps to continuously enhance cybersecurity. It’s a collaboration between government and industry with a goal of providing resources to help Americans stay cyber safe and secure.

Cybersecurity Awareness Month got its start back in 2004, first launched by NCSA and the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This year’s theme is “Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart.” Each week of Cybersecurity Awareness Month also has a theme: Be Cyber Smart; Phight the Phish; Explore. Experience. Share.; and Cybersecurity First.

All organizations and individuals participating in Cybersecurity Awareness Month are encouraged to use the hashtag #becybersmart to promote cyber awareness activities and to encourage others to get involved.

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Building Cyber Resilience to Ensure Operational Resilience

At Castellan, we look at cyber resilience as an additional layer of planning, response, and prevention to help your organization achieve true operational resilience.

As we’re seeing with ever-increasing successful cyber-attacks such as ransomware and phishing—along with unprecedented numbers of record exposures across many industries—we must realize we now do business in a world where we need to shift our focus from defense-only tactics to also include response and recovery.

It’s that “bend-not-break” focus for business continuity and a shift in thinking from what we may do “if” a cyber-attack happens to how we react “when” it does.

In simple terms, cyber resilience encompasses your organization’s ability to quickly anticipate, adapt, respond, and recover from a cyber event.

Cybersecurity Awareness Month is a good opportunity to highlight the role of cyber resilience in your organization’s overall success and survivability. It’s a perfect time to educate your staff about the roles they play in helping protect your organization from cyber-attacks and ensuring they know what to do to mitigate risks and how to respond if an incident happens.

While this education and training should be an ongoing part of your comprehensive business continuity and resilience programs, you can use the momentum created by Cybersecurity Awareness Month to encourage more response and engagement about cyber issues from all levels within your organization.

Here are four ideas you can use this month or at any time to help build awareness:

  1. Build Executive and Key Stakeholder Engagement: Consider conducting a tabletop exercise where you present your executives and key stakeholders with a real-world example of a successful phishing attempt. Set up a scenario where these leaders must react and respond to a range of phishing attempts and see which ones they’re most likely to engage with. Then walk them through a real-life fallout of what could happen within your organization if just one attempt is successful. Include a walk-through of the lateral movements an attacker might be able to take through your existing systems with the right phished credentials or other access. Tie the attack into actual dollars and cents, demonstrating just how costly one inadvertent malicious link click or download could be for your organization.
  2. Create a “Good Choices” Campaign for Your Employees: Because your employees are busy and can be distracted when responding to day-to-day tasks, consider developing a “Good Choices” campaign that educates your team members about how to make safe (“good”) choices online. Gamify it with rewards and incentives to help reinforce positive behaviors.
  3. Review Policies and Procedures: Many organizations don’t routinely review policies and procedures with their employees. Far too often, we see this done at the time of hire and then maybe only again when there’s been a security or compliance issue or it’s time for an audit. Don’t wait until there is an incident to do these reviews. Cybersecurity Awareness Month is a great time to regroup with all of your employees and ensure they’re understanding and are using best practices that align with your cybersecurity and related policies and procedures.
  4. Create a Cyber Incentives Program: Employee and environmental safety often gets a lot of attention in most organizations. From routine training and reviews to signage and other reminders, safety is often front-and-center so it’s always top-of-mind. Treat your cyber program the same way by developing campaigns focused on cyber hygiene. Make it a routine part of how your organization operates and find ways to incentivize employees for making good cyber hygiene choices.

Implementing a Cyber Response Strategy

While Cybersecurity Awareness Month is a great time to build engagement throughout your organization, it’s also a perfect time to evaluate your existing cyber resilience strategies to identify gaps and weaknesses, plan remediation strategies, and look for ways to continuously mature your program. Remember, it’s time to shift our focus away from prevention-only strategies to also include a proactive approach to adapting, responding, and recovering from cyber events.

If cyber resilience is a new or immature component of your existing business continuity and disaster response programs, use this month to begin the work to improve your organization’s cyber response strategy.

Not sure where to start? Castellan’s “Cyber Response Builder” is a great resource. In this guide, you can learn more about how you can evolve your cyber resilience strategy from technical response to a more holistic approach to ensure and strengthen your operational resilience.

The guide has a five-point approach to help you develop and implement a cyber response strategy:

  1. Level-Setting
  2. Creating Focus
  3. Taking Inventory
  4. Building Response Strategy
  5. Creating Competencies and Confidence

Are you ready to develop more robust cyber response capabilities for your organization? Download our free “Cyber Response Builder” now or contact a Castellan advisor if you have questions or need additional support.

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