How Dark Web Monitoring and Tabletop Exercises Support Proactive Cybersecurity

Traditional cybersecurity approaches take a fortress mentality—fortifying the boundaries of your network to keep attackers out while assuming trust in everything inside the network. While effective against many forms of attacks, this defensive mindset struggles with the sophistication and novelty of modern cyber threats. Security experts and industry bodies continue to advocate for a more proactive and offensive cybersecurity approach—here’s how tabletop exercises and dark web monitoring are two of the most actionable ways to better anticipate and prepare for cyberattacks. 

The Limitations of Defensive Security 

Before getting to tabletop exercises and dark web monitoring as proactive security pillars, it’s worth a brief overview of the limitations of defensive approaches to security.  

  • Delayed incident response: Defensive security inherently assumes that it’s possible to keep attackers out and that incident response teams only need to act after an attack has occurred. Waiting for attacks to happen is no longer an effective or efficient strategy, especially given the high costs of data breaches.  
  • Fails to address insider threats: Relying solely on perimeter defense does little to mitigate insider risks—whether malicious or unintentional—since users typically have broad access once inside the network. 
  • Doesn’t deal well with dynamic perimeters: With the rise of remote work arrangements, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies and cloud computing, the notion of a fixed network “perimeter” is outdated. Security boundaries are no longer clearly defined, as data flows freely between on-premises and cloud environments, which makes relying solely on traditional perimeter-based defenses obsolete. 
  • Complexity and cost: Maintaining and updating a slew of defensive tools to keep threat actors out is costly and complex, particularly for smaller businesses with limited IT resources. Transitioning budget toward proactive measures is less expensive and complicated than adding layers upon layers of defense until security teams get inundated with alerts. 

The need for a more proactive cybersecurity strategy is clear—one that strengthens defenses and anticipates and neutralizes threats before they cause severe harm. Central to becoming more proactive is thinking like attackers do, going on the offensive against your own network, and trying to find and address weaknesses before attackers do. There are, of course, other ways to become more proactive, such as improving employee training programs, but it’s the offensive tactics that really make the difference.  

Supporting a Proactive Cybersecurity Approach 

Tabletop exercises

Tabletop exercises are a form of incident response planning in which you walk through various real-world cyberattack scenarios, such as data breaches, ransomware attacks or server failures. These exercises can hone muscle memory and reflexes for personnel in charge of incident response while testing their decision-making, communication and policy application skills. Also, during tabletop sessions, participants can see firsthand how decisions affect outcomes, which leads to a more refined and effective incident response plan. 

Another benefit is the cross-departmental collaboration and awareness that these exercises instill. After all, cybersecurity is not solely the responsibility of the IT department; it involves legal, human resources, public relations and executive teams. Tabletop exercises unite these diverse groups to understand their roles during a cyber incident. This interaction fosters better communication and collaboration across departments and ensures a unified and coherent response during actual incidents to minimize damage. With defensive security, the notion of even doing tabletop exercises rarely gets a second thought.  

Sometimes referred to as incident response readiness, tabletop exercises often reveal gaps in communication plans, such as undefined escalation paths or unclear responsibilities, which you can then proactively address to streamline responses in real scenarios. Another benefit is

how these exercises mimic the stress and urgency of a real cyber incident. This environment helps teams practice critical thinking and rapid decision-making, essential skills during an actual cyberattack that require practice. Participants learn to weigh the consequences of each decision and consider not only technical implications but also business continuity, legal issues and public relations fallout. 

While it’s feasible for larger businesses to design these exercises, a service-based approach is more suitable for many companies. Third-party services have experts in cybersecurity and tabletop training, who bring in-depth knowledge of current threats, tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) adversaries use. This expertise allows them to design scenarios that are realistic, challenging, and relevant to your company’s specific industry and infrastructure. 

Much of the learning occurs during post-exercise debriefing. Experts can provide detailed analyses of the exercise performance that highlight strengths and areas for improvement. Incident response readiness services also offer insights into how different decisions might have led to different outcomes and suggest practical steps to strengthen the organization’s incident response plan. 

Dark web monitoring

Dark web monitoring is all about scanning, analyzing and monitoring the dark web—a part of the internet not indexed by standard search engines and often used for illicit activities. This activity slots into proactive security in that it detects and reacts to signs of stolen data and other security threats before hackers use them for malicious purposes.   

One of the main benefits of dark web monitoring is detecting data breaches earlier. Companies often don’t know their data has been compromised until long after the initial breach has occurred. By monitoring the dark web, you can detect stolen data—such as credentials, personal information or proprietary secrets—soon after it appears there and before criminals use it. This early warning system allows you to react quickly to potential breaches by securing affected systems, alerting affected individuals and initiating damage control.  

Another benefit comes from hunting down signs that you could soon be compromised. One such sign is that one of the 24 billion credentials circulating on the dark web belongs to one of your employees. Hackers can potentially reuse these credentials to access your network by betting on the fact that many users reuse their passwords or simply don’t change them. Another sign is where hackers discuss targets (potentially your company) on dark web cybercrime forums and marketplaces—knowing about these impending attacks helps you better prepare and fend them off. 

Get More Proactive with Nuspire

Nuspire’s team of cybersecurity experts helps your business become seamlessly more proactive and offensive with incident response readiness and dark web monitoring services. Incident response readiness comes in the form of tabletop exercises that familiarize your team with real-world scenarios, enhance team coordination, and validate your incident response plan. Our dark web monitoring service proactively searches for mentions and activity about your business to deter impending attacks or mitigate existing damage faster.

Contact us to learn more 


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