June 27, 2024 By Jennifer Gregory 3 min read

It’s easy to focus on the “after” when it comes to cybersecurity: How to stop an attack after it begins and how to recover when it’s over. But while a reactive response sort of worked in the past, it simply is not good enough in today’s world.

Not only are attacks more intense and more damaging than ever before, but cyber criminals also use so many different attack methods. Zscaler ThreatLabz 2024 Phishing Report found that phishing attacks increased by 58% in 2023, and Veeam’s Data Protection Trends Report 2024 reported that three in four organizations suffered at least one ransomware attack in 2023. Additionally, cyber criminals are increasingly turning to AI-based tools that make it much easier to find and take advantage of vulnerabilities.

As a result, many organizations are shifting their approach when it comes to cybersecurity. Instead of waiting to jump into action when a threat emerges, organizations are now putting a proactive cybersecurity strategy into place. Proactive cybersecurity means putting strategies and processes into place before a threat emerges to reduce your vulnerabilities and the risk of an attack. This approach can also help you spot an attack as it is about to happen or in the very early stages.

Use AI-based tools

By using AI-based tools, like many cyber criminals are, organizations can often find vulnerabilities before the cyber criminals. Tools can now detect ransomware in less than 60 seconds, which often provides enough time to stop an attack before any damage is done.

AI tools can also make predictions regarding areas of vulnerabilities, which allows organizations to proactively take action. Because many criminals are increasingly using generative AI tools to create attacks, organizations using AI can more effectively use data to prevent these attacks. Without AI tools, an organization will likely be reacting more often than not because they are using far less powerful tools than cyber criminals.

Consider ethical hacking

While tools are the first line of defense, an ethical hacker is often a great resource for a proactive approach. An ethical hacker takes the role of an outside hacker and runs tests using automated processes to find vulnerabilities — just like someone who attempts to hack into your organization for nefarious purposes. With the outside perspective of an ethical hacker, many organizations are able to take their findings and then proactively improve security in those areas, which helps prevent future attacks.

Create an emergency response plan

After a cyberattack happens, it’s natural to move into reactionary mode. With a detailed cyber emergency response plan in place ahead of time, you respond more effectively by following a predefined process created when emotions are not running high. An effective plan includes a playbook that walks you through each step to take, depending on what occurs during the attack. Plans that also include a crisis communication plan make it more likely that your organization controls the narrative instead of reacting to media reports.

Effectively back up data

In the wake of a cyberattack, the highest priority goal is usually getting the business back online and operational. By proactively backing up data, organizations can more quickly restore that data and begin serving customers with the least amount of business disruption possible.

Additionally, having current backups eliminates the need for organizations to consider making ransomware payments after a ransomware attack. However, this is only possible if the backup is usable and not corrupted. Organizations should back up data in as real-time as possible and isolate the backup from the network, preferably off-site. Additionally, make sure that backup files are not overwritten.

Make the shift to proactive cybersecurity

Moving from reactive to proactive in terms of cybersecurity is not just adding new tools and processes. Organizations must shift their mindset to assuming that an attack will happen and making sure they are reducing their risk and are as prepared as possible.

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