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Prevention is better than cure, but what if it's not enough?

We've all heard the catch-phrase: "Prevention is better than cure", but it seems that some organisations have taken that advice too close to heart and forgotten how to put it into perspective.

Consider our professional athletes. Before going out on the field, they warm up, stretch, take preventative measures to ensure that when they're pushing themselves they won't succumb to injury. That's sound advice.

But now consider what happens when despite their warm-ups and best efforts, they have an injury. It's an unfortunate incident, but the road to getting back on their feet is going to the doctor, learning how to recover, learning what their mistakes were, and depending on their level of commitment planning how they can get back into the game without injuring themselves further.

The last thing that it typically on their mind is that they should now warm-up and stretch.

Yet this is what happens in businesses each and every day.

Businesses spend large sums of money on preventative stretching: Firewalls, intrusion detection, filtering, web application protection, and the like. But when a breach happens, more money goes back into these same preventative measures that failed them!

RSA sees organisations spend 80 percent of their security budgets on preventative measures, when the entire playing field is full of sick and injured athletes like Target, Sony, Anthem and the like.

The remaining 20 percent of security budgets is hardly enough to help them recover and learn more about what they can and can't handle. Of the total security budget, just 15 percent is spent on monitoring -- understanding what ailments are in their network, how dangerous they are, and what their effects are. That means that many times, when a player unexpectedly keels over on the playing field, no one even knows why or how to address it if they manage to get through it.

In the off chance that businesses are able to identify their ailments, only five percent of their budgets are dedicated to a proper response. Businesses that reserve this little of their budget have effectively told the paramedics they can go home.

Preventative "stretching" equipment is certainly shiney, makes us feel better about doing something about security, and does contribute in a significant way to defence-in-depth, but it should not consume the majority of an organisation's security budget.

Businesses that invest in monitoring can better identify when there are potential security issues, some of which preventative measures might never be able to address. It is the businesses' way of understanding where their strengths and weaknesses are in order to make them a better player on the field.

This greatly improves the chances of being able to identify when there is a risk to the organisation, and if there is a respectible spend in response, take action to either change the game plan.

Of course, spending equally in security response is not just for the benefit of risks that are known. Just as athletes suffer injuries that they couldn't possibly have foreseen, so too will businesses. The threat landscape is changing so fast that criminals and security professionals alike do not know what attack vectors might be available to exploit tomorrow.

When everything fails despite best efforts, the one thing that businesses can do, however, is to have the ambulance ready so that should anything happen, they're in good hands.

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