Proactive vs. Reactive Cybersecurity

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Too many organizations approach their cybersecurity as a binary. They believe that instead of developing a well-rounded defense strategy against bad actors, they should invest in one or two defenses like a firewall or anti-virus software, then call it a day.

Unfortunately, today’s threat landscape is too varied and dangerous for this single-minded approach to work. The best defense involves both reactive and proactive cybersecurity strategies, which combine to form a sophisticated buffer against threat actors who are eager to gain entry into your system and steal valuable data, assets, and more.

When considering their cybersecurity posture, organizations often make the mistake of focusing only on reactive cybersecurity strategies that will detect an attack in progress and hopefully stop it in its tracks. While these defensive approaches are necessary, most organizations should be considering a more active strategy in addition to these defensive practices.

Determining the difference between proactive and reactive cybersecurity is a critical part of developing a well-rounded cybersecurity strategy. 

Proactive Cybersecurity

Proactive cybersecurity is an approach that organizations can use to prevent or stop cybersecurity incidents before they occur.

This methodology uses advanced intelligence and scanning technology to detect and analyze threats with the goal of preventing future attacks. This information is gathered in real-time from both internal and external sources.

This commitment to prevention can pay huge dividends since companies can use this knowledge to stay ahead of threats and make investments only in technology or tools that will be useful.

There are a few other benefits:

  • Staying ahead of bad actors. This is a challenge in our current environment, and is almost impossible to do when you aren’t working with an proactive strategy.
  • Your team isn’t constantly reacting. If you’re prepared in advance, fewer incidents will cause panic and alarm, giving you more time to devote to long-term strategy.
  • Improved compliance. Many of these proactive cybersecurity measures help mitigate risk across your entire IT environment, which is great news for your compliance department.
  • Identify internal risks. Unfortunately, cybersecurity risks aren’t entirely an external danger. A careless or disgruntled employee can easily trigger a breach. An proactive cybersecurity strategy helps to identify potentially suspicious behavior before it becomes malicious.  

There are many different ways to approach proactive cybersecurity. Some organizations invest in software and tools that can proactively scan through their network to detect and analyze threats, while others outsource this job to a vendor that specializes in cybersecurity. There’s no wrong way to approach it.  

How Proactive Cybersecurity Works

Essentially, any technique, method, or tool that detects threats or suspicious activity before it becomes an attack can be considered active or proactive cybersecurity.

In some situations, professionals will engage in digital baiting, which is a technique that uses fake digital information to tempt bad actors into mounting an attack. By observing the incoming cyber threats and how they’re deployed, analysts can identify potential gaps or weaknesses in their security and strategically use their resources to reinforce these areas.

Another common proactive cybersecurity technique is penetration testing, in which a white hat hacker attempts to gain access to your organization’s internal system. This helps to illustrate where there are areas that require improvement. 

Reactive Cybersecurity 

In contrast to proactive cybersecurity, reactive cybersecurity is an approach that aims to protect your network and technology from intruders without human intervention. The goal is for reactive cybersecurity techniques and tools to work automatically in the face of a threat, stopping them without active involvement from a human.

While IT specialists may be involved in setting up, maintaining, and responding to alerts from these solutions, it’s expected that reactive security systems will work independently.

Here are some benefits to this approach.

  • Reactive cybersecurity software and tools are easy to find. For decades, they’ve been the industry standard and are typically simple to install and use.  
  • They work well to protect your system from incoming threats. While active solutions can see further afield into the general threat landscape, most reactive solutions are perfectly capable of blocking incoming threats.

How Reactive Cybersecurity Works

Some of the most common types of reactive cybersecurity have been familiar to us for decades. They include:

  • Anti-virus software
  • Firewalls
  • Incident response plans

These solutions work when an incident is detected and involve the processes for responding if an incident occurs. However, they are not generally capable of preventing an attack in the first place. 

Why Proactive Cybersecurity is Better 

When comparing active (proactive) vs. reactive cybersecurity, there should be no doubt that proactive cybersecurity provides a better defense against cyberattacks.

Instead of waiting for an attacker to come to you, establishing an active defensive perimeter around your organization gives you the power to see where potential threats lie and actively defend against them.

One great example is a potential data breach or hack. While a reactive cybersecurity solution may be able to stop a hack, it cannot prevent it from occurring. In contrast, proactive cybersecurity solutions can pinpoint suspicious behavior or an incoming threat before it turns malicious.

Having this knowledge is also helpful for budgetary purposes since it allows IT departments to identify and remedy areas that are most vulnerable.

However, the best combination is when an organization can deploy both proactive and reactive cybersecurity solutions. Just because an organization is actively scanning for threats doesn’t mean one cannot break through. Having strong reactive measures in place is still recommended.

Adopt a More Proactive Cybersecurity Posture with Threater

Investing in more proactive cybersecurity solutions can feel intimidating for any organization. There are many options out there, ranging from hiring an external specialist to engaging in in-depth employee training.

Instead of redoing your entire approach, you can augment it with more proactive strategies thanks to software like Threater. In creating this software, our goal was to make it easier for the average business to be properly defended while democratizing cybersecurity knowledge. 

Threater falls firmly into the area of proactive defense, as it is constantly learning about new threats and detecting ways to improve and block them before they happen. 

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