Cyber threats are increasingly common and complex. Your business will eventually be targeted by hackers – it’s how you deal with these threats that really matters. Not every attack is a successful one, and the thing that prevents cybercrime success is the security controls and awareness in your organisation.  

Generally speaking, security threats can be tackled in two ways: with a reactive security approach, or proactive security approach. But which approach is best? Let’s take a closer look at the differences between the two.

The difference between proactive and reactive security

Reactive security: dealing with the aftermath

A reactive security approach is just what is sounds like. It’s responding to an attack after it has happened or as it evolves. Detection and damage control is the main focus. Reactive security measures include: 

  • Monitoring environments for possible attacks as they happen 
  • Analysis of security events to understand the methods used in attack. This understanding can be used to apply measures that stop the event from repeating. 
  • Anti-spam or anti-malware.
  • Firewalls (however issues surrounding configuration can create vulnerabilities).

These are all important controls and certainly not a waste of time. However, there are a few issues with reactive security. Firstly, it’s reliant on having the appropriate measures in place for identifying the signs of a breach. If you can’t spot an attack, you can’t react to it. A prolonged attack can be deadly to a company.  

Secondly, dealing with the implications can be costly, time-consuming and damaging to your reputation. Whether you react quickly or not, a data breach doesn’t take long to cause thousands of pounds worth of damage. It can land you in hot water with industry and government regulators for non-compliance with GDPR.  

Some businesses, particularly smaller ones, may not be able to recover financially after an attack. Therefore, relying purely on reactive security is a risky approach. The aim should be to do all that you can to stop an attack from happening in the first place. 

Proactive security: preventing attacks from happening 

Proactive security measures provide a more holistic approach to securing your IT environments. Rather than detecting and responding, it’s about making life as difficult as possible for hackers. It does this by bolstering the level of defence around your IT systems. Proactive security requires you to gain a deeper understanding of your environments and constantly being on the lookout for potential security gaps. It’s about fixing weaknesses before they can be exploited by cyber criminals and doing everything you can to stop a breach.  

Proactive security measures include:  

  • Regular security risk assessments to identify any potential weaknesses or risks. Once you realise your risks you can implement changes to mitigate them 
  • Penetration testing – this is essentially employing someone to try and access your environments 
  • Proactive endpoint and network monitoring 
  • Security awareness training so that employees are educated on how to spot threats such as phishing and social engineering, and best practices for data and account protection. Increasing security awareness is one of the best ways to prevent a breach as phishing attacks are the most common cause of breach 
  • Threat hunting / threat intelligence – similar to a security assessment, this is the proactive security measure of quite literally hunting for vulnerabilities so they can be fixed. It requires a specific skillset. 

While you should never overlook reactive security, a proactive security approach enables you to better protect your business from falling victim to cybercrime. Because like in many scenarios, prevention is key. Proactive security helps you stay ahead of hackers and actively prevent data breaches. Being proactive provides you with more control over your IT environments. It also allows you to understand where weaknesses are, so you can do something about them before they can be exploited. 

The key benefits of proactive security

1. Your team won’t spend their time constantly firefighting threats 

Being reactive is time consuming for IT security teams. It can often feel quite chaotic as your team is running from one threat or attack to the next. Adopting a proactive security approach allows your teams to regain control and have a clear plan of action of how to deal with attacks before they happen. 

2. It helps you keep up with the intelligence of hackers  

You can’t focus on what you could be facing in the future, if you’re always reacting to what has happened in the past. Cyber criminals are always evolving their tactics and building more advanced malware. Shifting to a more proactive security approach helps you keep your eye on the next big thing. 

3. Your overall threat protection is stronger 

With proactive security, you’re always seeking out and fixing weaknesses. This means you benefit from stronger level of protection that will keep hackers at bay. 

4. Improves compliance 

A proactive security model means you have multiple layers of protection in place at all times. Multi-layered security is at the heart of many compliance frameworks, so a proactive approach helps you meet guidelines. Data protection laws also state you need to understand and mitigate risk, and proactive security helps you do just that. 

5. It actually works 

Actively preventing attacks just works. Research from the Economist Intelligence Unit states that organisations that adopt a proactive security within their overarching risk strategy have 53% fewer attacks and breaches than those who don’t.

Blending reactive and proactive security 

At 848, we typically recommend adopting a blended model, but proactive security ultimately comes out on top when it comes to mitigating cyber risks. Whilst you always need reactive security measures in case, focusing on boosting you proactive security position is the best way to protect your business. If your proactive measures fail, your reactive measures come in to play.  

A watertight security landscape will often see an attacker give up fairly quickly, as they seek the easiest way to access critical data and business information. If you would like support in bolstering your IT security, please get in touch with the 848 Group today. We have a dedicated security practice with a team of specialists in both reactive and proactive security measures.