When it comes to IT management, there are many guiding philosophies. With the massive amount of workplace changes that many organizations went through in 2020, reactive IT management was the best most companies could muster. Infrastructure and platforms were deployed quickly, and IT security has had to play a game of catch-up.
The Problem With Reactive IT Management
Reactive IT management is dominated by attempts to react and deal with every problem that crops up, without a guiding focus on long-term planning and strategy. And while reactive management can feel good at the moment – after all, you are dealing with the issues when they arise – it can leave your organization incredibly vulnerable.
Proactive planning is something that most businesses are already used to doing. You have a long-term vision and short-term goals to help you get there. But proactive IT planning is a crucial component of overall business planning since so many core business functions rely on IT infrastructure and platforms to get the job done.
Proactive IT management involves identifying and addressing security risks before an attack happens. Reactive security measures are taken after an attack has occurred. But with a reactive approach, the damage has already been done. Cybercrime accounted for roughly $3 trillion in business losses in 2016, and this figure is expected to be $6 trillion in 2021.
These types of IT attacks include damage, theft of personal and business information (including intellectual property and trade secrets), fraud, embezzlement, and disruption to business operations. On top of that, the reputation of companies that suffer a significant security breach is sometimes damaged beyond repair. After a data breach, the value of a brand and reputation can decline between 17% and 31%. It’s not an overstatement to say that many businesses would not be able to continue operating after such an event.
And while it may be tempting to think that cybercrime generally targets only big businesses, small- and mid-sized businesses are just as vulnerable, if not more so. According to a 2018 report analyzing cybercrime across the globe, two-thirds of small businesses had experienced a cyber attack in the last year. Many of these businesses were forced to shut their doors within six months of the attack.
But it’s important to also realize that reactive IT measures are appropriate in certain circumstances. Reactive strategies often focus on building up defensive measures against common attacks and tracking down hackers that have broken through security measures—reactive strategies including firewalls, antivirus or anti-malware, password protections, ad blockers, and spam filters.
These measures are a crucial aspect of any overall IT management strategy. They can prevent malware from corrupting business databases and help identify hackers if a virus does get past the defenses. But the weakness of reactive strategies lies in the fact that they only address known issues. And cybercriminals and their strategies are constantly evolving and becoming more sophisticated. Proactive management can help defend against the unknown.
Choosing Proactive Strategies
Enlist the help of an MSSP. Proactive IT management can be used to prevent cyber attacks from happening. A managed security service provider can locate and correct potential vulnerabilities before they are exploited. Your MSSP is best suited to provide a comprehensive proactive and reactive IT management plan that provides maximum defense.
By proactively addressing any security gaps, your MSSP can lower the threat of attacks and recover quicker in the event of a data breach. There are several key steps they may use to implement proactive security provisions.
Identify Goals and Outline Policies
The first step in being proactive is identifying long-term security goals. These may be different depending upon the industry your company works in – some face additional regulations than others and some industries are more inherently vulnerable to an attack than others. Once your MSSP has an idea of your long-term security goals, they can begin to implement standards, policies, and procedures that support and work towards achieving your goals.
Identify Gaps in Your Reactive Measures – and Implement Solutions
It threats are continually evolving, which means that security measures have to keep pace to match evolving and emerging threats. There are several ways they identify gaps in your security measures.
- Threat Hunting: Threat hunting is the process of adopting the mindset of a cyber-criminal. IT experts can attempt to break through a company’s defense system and predict a plan of attack from the entry point. Once your MSSP has identified the potential threat, they can pinpoint what equipment or measures can be implemented to mitigate the threat.
- Network & Endpoint Monitoring: Being proactive means never letting your guard down. Monitoring your network around the clock is key to staying ahead of potential issues. This practice is especially true in light of the fact that many companies are seeing their network’s footprint increase by adopting remote working policies. Automated programs can continuously scan for system irregularities and malware invasions, then notify your MSSP immediately of the problem so that there is no delay in implementing activities to mitigate the damage.
- Employee Training: Perhaps the most important aspect of proactive IT management is adequate staff training. One study showed that nearly 90% of cyber-attacks were caused by human error. All employees should be updated on new policies and procedures and receive refresher training on how to create strong passwords (and when to change them), how to report suspicious emails, and how to store devices with sensitive information. An MSSP will train your team on best practices.
A comprehensive IT management strategy cannot be purely proactive or purely reactive. The use of both these approaches can help you develop a layered approach to preventing cybercrime. And while it may seem cost-prohibitive to devote so many resources to IT planning, the reality is that partnering with an MSSP and implementing adequate security measures can save you far more money in the long run if it succeeds in preventing a data breach. Some companies may have the in-house resources to devote to adequate proactive and reactive IT strategies. Other companies find it beneficial to outsource some or all of their managed security needs to experts who can help shore up their defenses and address any existing vulnerabilities.
Sagacent Technologies offers technology management and support, including proactive/preventative maintenance, onsite and offsite data back-ups, network and security audits, mobility solutions, disaster planning, and emergency business resumption services. The company serves clients of 10 to 150 employees within the Silicon Valley region.