Cybersecurity vs. Cyber Resilience: A Quick Comparison of Terms

Jake Olcott | December 7, 2017 | tag: Security Performance Management

If you operate in the cybersecurity or business continuity space, you’ve probably heard some reference to cyber resilience. While it has become a bit of an industry buzzword, it’s also a useful construct that should have important implications on your security strategy. Here are our thoughts on how cyber resilience compares to cybersecurity — and why the two terms cannot be used interchangeably.

Cybersecurity vs. cyber resilience

Cybersecurity refers to your methods and processes of protecting electronic data, including identifying it and where it resides, and implementing technology and business practices that will protect it.

So, how does that compare to the meaning of security resilience? Well, there isn’t a standard cyber resilience definition — but you can think of it as your organization’s ability to withstand or quickly recover from cyber events that disrupt usual business operations. This is similar to cybersecurity, but to fully understand the difference between these two concepts, consider the two different types of cyber attacks:

  1. One is meant to steal your data.
  2. The other is meant to knock you offline and/or disrupt your regular business operations (as a DDOS attack would).

It is only appropriate to talk about your cyber resilience strategy in terms of cyber attacks used to disrupt your operations — not cyber attacks used to steal your data.

Once your data has been stolen or compromised, security resilience becomes a moot point — which is why having a solid cybersecurity plan is so critical.

Building your cybersecurity and cyber resilience programs: Where to begin

Now that you understand the meaning of security resilience — and how it compares to cybersecurity — you can start building out your corresponding programs to monitor, manage, and mitigate cyber risk throughout your ecosystem. While these two terms can’t be used interchangeably, plans should be created and integrated to address both concepts — and for good reason.

Consider the 2014 Sony Pictures attack. According to BBC News, this sophisticated cyber attack on the entertainment company’s computer system “caused crippling computer problems for workers at Sony, who were forced to work with pen and paper.” Additionally, five Sony films and a script for an upcoming James Bond film were leaked to file-sharing sites, compromising the company’s valuable data.

Whether or not Sony could have avoided these hits if they’d had a stronger cybersecurity or security resilience plan can only be speculated on, but this example does highlight the importance of incorporating both programs into your own security framework.

There are a few key steps involved in creating and integrating these strategies:

  1. Back up your data regularly. Consider this scenario: Your network is hit with a sophisticated ransomware attack that encrypts all your data. The hackers demand that you pay a ransom or the encrypted data will be destroyed. If you keep thorough and regular backups of your data on a separate network you can simply restore any wiped data, giving you a higher level of cyber resiliency.
  2. Simulate a security incident. Assuming the mentality of “when, not if” with regards to data breaches and cyber attacks can help strengthen your cyber resilience strategy and cybersecurity posture. Running through the steps your organization will take in the event of a cybersecurity incident — from how you’ll escalate a potential security breach to notifying law enforcement, customers, and investors after the fact — will help make everyone involved feel more confident.
  3. Convey the importance of cybersecurity and cyber resilience to the board. Do you have the tools and information you need to prepare an impactful report for the members of the board? If not, download this free guide. It outlines how to nail down your presentation style and goals, how to select metrics the board cares about, and more.

This post was updated in August 2020 to include new BitSight and industry information.

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