Cybersecurity and continuity: 3 Key connections

While the IT environment is segmented into an endless array of physical components, software assets and everything in between, big-picture infrastructure management often reveals connections between seemingly disparate parts of the network. The links between cybersecurity and business continuity, for example, may not be apparent to the average IT onlooker, but someone familiar with the tools and techniques used to promote these strategies could see the two as closely connected, if not inseparable.

That's why executive leaders should attempt to look deeper into the IT ecosystems they have created for their organizations, especially in an era when second chances with business partners and consumers are becoming increasingly hard to come by. Here are three ways that cybersecurity and business continuity shine light on some unexpected – but critical – management connections.

1. A never-ending responsibility: As 2014 comes to a close, the importance of network protection is more glaringly obvious than ever before. According to Dark Reading, one Radware study described the past year as the most pivotal ever in this area of IT strategy, calling it "a tipping point in terms of quantity, length, complexity and targets." Nearly one-fifth of respondents in the survey revealed that they have experienced attacks lasting as long as one month, while the recent Sony Pictures intrusion proved that cybercriminals are more organized and well-funded than ever. 

"Stakeholders within and external to the organization will be looking for leadership in a worst-case scenario."

The non-stop pressures of today's security landscape tie back clearly to the core tenets of continuity, as decision-makers must view both facets of IT as a constant work in progress. President Obama even recently codified the Federal Information Security Modernization Act, which requires government agencies to continuously monitor their networks, according to GovInfo Security. Whether scanning the horizon for threats, backing up new stores of data for recovery or fine-tuning restoration tools for a test scenario, the pressure is always on to improve and refine these strategies. 

2. The crux of crisis management: Whether a company is sustaining a flurry of cyberattacks or gets caught up in a literal snowstorm, stakeholders within and external to the organization will be looking for leadership in a worst-case scenario. Employees in every department will need clear, concise directions to navigate a chaotic environment, while customers and business partners expect to be fully informed as to the events taking place – and procedures moving forward. Painstakingly precise action plans are key to both cybersecurity and continuity situations.

Unfortunately, research has shown that a substantial number of organizations don't have a data breach response plan, or an emergency preparedness blueprint. Radware pointed out that more that one quarter of companies aren't ready to bounce back from a breach, while Solar Winds found that 20 percent don't believe they could recover from a disaster. These findings suggest that preparation is not just a luxury – it's a necessity. 

3. Awareness = preparedness: Knowledge is power when it comes to overcoming business interruptions of any kind, and business leaders must educate themselves thoroughly with respect to the threats that face their organizations. Only decision-makers who know exactly what dangers lurk in the shadows will know how to properly respond when the moment arises. This, of course, goes for security as well as disaster preparedness. 

"Only decision-makers who know exactly what dangers lurk in the shadows will know how to properly respond when the moment arises."

"A lack of quality and reliable information complicates a decision-maker's ability to respond to events in an appropriate and timely manner," said Michel Herzog, security researcher at ETH Zurich's Center for Security Studies, according to TechRepublic.

Education doesn't just pertain to top-tier leaders, either. CSO Online recently noted that insufficient end user training and a lack of security awareness may actually be the big culprit in the current cyberdefense crisis. Businesses must bolster these programs to ensure safe, continuous operations moving into the new year.