Comprehensive Guide to Security for Startups

Comprehensive Guide to Security for Startups
Comprehensive Guide to Security for Startups

Startups undoubtedly need a great product or service to succeed. However, it also needs robust cybersecurity strategies to ensure everything remains protected from exploitation. With limited funding, startups often focus heavily on developing a marketable service or product. While it is critical to be the fastest to the market, with modern-day working conditions, ensuring the data and communications remain secure and confidential must be a top priority.

Employees, customers, and vendors need to trust not just the company but also its infrastructure. Hence startups, just like established companies, need to secure their digital assets and communications from threats, internal and external. As previously seen, Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) groups, ransomware and malware creators are a constant threat. Hence, a reliable, robust, and ever-vigilant cyber security setup and culture is critical.

Startups routinely make the grave mistake of viewing cybersecurity as an optional add-on. However, this is not a gamble worth taking. Cybersecurity is at the core of any company’s success. Hence, here’s a simple but comprehensive guide to security for startups.

To reliably secure the digital landscape of a startup, three main areas must be considered: Application Security, Infrastructure Security, and User Security. Startups must inspect each area individually and collectively to ensure the communications, and data flowing in and out of the organization is secure and encrypted.

Let’s look at the three areas and how to ensure basic but working security for a startup.

Application Security:

Application security is the most basic of all the areas. It is of utmost importance to protect the digital tools and platforms that the startup uses every day to build and offer its products and/or services. Following are some of the most critical requirements of Application Security.

Install Latest Cybersecurity Software and keep it regularly updated:

Startups must get the best and latest cybersecurity software. Some companies routinely rely on freeware or adware security solutions, but it is strongly recommended to opt for paid or premium versions. Free antivirus, anti-spam, and firewall software tools are fine as an initial layer of protection. However, as the startups take on customers and vendors, they must upgrade to the paid version to unlock all the security features.

Getting the latest cybersecurity tools won’t help if they are not regularly updated. Even the best of digital security tools can fail to stop an attack if the attacker is using a security loophole that hasn’t been patched. Security software providers regularly develop bug fixes and security patches, and deploy them as “signature updates.” Hence ignoring an update could prove costly. Startups must regularly install latest updates to keep their network and devices safe.

Running Penetration Testing to Ensure Platforms And Tools Remain Unbreakable:

Startups should employ the services of reliable companies that offer “Penetration Testing”. This essentially involves specialist companies running a barrage of tests and conducting mock attacks on the digital infrastructure to check for vulnerabilities. These service providers attempt multiple types of attacks to try and break into the security of a startup.

A startup might be tempted to go for the cheapest available option. However, cybersecurity and threats evolve very rapidly. Hence it is important to choose a reputed and reliable test vendor. Besides testing the platforms, startups must also encourage its engineers to follow Secure Development Lifecycle principles.

User Security:

Startups often ignore “User Security” for the sake of speed and synergy. However, with the advent of remote work, user security has attained a status of utmost and inevitable urgency. Data and tools are often easily accessible to almost everyone working at the company. While this may certainly speed up the work process, such scenarios are often exploited by hackers who routinely conduct “Lateral Movement Attacks”. Using illegally obtained but legitimate login credentials, hackers can enter the otherwise secure networks and easily get to sensitive data without being detected.

To mitigate such risks, startups must consider limiting or revoking access to sensitive data. Enforcing Identity, Access, and Password management policies are critical. This involves individual account creations, rights management, and strong passwords.

Startups should also routinely conduct audits of their workstations to ensure all of them have the latest security tools, and are updated. Additionally, employees must have screen and account login timeouts. Even smartphone and laptop security are a must for a modern-day workplace where employees work remotely

Interestingly, startups often make the mistake of assuming the vendors they work with have adequate security policies. On the contrary, every company must assume their vendors are poorly secured and take the necessary precautions to protect their data.

Using a centralized account management system that runs on a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) is often the best solution to protect data and communications between employees and external agencies that the startup works with. Since VPNs are outmoded forms of security technologies, newer technologies like the Software Defined Perimeter may be adopted as well

Infrastructure Security:

Startups are usually not on the radar of hackers. However, as startups grow, they tend to attract attention. While the attention from the right directions is welcome, startups could also start attracting the attention of hackers. Besides the malicious code writers, there’s always the risk of phishing or social engineering attacks.

While growing, startups often rely on remote managed services like Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services. While configuring them correctly with the user authorization process is critical, startups should also channel the data through VPNs or similar VPN alternatives like Zero Trust Solutions.

Finding the best solutions for startups isn’t difficult. However, companies in their infancy must choose solutions that allow them to backup the databases, encrypt data in transit and make critical resources only available through secure tunnels.

Before choosing the best cybersecurity solution for small business, startups must establish proper policies needed for data and account security. Everyone accessing the resource should have their own account with the minimally acceptable permissions. Startups must have awareness about any unauthorized attempt to access their servers. A host-based intrusion detection system should help in this case.

Having strong passwords, not sharing accounts, and closely guarding login credentials is critical. A small office VPN solution can mitigate a lot of security risks. However, it is also the responsibility of the employees to maintain the integrity of their platforms. Basically, a Zero Trust Approach is mandatory.

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