layers of rock
layers of rock

Cyber 3 MIN Read

Defensive Cyber Operations: Six Ways Agencies Can Fortify Their Cyber Defenses

November 15th, 2023


Get the full Bedrock Defenses report and insights.

Cybersecurity in 2023, amidst the backdrop of the White House’s recent executive order on artificial intelligence, is as complex as it’s ever been. This order, while focused on AI, has significant implications for cybersecurity, influencing how we, as cybersecurity professionals, must adapt and integrate AI advancements into our defensive strategies. The dynamic, high-stakes environment we operate in necessitates not only a keen focus on the capabilities we can mature but also an innovative approach to incorporate AI-driven solutions into our organizations. This harmonization will enable us to continually enhance our cybersecurity posture in response to emerging AI technologies, all while navigating competing budget priorities, unfunded mandates with tight timelines, and evolving cybersecurity strategy directives.

Defensive cyber operations, or DCO, has emerged as a paradigm shift from mere reactive strategies to a proactive, resilience-focused approach. Grounded in stability and adaptability, DCO is about more than just countering present threats. It involves foreseeing potential challenges and arming agencies with the technologies and tactics they need to navigate today’s vast and dynamic cyber threat landscape.

DCO capabilities employs a combination of technical, managerial, and operational requirements. These encompass a wide range of tools for continuously monitoring, and responding to threats. The aim is to collate, correlate, and analyze threat and security-related data from diverse sources, including perimeter defenses, network devices, cloud platforms, and endpoint agents, while overlaying cyber threat intelligence to proactively defend these sources. By harnessing these myriad data streams, DCO capabilities provide a panoramic situational awareness, enabling organizations to gauge and refine their security posture and respond in real-time.

In our recently released whitepaper and study, Bedrock Defenses: An Agency Guide to Defensive Cyber Operations, we examined the cyber challenges and concerns agencies are facing and their must-have capabilities, including AI, for building and implementing defensive cyber operations. We outlined a path toward a comprehensive, resilient, and forward-leaning cyber defense strategy for agencies.

Here are six key takeaways from the report:

1. Focus on “Bedrock” DCO Capabilities

Bedrock defenses combine foundational cybersecurity strategies with innovative solutions to safeguard digital assets, data, and cybersecurity infrastructures. A resilient cyber defense demands prioritizing core elements of defensive cyber operations, such as cyber threat intelligence; network detection and intrusion prevention; security incident event management; and vulnerability management. Doing these well and maturing them proactively reduces threats to the organization.

2. Emphasize a Cyber Data Strategy

As agencies continue to use and to generate more data than ever, architecting a coherent cybersecurity data strategy becomes crucial. Harnessing quality data and pairing it with real-time analytics can augment situational awareness and aid in incisive, insightful decision making.

3. Force Multiply with AI and ML

The exponential growth of data and increasingly complex threat vectors make artificial intelligence an indispensable DCO tool. By deploying AI in tandem with machine learning, agencies can preemptively defend, sift through vast data troves, measure key outcomes, bolster the efficiency of the cybersecurity workforce, and offer real-time threat detection and mitigation.

4. Champion Automation

Embracing an “automation-first” approach adds greater agility to cybersecurity initiatives. Automation – from hardening to real-time threat response – offers speed, precision, and scalability too.

5. Embrace Secure by Design Principles

A preemptive approach to security involves embedding resilience and repeatability into both infrastructure and application design, thus hardening the architecture overall. This proactive stance ensures security operations have the telemetry needed for the early detection of vulnerabilities and misconfigurations before they can be exploited.

6. Elevate Compliance

Harnessing defensive cyber operations tools and operations can drive more mature and demonstrable compliance. Such integration also validates control mechanisms and offers tangible outcomes spanning governance, risk management and compliance.

Without question, cyberspace is not only a conduit for innovation and progress but also a dynamic arena of constant and evolving threats. Navigating that complex landscape demands an integration of fundamental and advanced strategies.

DCO protects the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of digital assets and data. Recognizing and fortifying the foundational elements of DCO is more than a strategic advantage; it’s an imperative for national security, public trust, and the seamless operation of critical infrastructures.

As we look ahead, agencies must embrace a defensive cyber operations in order to continually evolve their cyber strategies, anticipate challenges, and maintain robust defenses in the face of myriad cybersecurity threats. GDIT is in constant, collaborative conversations with customers about how to do just that.