How to Create an Effective Cybersecurity Business Continuity Plan

You may hope you never need it, but a business continuity plan is necessary to keep your business running in a compromising cyberattack or email security event. That may also include a single office being offline because of a natural disaster or the pandemic; the last thing you want to do during a crisis is to begin formulating a plan that should already be in place.

This article will discuss the importance of implementing a business continuity plan, what it is, and the key steps you should take to create one for your business.

What Is a Business Continuity Plan & Why Is It Important?

Business continuity refers to maintaining business functions or quickly resuming them in the event of a significant disruption, such as malicious and damaging cyber attacks. A business continuity plan outlines procedures and instructions an organization must follow, covering business processes, assets, human resources, business partners, and more.

cyberattack stat

While a disaster recovery plan is comparable to a business continuity plan, it focuses mainly on restoring IT infrastructure and operations after a crisis. It’s just one part of a complete business continuity plan, as this type of layout focuses on the entire organization rather than just one aspect and brings in dependence on your people and processes. Handling threats effectively can positively affect your company’s reputation and market value as well as increase customer confidence.

Businesses of all sizes in every industry sector are targeted with advanced attacks designed to deceive victims into sharing credentials, financial information, and other sensitive data that can be exploited for monetary gain. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of the increase in remote workers using inadequately protected cloud email security platforms such as Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace - to craft dangerous phishing campaigns that capitalize on urgency and fear. Email security risks are universal - especially in this heightened digital threat environment. 

What Is The Impact of Cybercrime?

Cyberattacks can have severe consequences for businesses, and 56% of Americans are unaware of what steps to take to prevent email security breaches or, in the event a data breach makes it past email protection services, how to stop it. Companies that store their customer’s data online are becoming increasingly vulnerable to attacks. Some of the most critical ways cybercrime can affect businesses today include: 

Increased Costs 

Organizations looking to protect themselves from hackers have to pay a price. Firms may face expenses like cybersecurity tools, technologies, and expertise, notifying affected parties of a breach, insurance premiums, and public relations support.

Operational Disruption 

In addition to financial damages, businesses often face indirect costs from cyberattacks, such as a significant operations interruption that can result in lost revenue.

Reputational Damage 

Companies that fall victim to more prominent cyberattacks may damage their brand equity significantly. Customers may feel less safe leaving their sensitive information with a company that has experienced broken IT infrastructure.

Lost Revenue 

A cyberattack can result in a sudden drop in revenue as customers move away from targeted companies to protect themselves from cybercrime. Companies may also lose money to hackers who try to extort their victims.

Despite the existing email protection provided by Microsoft Exchange Online Protection (EOP) in Microsoft 365, 85% of users have experienced an email data breach over the past year. Increased reliance on cloud email usage creates critical security gaps in EOP, such as static and single-layered protection that cannot anticipate emerging attacks, a lack of customization for businesses’ individual email security needs, homogeneous architecture that allows attackers to bypass defenses, and difficulty configuring securely.

Anatomy of a Business Continuity Plan

If your organization doesn’t have a business continuity plan, start by assessing your business processes, determining which areas are vulnerable, and the potential losses if those processes go down. Developing a plan involves six general steps:

  • Identify the scope of the plan.
  • Identify key business areas.
  • Identify critical functions
  • Identify dependencies between various business areas and functions.
  • Determine acceptable downtime for each vital function
  • Create a plan to maintain operations.

Best Practices for a Secure & Effective Business Continuity Plan

An adequately constructed BCP is necessary to efficiently protect and provide a business the capability to recover quickly from unexpected disasters. The following best practices for email security should be kept in mind when designing and implementing an effective business continuity plan:

Determine Business Impact AnalysisYoung women using computer, Cyber security concept.

Business Impact Analysis (BIA) is a systematic process to determine and evaluate the potential effects of an interruption to critical business operations due to a disaster, accident, or emergency. A BIA is an essential component of an organization's business continuity plan that includes a testing element to reveal business email threats and vulnerabilities and develop strategies to minimize risk. 

During the business impact analysis process, the elements of the risk management process must also be considered. Teams should factor cyber threats and risks into their impact categories, including reputation, revenue loss, customer service and experiences, legal or regulatory standards, and increases in operational costs due to an attack. By determining the potential scope of impact, organizations can make an informed decision to maintain business continuity in the event of an attack.

Conduct a cybersecurity risk assessment

These tests identify the potential risks, threats, and vulnerabilities to a business's continued operations. This includes natural disasters, supplier failures, power outages, and cyberattacks. The assessment identifies areas of exposure or failure points.

Consider supply chain attack and third-party risk management

Securing your supply chain is vital for any organization to protect its revenue, reputation, and ability to continue performing its essential operations. Fortunately, managing supply chain risk can be accomplished by completing four steps: put someone in charge; identify your critical vendors; identify the risks to your critical vendors; and mitigate the risks to your supply chain.

Minimize downtime with incident response and crisis communication plan

Because there is such a wide range of potential damage cybersecurity attacks can cause to an organization’s legal, financial, and reputational well-being, ensuring that your organization can return to business as usual as quickly as possible requires an incident response plan in place. This plan should facilitate an efficient response to email security incidents by detailing what needs to be done and who needs to do it.

Crisis communication is crucial, so your company should implement a strategy ensuring effective communication with internal and external stakeholders. A detailed communication strategy can help incident response teams efficiently coordinate their efforts.

Maintain complete visibility and continuously monitor

The best way to proactively manage risk and mitigate business continuity concerns is to enable complete visibility and continuous monitoring. This allows IT security teams to understand the organization’s cyber hygiene, encouraging confident and informed decisions and ongoing compliance monitoring. Organizations should leverage solutions that provide comprehensive visibility across their network infrastructure, including vendors and the supply chain.

Test your business continuity plan

Testing a plan is the only way to know it will work genuinely; a real incident is an actual test and the best way to understand if something works. A controlled testing strategy, however, is more comfortable and allows one to identify gaps and improve prior to an actual attack.

There is no rule for how often your business should test its plan. Instead, it depends on the complexity of your business and the number, scale, and likelihood of the risks it faces. Suppose your company has high stakes for revenue loss, a damaged reputation, or the possibility of lengthy downtime. In that case, testing should be carried out regularly, and more plan areas should be tested.

Review and improve your business continuity plan

A lot of effort goes into creating and testing a business continuity plan. Once that job is complete, some organizations expect it to maintain its usefulness and strength while other tasks are now focused on.

As technology evolves, so should the plan. Bring key personnel together annually to review the plan and discuss any areas that must be modified. Before the review, ask all departments or business units to review the plan, including branch locations or other remote units. If you’ve had to implement the plan, be sure to incorporate any lessons from the incident.

Cybersecurity and Business Continuity Are Codependent Cyber security systems for business network

Cyberattacks or data breach - over 90% of which occur via email - can shake any business to the core. Because of this, spam, phishing, and data loss prevention is far better than mitigation, and adequate email security is critically important for the success of your business.

Cybersecurity concerns and business continuity are intertwined, especially as we see cyberattacks and data breach disrupting increasingly more organizations due to data loss, compromised accounts and personal or financial information, and unplanned downtime. A single cybersecurity event can result in lost productivity, decreased revenue, and a damaged reputation.

There’s no denying that cybersecurity and business continuity were once considered two separate entities altogether. Today they should ideally work together to minimize costs, protect data, and streamline a timely and effective response to attacks or data breach.

Keep Learning About Protecting Your Email & Assets

With the information and tips in this article, you should be equipped to create a secure and effective business continuity plan for your organization.

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