Like regular physical exercise, exercising your cyber security muscles can be a good way to keep your information technology (IT) staff in cyber-shape. The purpose of cyber security exercises is to prepare and test a person or group to respond to a specific set of circumstances.
Performing cyber security exercises can have some of the same benefits as physical exercising. They can improve cyber security fitness, reduce stress, and build muscle memory.
Types of Exercises
Cyber exercises generally come in two flavors: tabletop and functional. Tabletop exercises are discussion-based, and your team talks through potential cyber incident scenarios. Functional exercises are more operations-based and test your documented processes in action—how well they’re known and understood, and how well the people, information, and technology work together.
However, sometimes a hybrid exercise makes sense. This is where the management works through a tabletop while the staff works through a functional exercise. If set up right, the decisions by the managers feed into what the staff are doing, and vice versa.
Improving Your Cyber Security Fitness
Improving overall cyber security fitness means getting better as time goes on. The IT world is very dynamic and new vulnerabilities and exploits are being discovered at an increasing pace. Cyber exercises can test how your processes work with the newest exploits and business trends, like cloud infrastructure security. Ten years ago, ransomware was not very prevalent, but now it’s a very real threat to businesses and governments alike. This is just one example of many.
Practicing how to deal with the impact of malware from both an IT and business perspective is very important. Details about data breaches and how they were executed are now readily available. Using this type of information in an exercise scenario can help your organization stay current with threats and mitigations. Cyber exercises help improve and maintain fitness by keeping the information flowing and helping to update and improve processes.
Reducing Stress with Cyber Security Exercises
Reducing stress in IT security comes from understanding threats and how you’re vulnerable. It also comes from how your IT users, hardware, and software work together to deal with an incident. You can never know too much about your network and the processes that make it work. Cyber exercises can be used to discuss and or practice your cyber security processes and give you confidence in your plan.
If the exercise shows you some gaps, not a problem. Now you can fix what you know, not what you’re guessing is wrong. Your IT staff (and with it, your management) can have reduced stress caused by cyber security issues by performing well-thought out cyber exercises. You can also reduce stress by working through the ‘what if’ and worst-case scenarios.
Another part of cyber exercises touches on budget considerations. After the exercise, you can make purchases and point resources to proven areas of concern.
Using Cyber Security Exercises to Build Muscle Memory
Muscle memory is practicing a movement until it becomes easier to perform and like second nature. During a cyber incident, you want a well thought out and practiced response, not a knee-jerk reaction. You can get this muscle memory by performing cyber exercises.
In addition to discussion-based exercises, functional exercises are another a great way to discover gaps and build muscle memory. The difference is that functional exercises have the participants actually perform their duties in response to a made-up scenario.
A fire drill is a functional exercise of the fire evacuation plan. The drill has people leave their seats, evacuate a building and meet at a designated location. A cyber functional exercise also has the players perform actual cyber security responses based on your security plan. Practicing uncommon or high-criticality cyber situations makes your cyber security team and your company better.
As you can see, cyber security exercises can keep your company’s IT and security staff in shape. Cyber exercises can improve cyber fitness, reduce stress due to uncertainty, and build your cyber muscle memory. Learn more about cyber exercises by reaching out to your colleagues that have performed them. Ask them about their experience. These exercises can be short (one-two hours) or longer (multi-day) depending on what you’re looking for. Try one and see for yourself.