The Need of Prioritization: If Everything Is “Mission Critical”… Then Nothing Is

Humans have always been intrigued by paradoxes and puzzles. The ancient Greeks, from Plato to Plutarch, debated whether if you replaced every plank of a wooden ship with a new plank, would it still be the same ship?
Let’s take another puzzle that sometimes gets raised in today’s culture: If everyone is beautiful, is anyone really beautiful? Or if everything is special, can anything be special? While it sounds nice to bestow everyone with the same positive characteristics, doing so makes the underlying concepts meaningless. To have meaning and clarity and accurately describe our surroundings, we need the ability to draw distinctions.

The same principle holds true in the realm of cybersecurity. If everything is critical, business critical or mission critical, does anything really fit those terms?

Let’s take a minute to talk about why it’s so important to draw key distinctions, and the drawbacks that can develop from treating cybersecurity issues like a poorly differentiated mass.

What We Mean When We Say “Critical”

So-called “crown jewel” assets are those that are most important to an organization’s value, profitability and future prospects. Such assets may be physical in nature or intangible, such as patents or trade secrets. These assets are often classified as “business critical” or “mission critical.” Organizational systems, too, rely on critical infrastructure to operate.

Yet where the lines are actually drawn is of great importance. This is especially true in cases where the organization’s ability to defend these assets or systems is limited. Smaller businesses often have limited human and financial resources to tap to defend their systems, networks and applications from cyberattackers. Vast entities such as federal governments, on the other hand, have critical infrastructure that is so large and complex that it cannot be fully protected in its entirety.

This means trade-offs are necessary. Marshaling resources to the areas in most need of protection provides the best strategy for effectively managing risk. Yet to do that, distinctions must be carefully drawn.

If everything is business critical, then nothing is business critical.

If you don’t identify the areas and assets that truly meet the critical designation and take relevant action, you are incurring unnecessary risk — and your organization may end up paying a serious price.

How the Right Solution Helps Solve This Problem

To gain the peace of mind that comes with knowing that business-critical systems are protected from a potential data breach, it’s imperative to have a deep understanding of the risks that are present and the ability to quickly address such risks in the appropriate order.

Let’s consider this example: A standard vulnerability scanner using CVSS scoring can give you a rough yardstick of the severity of the exposure. What it cannot do is provide you with the key context that shows you how that vulnerability could be exploited and the degree of damage it could cause to your most valuable assets. What good does it do to focus on a “severe” vulnerability that poses no risk at all to assets of true significance? Doesn’t it make more sense to first address a vulnerability of lower severity that poses an extreme risk to crown jewel assets?

XM Cyber’s attack-centric exposure prioritization platform was designed to help organizations determine what is truly mission critical and protect it to the fullest possible extent. Our platform eliminates 99% of the risk to critical systems by focusing on the 1% of exposures that can be exploited.

Unlike blunt and limited tools such as vulnerability scanners, XM Cyber software continuously identifies new exposures and attack vectors, prioritizing the risks that affect business-critical systems and assets. It does this by launching simulated attacks against your security environments, using the same tactics and techniques used by Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) and other adversaries. Once vulnerabilities are identified — and the risks they pose to the most sensitive assets illuminated — the XM Cyber platform context-sensitive, least-effort, prioritized remediation guidance.

In other words, it helps you discern what is truly critical — and gives you the best possible protection.

In an era where cybercrime is now expected to reach a staggering 1% of global GDP (according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies), the decision to think critically about what’s truly important and how to best safeguard it has never been more urgent.

So, are you sure that your truly business-critical assets are secure? Click here to learn more.

Marcus Gilban is Head of Marketing Communications at XM Cyber

Related Topics


Find and fix the exposures that put your critical assets at risk with ultra-efficient remediation.

See what attackers see, so you can stop them from doing what attackers do.