In its inaugural bi-annual strategic plan, CISA (Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency), the nation’s primary cybersecurity oversight agency, highlights the importance of taking a proactive approach to mitigate threats that takes advantage of recent advancements in AI technology. Only by adopting a sophisticated, comprehensive security posture that centers on continuous monitoring and swift, robust response to threats can organizations hope to stay protected in the current cybersecurity threatscape.
CISA identifies goals for the strategy as spearheading “the national effort to ensure the defense and resilience of cyberspace,” helping partners protect critical infrastructure, and supporting stronger “whole-of-nation operational collaboration and information sharing.” The strategy also outlines internal CISA goals focused on unification within the agency.
As CISA Director Jen Easterly notes in the report, today’s threat actors are utilizing increasingly sophisticated capabilities to undermine the U.S. economy and even the country’s democratic principles. These actors, Easterly says, focus on stealing intellectual property and sowing discord by taking advantage of the operational boundaries between government organizations; the complexity of cyberinfrastructure that spans public and private networks; and sponsorship by foreign adversaries.
“The urgency of CISA’s cyber defense mission has never been more apparent than in our approach to defending the nation from the cyber threat posed by Russia immediately after the invasion of Ukraine in early 2022,” Easterly writes in the strategic report. “We facilitated effective collaboration with public and private sector partners to ensure vigilance in the face of potential malicious cyber activity targeting the nation’s infrastructure, and we rapidly shared valuable information with those partners to help build our collective readiness. But our work is far from finished. Mitigating cyber threats requires a continuous, whole-of-nation approach that spans all stakeholders.”
Here are five key takeaways from the CISA 2023-2025 Strategic Plan.
1. Partnerships are key to effective cybersecurity
Easterly notes in the plan, “No one organization or sector has the resources or capabilities to fully address the complex and ever-evolving cybersecurity landscape.”
CISA emphasizes collaboration between the public and private sectors when it comes to effective cybersecurity. Strong public/private partnerships help facilitate key functions like sharing information, developing mutually beneficial solutions to ongoing cybersecurity concerns, and perhaps most important, coordinating incident response. Urgent, robust incident response saves money, protects sensitive data and reduces overall business risks.
2. Continuous monitoring and risk management are crucial
In its strategic plan, CISA identifies risk management as a top priority and strongly suggests that organizations take proactive approaches to manage their cybersecurity posture, including real-time continuous monitoring. Three CISA-backed suggestions include:
- Conducting risk assessments
- Identifying vulnerabilities
- Prioritizing mitigation strategies based on their potential impacts
One way organizations can adopt a proactive approach is by adopting a modern, field-tested continuous monitoring platform.
3. Innovation and modernization are critical
For organizations that have been relying solely on legacy approaches like standalone SIEM, this means prioritizing investment into technology that can deliver true real-time network behavior analysis. Organizations, CISA recommends, should embrace emerging tech in the rapidly evolving fields of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and automation. These tools deliver much more visibility across the sprawling network environments common to organizations today, including the ability to gain oversight over an ever-growing list of endpoints, remote connections, IoT field sensors and more.
4. Promote resilience and continuity
Another central theme in CISA’s strategic plan centers on resilience and continuity. In today’s chaotic cybersecurity landscape, it’s not a question of if an organization will become a target of threat actors, but when. Being able to pivot swiftly in the wake of an attack or to respond immediately to a potential attack can make the difference between a small inconvenience and a major meltdown of business operations. CISA recommends putting robust backup mechanisms into place, creating disaster recovery plans, and even running drills to identify weaknesses in response plans. This proactive approach will help organizations maintain operational resilience even in the face of a significant attack or breach.
5. Invest in workforce development
CISA acknowledges in the report that the skilled cybersecurity professional shortage will remain a challenge for the foreseeable future. That’s why, CISA says, it’s important to invest in workforce development through continuous training, certifications, and organization-wide educational programs to enhance skills and knowledge. Note that these activities need not be restricted to only IT security personnel. A base of knowledge about phishing prevention, for example, is critical across organizational roles.
As organizations look to the future, the present, the growing threat of increasingly sophisticated cybersecurity threatscape must be top of mind. Adopting a proactive approach in line with CISA’s recommendations with its 2023-2025 Strategic Plan will help better position organizations to stave off attacks and promptly mitigate breaches when they do occur. Most critically, improving on legacy cybersecurity infrastructure will become a requirement to stay protected as threat actors become more elusive.
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