What is Cyber Situational Awareness?

Cyberspace is a constantly evolving environment, with new threats, vulnerabilities, threat actors and more emerging every day. This continual expansion of activities and our dependence on cyberspace has necessitated the requirement for situational awareness.

Situational awareness provides both a holistic and specific view of threats and vulnerabilities, allowing organizations the ability to identify, process and comprehend information in real-time. Situational awareness also enables the accurate perception of an enterprise’s security stance and its threat environment. This, in turn, helps organizations gauge both their current and future risk status and protection posture.

Why is it important?

Situational awareness addresses the weakest link in cybersecurity - humans. It helps minimize the potential for human errors and the damages caused by them. In fact, situational awareness has increasingly become a key feature in the infosec community, allow organizations to establish internal threat intelligence sharing channels that alert all key personnel about emerging threats, mitigations and potential attack scenarios.

Situational awareness can help organizations understand what is happening in their environment and in cyberspace in general. The information can help the SecOps and incident response teams make informed decisions on how best to defend against or respond to potential threats and attacks.

How to incorporate situational awareness?

In academic terms, situational awareness comprises of three dimensions - perception, comprehension and projection. In theory, the feature is by nature, human-centric, especially since its goal is to minimize human error and strengthen the first line of defense.

However, in practice, situational awareness involves several significant aspects such as threat detection and management, network management, incident reporting, threat intelligence sharing, risk monitoring and defence management. It is vital that organizations incorporate these key aspects into their cybersecurity protocols through real-time sharing of role, location and business units based situational awareness to ensure that right information is available with the right person at right time. Situational awareness is a two-way traffic. It is bi-directional in nature such that information flow not only takes place from SecOps and incident response teams to the employees but also vice-versa via incident reporting. Employees, who in all practical aspects are human endpoints, must report all suspicious incidents to disseminate ground-level situational awareness to SecOps and incident response teams for proactive mitigation and reduction of response and dwell detection time. In fact, incident reporting is key to breaking a cyber kill chain.

To ensure seamless exchange of threat information in real-time, situational awareness must be exchanged over smartphone medium which is not subjected to the limitations of physical presence at a particular location, apart from the standard web and email channels. All aspects of situational awareness are interdependent and play a vital role in ensuring that an organization is comprehensively informed about the health of its networks, the status of its offensive and defensive strategies and identifying the risks associated with a potential attack.




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