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Implementing Proactive Cybersecurity Measures vs. Reactive Tactics

August 15, 2023

7 minutes

castle walls over hills | proactive cybersecurity measures

With modern threats becoming more creative and more dangerous, it’s important that businesses implement proactive cybersecurity measures to stay one step ahead of the game.

Proactive cybersecurity strategies are those that work to defend your systems and networks before an attack occurs. They are often considered the first line of a cybersecurity defense because they aim at preventing threats from maturing in your environment.

Read on to gain a more comprehensive understanding of proactive cybersecurity measures, how they differ from reactive cybersecurity tactics, and an inside look at the tools, software, and policies that create a more proactive strategy.

Learn what you need to build a strong defense and start protecting your business from modern cyberthreats with our Cybersecurity Checklist: How Covered is Your Business? Download the checklist now and get started.

Proactive Cybersecurity Measures vs. Reactive Cybersecurity Tactics

Proactive cybersecurity measures are steps taken by technology experts within a business to prevent incoming attacks. This includes a number of tactics such as implementing technology to identify threats before they penetrate your network, monitoring your systems 24/7, keeping your software fully updated, and implementing a culture of security across your entire organization.

the difference between reactive and proactive cybersecurity measures

Proactivity in cybersecurity is more than just plugging in software. It’s a mindset, culture, and dedication to consistent evaluation of your security environment and understanding the possible threats and vulnerabilities organization-wide.

Reactive cybersecurity measures, on the other hand, are built only to respond to attacks after they’ve already begun. This means patching vulnerabilities after they’ve been exposed and abused, updating firewalls and antivirus software after it’s already been breached, and taking measures to prevent repeat attacks.

Reactive cybersecurity tactics are important in the sense that if a breach does occur, your cybersecurity team needs a plan of action for identifying, isolating, and remediating that threat. Scenarios like these are often covered in an incident response plan.

Incident response plans are typically created and run by your cybersecurity team or partner. These are hypothetical round-tables during which a cyberattack like ransomware or a data breach is played out, and the reality of your cybersecurity strategies can be cemented.

Drawbacks of a Reactive Cybersecurity Strategy

A solely reactive approach to cybersecurity brings with it the inability to prevent attacks from happening in the first place. This emphasizes how important it is to blend proactive cybersecurity measures with reactive tactics.

Other drawbacks that stem from a solely reactive approach to cybersecurity include:

The inability to proactively prevent attacks brings a lot of drawbacks for businesses, including:

  • Increased Security-Related Costs: It costs more money to stop breaches after they occur than to invest in the technology used to potentially prevent them. Post-breach, businesses are susceptible to costs like government fines, ransoms, and the costs associated with recovery (not to mention the impact of losing the trust of your customers).

  • Ineffective Damage Control: Proactive cybersecurity controls provide a baseline for a business’ cybersecurity system. This means that, when a breach occurs, businesses without proactive cybersecurity measures may find themselves unable to combat the threat because their security foundation is so weak.

  • Non-Compliance: An obvious downside to the lack of proactive tactics in your cybersecurity strategy is that most major compliance regulations require proactive cybersecurity measures. Without them, you could find yourself immediately non-compliant and risk facing the consequences, oftentimes fines.

Aside from these major drawbacks of a solely reactive cybersecurity approach, the biggest reason businesses should invest in proactive cybersecurity measures is the ever-present danger of vicious cyberattacks.

Reactive cybersecurity measures alone give you much less control and visibility over your network security, and leaving you constantly one step behind cybercriminals.

This is if you even realize that you’re being attacked—detection rates are as low as 0.05% for some companies who won’t know they’re under attack until the bad actors have full, unauthorized control of their systems.

If you don’t already have a cybersecurity team or partnership, now is the time to start investing in one. Not only is cybercrime on the rise, but there is also a major global shortage in cybersecurity talent. Currently there are nearly 3.5 million cybersecurity positions open around the world. This talent shortage means organizations need to prioritize their cybersecurity posture sooner rather than later.

Do You Need Both?

Proactive cybersecurity will always be a stronger approach than reactive tactics because it gives you more visibility and a better chance at avoiding cyberattacks all together. However, in the event a cyberattack does occur, as mentioned earlier, it will be crucial that your cybersecurity team has a plan of action they’re ready to execute.

This needs to include identifying, isolating, and neutralizing the cyberthreat before it can start to cause any real harm to your network.

Additionally, there is some merit in strengthening your cybersecurity posture after an attack to ensure a repeat attack won’t occur. That said, it’s crucial to really focus on preventing attacks from ever occurring in the first place. So, while reactive cybersecurity tactics are necessary supplements, they don’t replace proactive cybersecurity measures.

Proactive cybersecurity measures should be the focus and foundation of your business’ cybersecurity posture.

Proactive Cybersecurity Measures

Proactive security controls are a major part of an effective, layered cybersecurity approach.

Layered Cybersecurity Approach | Infographic of layered security solutions

When it comes to those proactive security measures, they come in a lot of varieties that secure different vulnerabilities across your network and neutralize a spectrum of cyber threats.

Here are a few examples of proactive cybersecurity measures that modern businesses use to stay secure:

- Employee Awareness Training: People are often your first line of defense. It’s critical that you give them the training they need to be aware of and resist common threats. Cybercriminals tend to view people as a weak point in business security, but with the right training, they don’t have to be.

- Updated Next-Gen Antivirus (NGAV): Legacy antivirus software doesn’t cut it anymore because not only has it been figured out by cybercriminals but it also lacks the features that are required for proactive cybersecurity. NGAV, though, will keep your systems safe against modern, sophisticated cyberattacks.

- Software Patches and Updates: When developers become aware of potential vulnerabilities in security software, they release patches to secure them. For businesses, it’s important to keep all your security software fully updated with the latest patches to keep cybercriminals from abusing these known weaknesses.

- Firewalls: Similarly to antivirus software, businesses need new-school firewalls that can recognize and filter out modern threats.

- Data Encryption: Encrypting data helps businesses keep their data secure, even if it does fall into the wrong hands by ensuring only those with access can decipher it.

- Data Segmentation: If an attack occurs, data segmentation is a proactive cybersecurity measure that businesses can take to prevent cybercriminals from accessing everything through a single vulnerability. Layered security keeps segmented data on lockdown even if one segment becomes exposed.

- Network Monitoring: Modern network monitoring solutions can implement AI and machine learning technology to adapt and learn about new threats and how to spot them. This ability helps protect businesses from evolving threats.

- Identity and Access Controls: It’s important to restrict access to important systems and information to just those that absolutely need it to do their jobs. Enforcing the principle of least privilege is a step that businesses can take to ensure nobody is misusing credentials to access information they shouldn't, creating additional vulnerabilities.

- Endpoint Protection and Edge Security: It’s important to cover all your angles when fighting cybercriminals. Edge security and endpoint security services provide additional layers of security by protecting your business from being compromised by smart devices on the fringe of your network.

Wrapping up on Proactive Cybersecurity Measures vs. Reactive Tactics

Implementing proactive cybersecurity measures and strategies is the best way to stay ahead of modern cyberattacks and prepare your business for anything that can be throw its way. With a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy that focuses on proactive measures and tools, your organization can stay secure in a constantly evolving digital world.

Cybercriminals are getting more and more sophisticated each year, and so should your cybersecurity posture.

Start taking a more proactive approach to your business’ cybersecurity. Use our Cybersecurity Checklist, How Covered is Your Business? to see what your business needs to build a strong defense and stay protected from evolving cyberthreats. Download the checklist now and get started.