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  • Writer's pictureSusan Lam

Cybersecurity Foundational Concepts: Understanding preventative, detective, and responding controls

Understanding preventative, detective, and responding cybersecurity controls is essential as these terms are frequently encountered in discussions related to cybersecurity. They serve as a summary of the types of controls involved in securing systems and responding to security incidents.

Imagine these cybersecurity controls as layers of defense for your home. Each layer adds another level of protection, just like locks on doors and windows, security cameras, and a vigilant neighborhood watch.


  1. Preventative Controls: Preventative controls are measures implemented to prevent security incidents from occurring or to mitigate the risk of potential threats. These controls are proactive in nature and aim to stop unauthorized access, attacks, or other security breaches before they happen. Some examples of preventative controls include:

    1. Firewalls: Firewalls are network security devices that monitor and control incoming and outgoing network traffic based on predetermined security rules. They can prevent unauthorized access to a network by blocking malicious traffic.

    2. Access Controls: Access controls limit access to resources such as systems, networks, and data to authorized users only. This includes user authentication mechanisms like passwords, biometrics, and multi-factor authentication (MFA).

    3. Encryption: Encryption is the process of encoding information in such a way that only authorized parties can access it. By encrypting sensitive data, organizations can prevent unauthorized access even if the data is intercepted.

    4. Patch Management: Patch management involves regularly updating software and systems with the latest security patches to address known vulnerabilities and weaknesses. Keeping systems up-to-date helps prevent exploitation by attackers.

  2. Detective Controls: Detective controls are measures implemented to detect security incidents or unauthorized activities that have already occurred. These controls are reactive in nature and help organizations identify security breaches in a timely manner so that appropriate response actions can be taken. Some examples of detective controls include:

    1. Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS): IDS are security systems that monitor network or system activities for signs of malicious behavior or policy violations. They generate alerts when suspicious activity is detected, allowing security teams to investigate and respond to potential threats.

    2. Security Information and Event Management (SIEM): SIEM solutions aggregate and analyze security event data from various sources, such as logs and network devices, to identify patterns indicative of security incidents. SIEM platforms provide real-time monitoring and reporting capabilities to aid in incident detection and response.

    3. Log Monitoring and Analysis: Monitoring and analyzing logs generated by systems, applications, and network devices can help detect anomalous behavior or security events. By reviewing log data, organizations can identify indicators of compromise and security incidents.

  3. Responding Controls: Responding controls are measures implemented to respond to security incidents or breaches effectively and efficiently. These controls focus on containing the impact of security incidents, mitigating further damage, and restoring normal operations as quickly as possible. Some examples of responding controls include:

    1. Incident Response Plan (IRP): An IRP is a documented set of procedures and guidelines for responding to security incidents. It outlines the roles and responsibilities of personnel involved in incident response, as well as the steps to be taken to contain, investigate, and remediate security breaches.

    2. Incident Response Team (IRT): An IRT is a dedicated team of cybersecurity professionals responsible for coordinating and executing incident response activities. The team members are trained to handle various types of security incidents and work together to mitigate the impact of breaches.

    3. Forensic Analysis: Forensic analysis involves collecting and analyzing digital evidence related to security incidents to understand the root cause, scope, and impact of the breach. Forensic techniques and tools are used to reconstruct events, identify perpetrators, and support legal proceedings if necessary.

In summary, preventative controls aim to prevent security incidents, detective controls focus on identifying them when they occur, and responding controls are activated to contain and mitigate the impact of incidents that have been detected. These three types of controls work together to create a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy.



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