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This short paper examines the concept of cyber resilience from an organizational perspective. Cyber resilience is defined as “the ability to continuously deliver the intended outcome despite adverse cyber events”, and this definition is systematically described and justified. The fundamental building blocks of cyber resilience are identified and analyzed through the contrasting of cyber resilience against cybersecurity with regards to five central characteristics.
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Cyber Resiliencefundamentals for a definition
Fredrik Björck, Martin Henkel, Janis Stirna, and Jelena Zdravkovic
Stockholm University, Department of Computer and Systems Sciences, Sweden
{bjorck, martinh, js, jelenaz}
Abstract. This short paper examines the concept of cyber resilience from an
organizational perspective. Cyber resilience is defined as “the ability to
continuously deliver the intended outcome despite adverse cyber events”, and
this definition is systematically described and justified. The fundamental
building blocks of cyber resilience are identified and analyzed through the
contrasting of cyber resilience against cybersecurity with regards to five central
1 Introduction
Starting with the 2012 World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, cyber resilience [1]
has been not only an area of growing importance for individuals, businesses and
societies, but also a concept that has gained in attention and usage.
Even though the concept is now widely used among practitioners in the information
security industry and political and business leaders in many countries, Cyber
resilience as an academic research subject is still in its infancy. As an illustration,
only 402 articles in the Google scholar index include “cyber resilience” at all and of
these only 21 articles include it in its title [2].
In order for cyber resilience to gain momentum also as an academic research subject,
it is important to define the term. Once there is a common understanding of what
cyber resilience refers to, research and education will be more efficient and effective.
Individuals, businesses and societies are in need for efficient and effective cyber
resilience, and to get there we need - among other factors - a common language.
There have been some earlier attempts to define cyber resilience, and this paper aims
to build on and integrate some of these attempts so that the fundamentals for a
definition of cyber resilience, mainly from an organizational perspective, can be
Published by Springer
2 Cyber Resilience – a definition
This section offers a comprehensive definition of cyber resilience and examines the
suggested definition in detail:
Cyber resilience refers to the ability to continuously deliver the
intended outcome despite adverse cyber events.
This ability can be considered at different levels, as discussed by [3] (see table 1).
Each level offers its unique challenges, methods and conceivable controls in relation
to cyber resilience. Hence, the ability to continuously deliver the intended outcome
can pertain to not only to e.g. a nation, but also an organization or even a specific IT
system. Nevertheless, as will be clarified later, for cyber resilience to be effective and
efficient it needs to be addressed holistically and on several levels and in parallel.
Table 1: Cyber resilience considered at different levels
CR for a confederation of nations
European Union
CR for a country or society
CR for a region or city
CR for an organization
Company, agency, council
CR for a business function
Division, process, capability
CR for a technical system
IT system, network
The notion of continuously, means that the ability to deliver the intended outcome
should be working even when regular delivery mechanisms have failed, during a
crisis and after a security breach. The notion also denotes the ability to restore the
regular delivery mechanisms after such events [4] as well as the ability to
continuously change or modify these delivery mechanisms if needed in the face of
changing risks.
The intended outcome refers to that which the unit-of-analysis (e.g. the nation,
organization or IT system) is intended to achieve, such as the goals of a business or
business process or the services delivered by an online service.
Adverse cyber events can be caused by either acts of God or acts of man or a
combination of these (see table 2). For a more detailed discussion on classification of
such adverse cyber events and threats, see [5]. All events that negatively impact the
availability, integrity or confidentiality of networked IT systems and associated
information and services are such adverse cyber events.
This focus on adverse cyber events in relation to networked IT systems also marks
the delimitation between business resilience in general and cyber resilience in
Table 2: Basic types of adverse cyber events
Type of event
Acts of God
Events caused by nature
Fire, flood, earthquake
Acts of man
Events caused by people,
intentional or unintentional
Unintentional deletion of data,
computer intrusion
In brief, cyber resilience - which can be considered at many different levels - refers to
the ability to continuously deliver the intended outcome despite adverse cyber events
caused by humans and nature.
