In today’s current threat environment, data breaches and ransomware threats have increased as cybercrime has become more sophisticated. That said, recent studies indicate that many organizations are still underperforming when it comes to taking action to enhance their cybersecurity. A survey from IBM Marketplace reveals that while 62% of organizations consider cybersecurity the top concern as they plan their IT infrastructure, almost 30% of organizations do not plan to implement cybersecurity solutions.

As the number of cyberattacks rise, organizations must reconsider their approach to cybersecurity to be more proactive rather than reactive. This involves accurately assessing potential threats, which is why the adoption of proactive auditing, among a wider offensive cybersecurity approach, is so essential. In turn, cybersecurity policy must also be analyzed, adjusted and utilized properly to better position organizations to encourage and implement successful proactive auditing practices. 

Understanding an offensive cyber approach

While many organizations take a defensive approach to cybersecurity, an offensive mindset is also key to ensuring the best possible protection against a potential attack. For success, threat intelligence plays a large role. In order to implement an offensive mindset for cyber defense, also known as active defense, an organization needs to fully understand existing network vulnerabilities. This will include proactive auditing —  examining in real-time how the enterprise is operating and evaluating systems and laws, as well as any vulnerabilities. 

If through proactive auditing, an organization finds something deemed as operating not normally, it can now implement a proactive defense by taking lessons learned along with tools used on the offensive side to deal with command and control for different malware. Enterprise systems are ever-evolving, so organizations need to continuously analyze the information they have. The more detailed information an organization can get on critical pieces of its environment, the more it will be able to implement an active defense approach to cyber.

Necessary proactive auditing strategies 

Every organization implements some form of auditing as a normal defense, but what will help offer an extra layer of security is looking at the process with an attacker’s mindset and figuring out ways your system is vulnerable.

In order for proactive auditing to be effective, companies can look at integrating zero trust and micro-segmentation strategies. Micro-segmentation helps isolate data to better tighten security controls across transactions, while enforcing a zero trust policy requires that every transaction across a segment is authenticated, enhancing cybersecurity architecture and informing the proactive auditing process. Since zero trust is a layer approach that assumes breach, threats can be more quickly identified and addressed. 

Vulnerability scanning and research is a key proactive auditing tool as well, in which an organization is looking for holes as well as looking for abnormal behavior in a system. Another important tool is penetration testing, a process that enables an organization to exploit vulnerabilities in its networks to better determine what could make it more susceptible to potential attacks. Both tactics enable organizations to better grasp the mind of a hacker and understand the “why” behind a potential attack. 

Establishing cybersecurity policy to encourage proactive auditing 

As proactive auditing measures are cost-effective and execute an enormous amount of vulnerability research, organizations should push to incorporate them as part of their overall cybersecurity strategy. This also highlights the need on a national level to create organizational policies that encourage such activity and will help show why proactive auditing is so important to an organization’s overall security infrastructure.  

Many organizations have struggled to figure out how they can work in cohesion with different policies and agreements to take on a more offensive cybersecurity approach. As such, national initiatives and legislation must continue to be implemented to help inform the process. A recent example includes the Zero Trust Initiative and Strengthening American Cybersecurity Act, both which drive better collaboration among the public and private sectors to proactively address cybersecurity issues and prevent attacks. 

Organizations in both the public and private sector must promote the use of cost-efficient and autonomous solutions such as penetration testing tools. This, in turn, will lead to more widespread adoption of an offensive cybersecurity approach and, more specifically, proactive auditing. As organizations reconsider their cybersecurity programs, it is essential they consider incorporating proactive auditing to prevent exposure to more vulnerabilities.