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Proactive Cyber Security: Mitigate and Manage Cyber Risk

Written on: Jun 8, 2022 12:17:57 PM

Written by: Elizabeth Reed


[COOLSPIRiT, Cyber Security, Arctic Wolf]

Discover the importance of implementing a proactive cyber security strategy and learn what an effective one should look like...

When resources and staff are stretched to their limits, as is unfortunately often the case in this field, cyber security teams remain at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to cyber threats. Forced to react in a whack-a-mole fashion, the organisation is left exposed and vulnerable to sophisticated attackers who seem to be one step ahead.

With cyber threats more prevalent and targeted than ever before, it is vital that your organisation has a proactive cyber security strategy in place. By mitigating and managing cyber threats as and when they strike - you can prevent them from delivering a crippling blow to your business.

So what is the difference between a reactive approach and a proactive approach?

A reactive approach entails responding only when necessary. Relying upon such an approach limits the time spent identifying weaknesses and reinforcing defences - an issue that is further exacerbated by employee burnout and staff turnover. 

Conversely, a proactive approach grants cyber security teams the time to detect and remediate vulnerabilities before attackers can exploit them, resulting in a much stronger and enduring security posture. As an additional but equally important benefit, your cyber security team will achieve a greater sense of satisfaction knowing that they have been able to effect substantial change to their organisation's defences. 

What makes up a proactive approach to cybersecurity?

There are three key pillars to effective and robust cyber security: technology, people and processes.

The first pillar, technology, involves identifying all of the assets within your IT infrastructure and understanding how each of these tools communicates with one another is key to gaining a holistic overview of your organisation’s digital footprint. This should involve a review of the configuration management database to assist with locating hardware and software.

The second pillar, people, is comprised of two key aspects. The first dictates that everyone in the company must be aware of their responsibility to prevent and reduce cyber risk in their day-to-day operations, be it knowing how to appropriately handle sensitive data or how to spot phishing emails. Cyber security is a business issue, so it is everyone’s issue. 

That is where the second aspect comes in; specialised technical security staff who are equipped with the most up-to-date skills and qualifications to ensure that the appropriate cyber security controls and technologies are in place. Of equal importance is the engagement and backing of stakeholders, from security and risk management, security operations to executive management, to ensure that they understand the phased approach to the vulnerability management lifecycle and their role in the process. This may involve defining the approach to vulnerability management, performing the vulnerability assessment process, remediating gaps, and monitoring the vulnerability management process and its effectiveness.

The last pillar, processes, refers to the policies and procedures must be implemented to ensure that vulnerable items are processed correctly. An effective policy and procedure should include clearly defined service level agreements (SLAs) which ideally should be collected from stakeholders across the organisation. These will serve as guideposts in the following phases: assessment, vulnerability management, hardening, and validation. 


Full visibility of your assets is required to be able to assess and define your organisation’s attack surface. Network mapping and gathering a comprehensive asset inventory by endpoint can help to accomplish this if you currently lack visibility into your environment. Gaining an understanding of information technology versus operational technology is incredibly beneficial as it will guide your efforts to remediate vulnerabilities, given not every vulnerability can be patched. 

Vulnerability management

Once all assets have been identified, it is then possible to comprehensively scan for vulnerabilities. These should be prioritised as per a defined methodology such as the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS), taking into consideration other contextual information such as third-party threat intelligence, asset criticality, and any existing internal controls. 

The following formula can help you to understand the risk that detected vulnerabilities pose to your organisation:

Risk = Likelihood of targeted attack (vulnerability and threat) x Impact (asset criticality and classification) – Controls (firewalls, password protection) 


Once all vulnerabilities have been detected and listed in order of priority, it is then time for treatment. This may involve:

  • Remediation - fixing or patching a vulnerability so it can’t be exploited.
  • Mitigation - where a vulnerability cannot be fixed or patched, the next best option is to reduce the likelihood or impact of a vulnerability being exploited until it can be remediated. 
  • Risk acceptance - when a vulnerability is deemed to be of low risk or the cost of fixing the vulnerability exceeds the cost that would be incurred in the event of the vulnerability being exploited, then no action may be taken. This practice should be avoided wherever possible and any exceptions should have an expiration date to ensure that no back doors are left open to hackers. As a best practice, any decision to accept a risk should be documented, communicated, and agreed upon by parties with the authority to do so. 


This last phase of the cycle aims to confirm the actions taken, whether that was to remediate, mitigate, or accept the vulnerabilities within the organisation’s digital footprint. This may involve rescanning the environment, configuration management tool validation, targeted penetration testing, or applying a breach attack simulation tool. 

If you haven’t already, you really need to migrate to a proactive approach

Gartner states that organisations relying on risk-based vulnerability management experience an astounding 80% fewer breaches and yet the time to deploy patches for vulnerable systems has increased by 40 additional days since March 2020, as stated by Arctic Wolf’s 2022 Security Operations Report (available on request from COOLSPIRIT).

In a time where cyber security is already plagued with burnout and staff departures, don’t let vulnerability management add to the headache. 

We hope you have found this blog useful and inspires you to make changes that will deliver tangible business benefits to your organisation. Our expert team help organisation deliver disruptive, collaborative technology - while consolidating platforms to help secure your data.

If you would like to talk simply call our expert team on 01246 454 222 or email hello@coolspirit.co.uk

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