The fields of business continuity and disaster recovery, sometimes combined into a unified business continuity & disaster recovery program, represent different but complementary parts of incident response management. These strategies comprise two essential cybersecurity remediation perspectives following a data breach. Therefore, it’s imperative to understand how they differ before pursuing both strategies and implementing an associated framework.
The Difference Between Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery
When a cyberattack occurs, companies need to prioritize both returning to normal (i.e., a short-term perspective) and recovering any data or functionalities they’ve lost (i.e., a long-term perspective). Organizations must familiarize themselves with three critical considerations to account for the similarities and differences between the former (continuity) and the latter (recovery) strategies, along with how to combine them into one effective program:
- The requirements, benefits, and challenges of a successful business continuity plan
- The requirements, benefits, and challenges of a successful disaster recovery plan
- The HITRUST approach to managing business continuity and disaster recovery
Business Continuity: Security Requirements and Considerations
In the context of cybersecurity, business continuity management refers to the upkeep of programs and systems—including client-facing applications and webpages—during and after a cyberattack. Service delivery and uptime must return to normal as quickly as possible.
Business continuity requires optimal visibility across all assets and systems to identify events as soon as possible, minimize their impact, and ensure that all services remain active and properly functioning. This strategy is relatively narrow in scope, focusing on immediate incident response.
A company could suffer short-term losses if functionality is interrupted intermittently, but extended downtime or a suboptimal return of service can cause long-term reputational damage. Thus, a critical component of incident management is assessing the severity of an attack and determining whether the best course of action is continuing or pausing services.
Challenges to Implementing an Effective Business Continuity Plan
The most significant challenges to achieving successful business continuity involve attacks’ volume, nature, and complexity. Advanced persistent threats (APTs) can leverage multiple weaknesses simultaneously, and the most committed cybercriminals will research and exploit any vulnerabilities they may discover.
Certain kinds of attacks can directly hinder continuity or complicate your decisions about uptime:
- Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks can render services offline or inoperable for client-facing websites, internal operations, and security-critical systems.
- Social engineering attacks can create alternate, illegitimate clones of your company’s web pages and communications, resulting in accidentally compromising sensitive login credentials.
For these reasons, companies need to account for flexibility when constructing their business continuity models, allowing for different strategies to be taken depending on any given attack’s characteristics.
Disaster Recovery: Security Requirements and Considerations
Disaster recovery may be seen as a longer-term complement to business continuity. It’s broader in scope, focusing on roles and responsibilities to recover the functionality and data lost due to a cyberattack. Rather than prioritizing service restoration during or after an attack, it’s concerned with reclaiming information and replenishing preventive controls.
Many companies’ disaster recovery programs will include cybersecurity-specific responses and strategies for natural disasters, such as earthquakes or flooding, along with miscellaneous disasters. In terms of cybersecurity, it requires dedicated personnel and strategies for backing up and restoring data, along with tracking down and resolving any root causes and vulnerabilities that could lead to future attacks. In some cases, it includes business continuity.
Challenges to Implementing an Effective Disaster Recovery Plan
The most significant challenges to disaster recovery, like business continuity, involve how many attacks your company fields, how severe they are, and how complex or multifaceted they can be. Other factors that are especially critical for disaster recovery include the timing of attacks, the specific kinds of data required, and any cyberthreat intelligence that helps locate attackers based upon the compromised and seized data.
A troubling trend for disaster recovery is the rise of double-encryption ransomware attacks:
- Attackers can encrypt a dataset twice, then demand ransom after each decryption.
- They may also decrypt two datasets differently, requiring two decryption ransoms.
- The double encryption may be hidden, so victims are more likely to pay both sums.
Navigating these challenges often requires systematizing efforts alongside business continuity in a unified business continuity & disaster recovery program—such as a plan built according to HITRUST certification efforts.
The HITRUST Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plan
One of the most efficient ways to overcome the challenges detailed above and execute business continuity and disaster recovery is to combine them in a unified strategy. Implementing the HITRUST CSF framework is an excellent way to achieve this.
Two of the HITRUST CSF’s Control Categories correspond directly to disaster recovery and business continuity, and the entire framework prioritizes coherent guidance across its Objective Names and Control References.
Partnering with a qualified HITRUST compliance advisor such as RSI Security facilitates adopting the entire framework and long-term patch management to maintain compliance. Our team of experts will implement a business continuity and disaster recovery plan up to HITRUST standards. An added benefit is unified compliance across many other regulatory frameworks.
The HITRUST Approach to Information Security Incident Management
There is one domain within the HITRUST framework that’s dedicated to incident response and includes disaster recovery specifically. It’s titled 11.0 – Information Security Incident Management, and it breaks down into two Objective Names and their Control References, as follows:
- Objective Name 11.01 – Reporting Security Incidents or Weaknesses
- Control Reference 11.a – Reporting on security events as they happen.
- Control Reference 11.b – Reporting on weaknesses as they appear.
- Objective Name 11.02 – Managing Security Incidents and Improvements
- Control Reference 11.c – Allocating roles and procedures to stop the spread and severity of an attack and recover as much data as possible, as soon as possible.
- Control Reference 11.d – Learning from incidents to help prevent future incidents.
- Control Reference 11.e – Collecting evidence during an attack for later legal use.
These aren’t the only HITRUST controls that assist with incident response, as preventive or risk monitoring safeguards also help minimize the number and severity of disasters.
The HITRUST Approach to Business Continuity Management
The HITRUST framework also explicitly addresses business continuity. Its penultimate Control Category is titled 12.0 – Business Continuity Management. It includes just one Objective Name with five distinct and wide-ranging Control References. These break down as follows:
- Objective Name 12.01 – Managing the Security Aspects of Business Continuity
- Control Reference 12.a – Including data security in all continuity planning.
- Control Reference 12.b – Scanning for continuity risks at regular intervals.
- Control Reference 12.c – Developing robust business continuity plans including specific, explicit responsibilities related to information security for all personnel.
- Control Reference 12.d – Implementing a strategic business continuity framework.
- Control Reference 12.e – Assessing business continuity plans at regular intervals.
In conjunction with the rest of the HITRUST CSF framework (especially Control Category 11.0), these controls ensure that your business will retain functionality when a data breach or other disaster strikes.
Business Continuity, Disaster Recovery, and Cybersecurity
The most significant difference between business continuity and disaster recovery is in their scope. The former is short-term and focused on resuming standard service delivery and uptime as fast as possible. In contrast, the latter is focused on the long-term recovery of functionality and information.
One of the best strategies for combining them into a business continuity & disaster recovery program is HITRUST implementation. As a cybersecurity and compliance expert, RSI Security provides the HITRUST, business continuity, and disaster recovery guidance your organization needs to conduct mitigation, remediation, and future prevention.
To get started, contact RSI Security today!