3 Characteristics of Cyber Resilience
Let us examine the most essential characteristics of cyber resilience and thereby also
highlight the differences between cyber resilience and its sibling cybersecurity. Please
note that any given approach to cybersecurity might include components and
characteristics from cyber resilience. We distinguish five defining characteristics of
cyber resilience (table 3):
Table 3: Characteristics of Cybersecurity vs. cyber resilience
Cyber Resilience
Protect IT systems
Ensure business delivery
Apply security from the outside
Build security from within
Single layered protection
Multi layered protection
Atomistic, one organization
Holistic, network of organizations
While the general objective of cybersecurity is to protect networked IT and
information systems, cyber resilience is focused on the higher-level objective of
ensuring business delivery (table 3). Business delivery is the intended outcome of the
object in question, in other words; the value it aims to generate as conceived by
internal or external stakeholders. Consequently, a system can be said to be resilient
when it is able to deliver business value, even in the face of adverse cyber events, e.g.
by making use of alternative means of business delivery. As a result, any efforts
concerning cyber resilience must take business as its starting point rather than
information technology. For example, one way of starting a cyber resilience review is
to have a clear definition of the overall goals of the business Merrell et al. [6].
In relation to objective, intention refers to the desired properties of a system or
systems. From a security perspective, the intension is to design, or protect, systems so
that they have the property of being fail-safe (table 3). Essentially the system should
be running as usual and be able to withstand cyber events. In addition to this it is
important for resilient systems to be able to fail in a controlled way. We refer to this
as safe-to-fail in table 3. The importance of the ability to fail in a controlled way is
evident in several methods for the design of resilient systems. For example, Linkov et
al. [7] explicitly mentions the need for systems to “adapt and recover, while the
framework from MITRE [3] refers to the similar activities “respond” and “recover”.
Thus, a resilient system needs to be, by design, able to fail.
The third defining aspect of cyber resilience is the general approach applied. A
somewhat simplified view of security is that it is applied on a system. For example,
encrypted communications can be applied on the communication between a system
and its users. A similar example is that organizations can set up separate security
teams that only deal with the protection of its systems. However, a resilience
approach would have a much more profound effect on the systems being “secured”,
leading to the need to let the resilience be an inner part of the IT systems and the
general operation of the business. Resilience simply needs to be built-in rather than an
add-on. For example, Goldman et al. [8] refers to the need to use several re-active
techniques such as alternative operations, and dynamic composition of features when
building resilient systems.
The architecture concerns the inner structure of a system, and is expressed as the
systems constituent modules and their relationships. When it comes to resilient
systems, the architecture needs to be structured to allow for partial failure. Thus, it is
better to view the architecture as consisting of several layers of protection, rather than
constituting of a hard outer shell. Each layer should then be designed to follow the
principle of safe-to-fail as described earlier. While the use of several layers of
protection is commonly advocated when designing secure systems (see for example
Williams et al. [9]), the difference here is that the architecture should be especially
suited for the recovery of each layer.
The scope of a cyber-resilient analysis cannot only consider a single system or
organization and its immediate surroundings. The reason for this is twofold: firstly the
threat can come from any on the multitude of interconnections the system got.
Secondly, the interconnections with other systems (such as sub-suppliers) can also be
strength when it comes to the capability of the systems to recover from adverse
events. As Joseph [10] states: “If networks expose us to vulnerabilities, they also form
the basis of our resilience”. Thus, it is important to have a wide scope and examine
the network of organizations and systems that the system under study is a part of.
The increased scope forms the basis for both a vulnerability analysis and as a source
for resilience. This is captured in the following principles:
4 Summary
The above aspects may seem fundamental, however they capture key concerns when
dealing with resilient systems and provide and way to discuss and contrast security
and resilience approaches. In one way it can be said that the concept of resilience
essentially treats adverse cyber events as a part of normal operations. The difference
to the concept of security can therefore be crucial it allows organizations to
incorporate counter measures and contingency plans as a part of what could be
considered as this new “normal” condition [11].
In table 4 we summarize the aspects of resilience, and provides a few guiding
principles on how to address resilience.
Table 4: Cyber resilience aspects and principles
Cyber Resilience Principles
Ensure business delivery:
1) Resilience focuses on keeping business goals intact, rather than IT
systems, during adverse cyber events. Thus,
2) Resilience analysis needs to have the business as a starting point,
rather than the IT systems.
