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The US Needs to Follow Germany's Attack-Detection Mandate

A more proactive approach to fighting cyberattacks for US companies and agencies is shaping up under the CISA's proposal to emphasize real-time attack detection and response.

Ivan Mans

December 1, 2023

5 Min Read
The word "cyberattack" and other associated words floating above a digital brackground
Source: Wavebreakmedia Ltd IFE-210813 via Alamy Stock Photo

COMMENTARY

The United States faces an ever-growing threat of cyberattacks on its critical infrastructure, government agencies, and private sector companies.

These attacks can have severe consequences, from the theft of sensitive information to the disruption of essential services. To effectively combat these threats, the US needs to adopt a comprehensive and proactive approach to cybersecurity, similar to the one taken by Germany with its IT-SiG 2.0 mandate.

Where are we now, and are we on the right track to adopt a similar mandate on this side of the Atlantic?

The IT-SiG Approach Compared With the US's Current Capabilities

One of the key features of the IT-SiG 2.0 mandate is its emphasis on real-time attack detection and response. This approach recognizes that preventing all cyberattacks is impossible and focuses on quickly identifying and mitigating the effects of successful attacks. This mitigation is achieved through advanced security technologies, such as intrusion-detection systems, security information and event management (SIEM) systems, and security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) systems, which can detect and respond to potential threats in near real time.

In contrast, the US has traditionally relied on patching vulnerabilities and responding to attacks after they have occurred and, ideally, been resolved. While this approach can effectively mitigate the effects of individual attacks, more is needed to keep pace with the rapidly evolving cyber-threat landscape. The US has needed a more proactive approach, like the IT-SiG 2.0 mandate, emphasizing real-time attack detection and response to stay ahead of potential threats.

With This Strategy, Visibility Is Key

Another critical aspect of the IT-SiG 2.0 mandate is its focus on improving visibility into the cybersecurity posture of organizations. Visibility is achieved through regular security assessments and penetration testing, which help identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in an organization's systems and networks. By comprehensively understanding an organization's cybersecurity posture, the IT-SiG 2.0 mandate encourages organizations to identify issues and take steps to remediate them, improving overall security.

The United States has taken steps toward improving visibility into the cybersecurity posture of federal agencies with the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency's Binding Operational Directive 23-01 in October 2022. However, this directive only applies to federal agencies and not to private-sector companies; many organizations may not have the same level of visibility into their cybersecurity posture as federal agencies.

According to Statista's Research Department, in the fiscal year 2020 the number of cybersecurity incident reports by federal agencies in the United States was over 30,000, around an 8% increase from the previous year.

To effectively combat cyber threats, it's essential that all organizations, not just federal agencies, have the necessary visibility into their cybersecurity posture. Therefore, the US should consider expanding the reach of Directive 23-01, like the IT-SiG 2.0 mandate, to include private-sector companies. This expansion would ensure that all organizations have visibility into their cybersecurity protection.

Recent US Steps

In brighter news, we might be beginning on the path toward a more effective national cybersecurity strategy akin to IT-SiG 2.0. In March, the Biden administration announced its National Cybersecurity Strategy. Among the plan's emphases are defending critical infrastructure; disrupting the ability for cybercriminals to attack agencies, organizations, and individuals; encouraging market forces to lead the way to broader security and resilience; and fostering international collaboration between private and public sectors to stay ahead of bad actors.

It appears the plan emphasizes less the cybersecurity tools that will be used and more the means of making sure they're being adopted and used correctly, shoring up weak links in complex business and government affairs. While the White House laid out this plan, a significant amount of the burden will fall on the shoulders of those most capable of fighting back against waves of cyberthreats — namely, the business world alongside the government. A redefinition of the "social contract" of cybersecurity seems to be what they're after here, with smaller businesses and individuals able to benefit from the processes put in place by larger organizations.

Taking up this plan and running with it, in August the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released its Cybersecurity Strategic Plan for the fiscal years 2024 through 2026. "It's up to all of us, government and private sector, domestic and international, to execute [the cybersecurity plan]," Eric Goldstein, Executive Assistant Director for Cybersecurity wrote on the CISA website.

How does CISA's plan compare with IT-SiG 2.0? If we're going by real-time attack detection and visibility as the main driving points, then CISA's plan directly lines up, at least in concept. CISA's plan outlines three major goals: address immediate threats, harden the terrain, and drive security at scale.

So, visibility into vulnerabilities, quick real-time responses, and proactive mitigation of weaknesses that could be exploited are the primary focus. While this is still in plan form, it does seem like CISA has homed in on the same key points the IT-SiG 2.0 is going after.

Looking Toward a More Secure Future

Statista's Research Department found that in the first half of 2022, the number of data compromises in the US came in at 817 cases. Over 53 million individuals were affected by those data compromises, which included data breaches, data leakage, and data exposure.

The US faces an ever-growing threat of cyberattacks on its critical infrastructure, government agencies, and private sector companies. To effectively combat these threats, the United States needs to adopt a comprehensive and mandated approach to cybersecurity, similar to the one taken by Germany with its IT-SiG 2.0 mandate. This approach forces real-time attack detection and response, improves visibility into organizations' cybersecurity approach, and offers a solid beginning to a more secure digital world.

There's work to be done — by both government agencies and businesses, as the shift in the social contract implores everyone to do what they can — but by taking these first steps, the United States can improve its overall cybersecurity posture for all companies and better protect digital assets against potential threats.

About the Author(s)

Ivan Mans

CTO & Co-Founder, SecurityBridge

Ivan Mans is a long time SAP technology consultant, having worked in the SAP space since 1997 — the early days of R/3. In 2012, Ivan co-founded SecurityBridge, and in his current role as CTO, he is a motivated driver, inspires people, and pushes technology that contributes to the continuous innovation of the SecurityBridge Platform. In recent years, Ivan has been a regular speaker at SAP events, evangelizing SAP security.

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