The average total cost of a data breach reached a record high of $4.24 million in 2021, according to IBM’s Ponemon Report, which is an amount of money large enough to force many businesses to close shop. In spite of the scary statistics and stories that you read about in the news, there are a few steps that you can take to prepare for and survive a cyber attack and its consequences.

Assess
You can’t hit what you can’t see (unless you are Peter LaFleur in sudden death overtime of the Vegas Open Dodgeball Championship). In the world of digital risk, you have to take stock of your digital assets and assess your business’s connected infrastructure before you can devise a plan to protect it all. Consider all of the software, devices, data that your business and its employees own and use. 

  • Which software products and solutions do you and your employees use to conduct business? 
  • Are you hosting your systems and data on premises or in the cloud? Are you using private cloud or public cloud?
  • What kind of data are you storing in those systems? How does your data flow between connected systems?
  • Are they protected by tools like strong password policies, data back-ups, and firewalls?
  • Can you identify any security gaps in in your business’ digital risk posture?

If you’re like most people and have a knowledge gap in the world of cyber, this task may seem especially daunting since it requires some expertise. Consult with whoever manages IT for your organization, whether you have a full-time employee or a managed service, and consider taking a free digital risk assessment from Periculus.

Mitigate
Any weak points that you are able to identify with your assessment provide your organization with opportunities to shore them up. Some of the most common strategies that you should consider implementing for your organization are:

  • Antivirus and Firewall
    • Protect your systems from undesirable threats and web traffic
  • Data Backup
    • Store copies of your organization’s most important data and systems that you can use to get back up and running in the event of a data breach or ransomware attack
  • Dark Web Monitoring
    • Monitor, in real-time, if any of your business’ or employees’ data has been compromised by threat actors on the dark web
  • Patch Management
    • Keeping your software updated so you can take advantage of the latest bug and security vulnerability fixes

The most important strategy for mitigating cyber risk, however, is educating employees on cyber security. Phishing schemes are so pervasive that we are often tasked with recognizing and avoiding multiple attempts to infiltrate or hijack our business systems every day. Awareness and training solutions are geared towards teaching your employees about the latest trends that are being utilized by cyber attackers, as well as strategies and best practices that they can use to thwart them. These solutions form the basis of a strong risk mitigation plan.

Transfer
Once you have put the right mitigation tactics in place to address any weak points in your business’ risk posture, you have to decide how much of your remaining risk exposure you are willing to absorb, and how much you want to transfer through an insurance product. We use the word ‘transfer’ here to indicate that when you buy a cyber insurance policy, you are essentially paying a fee (i.e., premium) to transfer some amount of your cyber risk to an insurance company, which agrees to pay for losses that are covered by the policy. Insurance policies can be complex, and it’s important to understand the specifics of your policy like coverages, deductibles, and limits.

Aside from the financial benefit of having an insurance policy, it will also provide you with support in responding to a cyber attack. Upon submitting a claim, your insurer will help you with everything from notifying the appropriate government agencies to managing the incident response, which often requires hiring a number of experts, which could include digital forensics professionals, ransomware negotiators, or workplace recovery services. If you elect not to transfer all of your cyber risk exposure, you should look into different incident response solutions in the marketplace that you can engage without the need for an insurance policy.

Manage
It’s important to realize that the digital economy and, therefore, the cyber threat landscape, are always changing. That means we always have to be ready to pivot and adapt the way that we prepare for and respond to the world around us. Be mindful of keeping your asset inventory current as your organization adds or subtracts software, devices, and data from its technology stack, and consider how those changes in your inventory impact the mitigation and transfer strategies that you have deployed.

Everything that you’ve done while assessing, mitigating, and transferring your digital risk forms part of your business’ disaster recovery plan to prepare for and respond to the impacts of a cyber attack. You should formalize this plan by writing down a list of all of your digital assets and the policies and tools that you are leveraging in order to protect those assets. You should also include the steps that you would take in the event of a cyber attack, such as who to call or which website to go to if you need to report the incident to your insurance company or incident response provider.