3) Resilient systems should be designed to be able to fail in a controlled
way, rather than being designed to solely protect against failure.
Build security from within:
4) Resilience is built into organizations and IT systems, rather than
added as separate functions or teams.
Multi-layered protection:
5) A resilient architecture contains several layers, each capable of
protection and recovery, rather than having a single layer of
Holistic, network of organizations:
6) To manage resilience, the business and IT systems need to be viewed
as an interconnected network, rather than as a single unit of analysis
with an environment. Moreover,
7) Resilience is viewing networked interconnection of organizations
and systems as both strength and a weakness, rather just a source of
5 Conclusion
In this paper we set out to define and analyze the concept of cyber resilience. In
particular, we describe cyber resilience in contrast to the concept of cybersecurity. A
conclusion from the analysis is that cyber resilience is business oriented, in the sense
that it aims to continuously deliver the intended business outcome despite adverse
cyber events. To contrast cyber resilience with cybersecurity we made use of five
aspects; objective, intention, approach, architecture and scope. In each of these
aspects there are a difference in how resilience and security are approached. Finally,
we have outlined as set of fundamental principles that can be applied in order to guide
initial work with cyber resilience as well as lay a foundation for a definition of the
term. Further work entails analysis and extension of existing security methods and
frameworks to cope with the aspects of cyber resilience.
1. Partnering for Cyber Resilience, World Economic Forum Davos, 2012. Accessed
2. Google Scholar Search for “Cyber Resilience”. Accessed 2014-12-07.
3. Bodeau, Deborah, and Richard Graubart, “Cyber Resiliency Engineering
Framework, MITRE Report (2011), page 37
4. Kahan, Jerome H., Andrew C. Allen, and Justin K. George. "An operational
framework for resilience." Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency
Management 6.1 (2009), page 10
5. Luiijf, H. A. M., and A. H. Nieuwenhuijs. "Extensible threat taxonomy for critical
infrastructures." International journal of critical infrastructures 4.4 (2008): 409-417.
6. Merrell, S. A., Moore, A. P., & Stevens, J. F. Goal-based assessment for the
cybersecurity of critical infrastructure.” IEEE International Conference on
Technologies for Homeland Security (HST), pp. 84-88, IEEE, (2010).
7. Linkov, I., Eisenberg, D. A., Plourde, K., Seager, T. P., Allen, J., & Kott, A.:
Resilience metrics for cyber systems. Environment Systems and Decisions, 33(4),
pp471-476, (2013).
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In Technologies for Homeland Security (HST), 2011 IEEE International Conference
on (pp. 236-241). IEEE, (2011).
9. Williams, Patricia AH, and Rachel J. Manheke.: Small Business-A Cyber
Resilience Vulnerability. Proceedings of the 1st International Cyber Resilience
Conference, Research Online, (2010).
10 Joseph, J.: Resilience in UK and French Security Strategy: An Anglo Saxon Bias?.
Politics, 33(4), pp253-264, (2013).
11. Kaufmann, M: Cyber-resiliens i EU, Internasjonal Politikk, 71(02), pp 274-282,
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Conference Paper
Undertaking a comprehensive cybersecurity risk assessment of the networks and systems of a single infrastructure, or even a single organization of moderate size, requires significant resources. Efforts to simplify the assessment instrument usually obscure the ultimate goal of the assessment and the motivations for the assessment questions. This can make it difficult for assessors to justify the questions and can undermine the credibility of the assessment in the eyes of the organizations assessed. This paper describes the use of assurance cases to help address these problems. Viewing an assessment approach in terms of an assurance case clarifies the underlying motivation for the assessment and supports more rigorous analysis. The paper also shows how the assurance case method has been used to guide the development of an assessment approach called the Cyber Resilience Review (CRR), developed for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Cyber Resiliency Engineering Framework
  • B Deborah
  • R Graubart
Cyber Resiliency Engineering Framework
  • Deborah Bodeau
  • Richard Graubart
Bodeau, Deborah, and Richard Graubart, "Cyber Resiliency Engineering Framework", MITRE Report (2011), page 37