Cyber resilience is the capacity an organization has to prevent, mitigate or resolve and repair damage from cyber threats. These cyber threats may take the form of ransomware, data corruption or countless other cyber attacks. With the cost of cybercrime hitting 8 Trillion USD in 2023, according to Cybersecurity Ventures, organizations must adapt to survive. While reactive measures can limit and repair damage, only proactive measures, built into the very foundation – both in code and across all levels of an organization – of a digital project offer any real peace of mind.

At least one vulnerability was found within 84% of codebases

— Synopsis

Building cyber resilience into the core of a new digital project demands strategic assessment of risks and vulnerabilities. The rise of high-profile data breaches has instilled a sense of urgency, underscoring the reality that cyber threats are relentless and potentially devastating. With 34.5% of organizations polled by Deloitte, reporting that their accounting and financial data were targeted in Cyberattacks in the last 12 months, a full cyber resilience strategy, firmly supported by top management is imperative. 

What organizations need to do

Early implementation of cyber resilience practices in development is crucial as it lays a foundational security framework that is far more efficient and effective than retrofitting after development. Considerations that all organizations must make note of include, but are not limited to:

Pre-development security assessment: This is an initial evaluation stage where potential cyber threats and specific vulnerabilities are identified for the digital project, by highly skilled and tested project managers. Understanding the unique security challenges that may be faced is the only way to understand specific cyber resilience risks.

Integrating security in the development lifecycle: Security measures must be woven into every stage of the development process, by qualified and experienced developers. When security is a primary consideration from the earliest coding stages, organizations can be confident that they are protected to the highest level. 

Robust authentication and authorization protocols: This involves setting up strong security checks for user access and permissions. Implementing mechanisms like multi-factor authentication means only authorized users can access certain parts of the system. It’s about verifying user identities rigorously and controlling their access levels from the start of the development.

Data encryption and protection techniques: From the outset, sensitive information within the application must be encrypted, meaning it’s converted into a secure code to prevent unauthorized access. This includes protecting data both when it’s stored (data at rest) and when it’s being transmitted (data in transit), alongside implementing comprehensive practices for managing security keys and safely storing data.

Leveraging security tools and automated scans: Throughout the development cycle, various security tools and automated scanning processes need to be employed. These tools help in continuously scanning the developing software to identify and fix security weaknesses, effectively reducing the risk of vulnerabilities in the final product.

Compliance with regulatory and industry standards: Aligning the development process with established security standards and regulatory requirements means new software meets legal requirements as well as adheres to security best practices, increasing overall confidence in the project. 

When proactive cyber resilience isn’t enough

Once a digital product, service, or platform is operational, no matter how comprehensive the in-built cyber resilience measures are, it requires ongoing management, maintenance, and continuous improvement. This involves establishing a suite of reactive practices, strategies, and capabilities to continually manage and respond to evolving cyber threats that are spread across the entire organization, from managers to development teams. Some practices that organizations must have in place are: 

Disaster recovery planning: Creating detailed plans for restoring hardware, applications, and data to their pre-crisis state following a cyber attack or system failure is critical for minimizing downtime and lessening the impact on business operations.

Incident response plans: These plans are essential for swiftly managing cyber incidents, guiding actions like isolating affected systems and informing stakeholders, and initiating recovery. For example, in a data breach, these plans would enable quick network security measures and inform customers about the impact.

Regular security audits: Systematic evaluations improve adherence to security standards, including checks on firewall efficacy, access controls, and secure data handling. A financial institution, for instance, might use these audits to safeguard customer data in its online banking systems.

Continuous monitoring for anomalies: Surveillance aiming to detect unusual activities, using tools like intrusion detection systems helps to spot potential threats, such as unauthorized access attempts or strange data transfers, indicative of cyberattacks. This can help prevent the attacks altogether or kickstart the recovery in real time.

Updating security protocols: Regular updates to security measures are key in defending against new threats. After identifying novel malware, for example, updating antivirus software and system patches is critical to maintaining robust security.

Fostering a security-conscious culture within the company also cannot be overstated. Extending the responsibility for cybersecurity beyond the IT department, to all employees, means a collective effort in maintaining cyber resilience. This cultural shift not only benefits security during the development of digital products but bolsters ongoing post-development security efforts. Organizations without a security-focused culture will not be resilient.

A combined approach is a must

The risk of cyber attacks is growing exponentially. Sticking to responsive practices for cyber resilience is no longer enough. Without proactive methods built into the core of a digital project, organizations risk enormous financial disasters, destruction of brand reputation, and a complete loss of customer trust. Proactive cyber resilience practices, like building multiple safeguarding measures into base coding and creating a security-conscious culture, are essential for the survival of any project.

Proactive considerations and actions, no matter how comprehensive, cannot be the only step. Reactive strategies that extend beyond the deployment of the product are a true necessity. Regular security audits, continuous monitoring for anomalies, and updating security protocols ensure that the cyber resilience adapts and evolves. It is abundantly clear that organizations, especially those with a new digital project in mind, must combine both proactive and reactive strategies. This must be further underpinned by a security-conscious culture throughout the organization. Without everyone involved accounting for, and making a priority of, security, the entire project is put at risk.

Thomas Charneau

December 13, 2023

5 Min