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The consequences of a cyberattack can be catastrophic, as we saw in the previous blog of this series. Cybersecurity is a business-wide responsibility that demands a proactive strategy extending far beyond technical solutions alone.

So, imagine this – a relentless barrage of malicious emails floods your network (that’s an immediate risk). Outdated software leaves your system exposed to evolving threats (that’s a slow burn risk). Both pose serious dangers, but each requires a tailored approach.

Let’s explore why a balanced strategy that proactively addresses both immediate and slow burn risks is the key to robust cybersecurity.

Immediate risks – the wolves at the door

Swift action is crucial when it comes to obvious cyber threats. These threats aren’t waiting politely at the door – they’re already battering it down. The dangers are real and stripping away your defenses every moment of pause. Here’s what they look like:

  • Ransomware – Malicious software that encrypts your files, rendering them inaccessible until you pay a ransom. It can cripple entire systems and lead to major business disruptions.
  • Business Email Compromise (BEC) scams – Sophisticated social engineering attacks where criminals impersonate trusted contacts (e.g., your CEO, vendors) to trick employees into authorizing fraudulent payments or divulging sensitive information.
  • Unpatched software – Known vulnerabilities in your software provide an easy entry point for hackers. Regularly installing security updates is essential for closing these security gaps.
  • Phishing attacks – Fraudulent emails, texts, or websites designed to steal login credentials, financial information and other sensitive data. Often disguised as being from legitimate companies or individuals.

To combat these threats, here’s a quick checklist of tools and techniques to combat those in-your-face threats:

  • Firewall configurations – Your first line of defense, blocking unauthorized access attempts.
  • Intrusion detection systems (IDS) – Like digital watchdogs, IDS alert you to suspicious activity within your network.
  • Rapid response teams – The cybersecurity equivalent of emergency first responders.
  • Data backups – Your lifeline in case you need to hit the reset button and restore systems.
  • Realistic training – Simulate attacks to prepare employees for real-world scenarios.

Slow burn risks – the snakes in the grass

Unlike the blatant attacks that grab headlines, slow burn risks lurk in the background, gradually eroding your cybersecurity posture. But don’t be fooled – their impact over time can be just as devastating as a sudden attack.

What are slow burn risks?

Slow burn risks encompass vulnerabilities or practices that don’t cause immediate harm but create opportunities that hackers can exploit over time. Think of them as ticking time bombs hidden within your system. Examples of slow burn risks include:

  • One-and-done training –  Employees fall back into risky habits without continuous reinforcement, leaving them vulnerable to evolving attacks
  • Infrequent risk assessments – Your defenses become ineffective against new threats that develop between assessments
  • Neglected compliance reviews – Outdated security measures are easily bypassed by attackers
  • Lack of behavioral analytics – Attackers can remain undetected longer without tools to identify deviations from normal network behavior
  • Poor network segmentation – A single breach can spread throughout your entire network, amplifying damage

The cost of neglect

Ignoring slow burn risks is a dangerous gamble. The longer these vulnerabilities fester, the higher the potential cost. Over time, neglect can lead to several severe consequences:

  • Significant financial losses – The costs associated with data breaches, operational disruptions and fines stemming from neglecting these risks can quickly cripple a company’s finances.
  • Damage to reputation and lost customer trust – When sensitive information is exposed, it can severely damage your company’s reputation and erode customer trust. Both are difficult to regain and can have a lingering impact on your business.
  • Legal ramifications – Depending on the industry regulations that apply to your organization, failure to address security risks and comply with standards could lead to costly legal battles and severe penalties.

The balanced approach – juggling immediate and slow burn risks

Protecting your organization requires a multi-pronged approach, one that tackles both immediate threats and the slow burn risks lurking in the background. Here’s how to strike the right balance:

  • Integrated risk management solutions Piecemeal cybersecurity is no longer sufficient, especially in the face of complex threats. Investing in integrated solutions helps you get a comprehensive view of your risk landscape, allowing you to prioritize immediate concerns while actively mitigating long-term vulnerabilities.
  • Stress testing – Regularly put your cybersecurity defenses through rigorous stress tests to identify weaknesses before hackers exploit them. It’s like performing a disaster drill for your digital assets to ensure you’re prepared for various scenarios.

A strong cybersecurity posture requires attention to both immediate and slow burn risks.  By understanding the dangers posed by these distinct threat categories (as outlined in part one of this series), your organization can proactively implement defense strategies encompassing technology, processes and ongoing training.

The intersection of personal and professional risk

Even seemingly harmless personal cybersecurity habits can leave your organization exposed. For example, an employee who reuses passwords for social media and work accounts creates a bridge for hackers to exploit. These kinds of careless behaviors significantly increase the likelihood of falling victim to the immediate threats we explored above.

But it’s not about placing blame. Addressing cybersecurity effectively means empowering your employees with the knowledge and tools to become a powerful line of defense. In the next part of this series, we’ll delve into how you can do just that, exploring the crucial role your employees play in safeguarding your organization. Watch this space!

Navigating the complex landscape of cybersecurity risk management can feel daunting.  We help you create a risk and compliance program tailored to your organization’s specific needs, keeping in mind the latest waves of cyber risks and common hacker tactics.

 Want to empower your team and transform them into a powerful line of defense? Learn more about how NAVEX IRM can support your organization’s risk management strategy,

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