There are many mistakes and oversights that startups across all industries have fallen prey to when it comes to cybersecurity. The trope “you can never start to consider cybersecurity too early” applies in many of these cases. However, even startups that implemented cybersecurity early in their design have missteps and mistakes that set them back as they start to grow. How does a startup avoid big mistakes? The simple answer is to invest in cybersecurity as you invest in building a platform, going to market, and obtaining funding. Making cybersecurity a cornerstone of the business early means a few key points in particular.
Build a Cybersecurity Strategy
To integrate and make cybersecurity a foundational discipline, startups should make sure to spend time on a cybersecurity strategy early. While many founders and technology leaders will be focused on disrupting the marketing and building a go-to-market strategy, a key component will be missing if cybersecurity is not considered. The current climate almost necessitates startups to consider the requirements of both consumer and business customers’ security. To do this, the startup should consider the following items as the cybersecurity strategy is built.
Data Security and Data Privacy
Do not mistake data security and data privacy as the same discipline. Data security is focused on protecting the data in transit, at rest, and managing where it is moving to/from. A key component to keep in mind when it comes to data security is that an organization could implement data security in such a way that it puts them in a legally defensible position if something were to happen. In many cases, data security is less concerned about why the data is being collected and more interested in how it is being collected, where it is being stored, and the controls protecting the data.
Data privacy is the discipline of understanding what type of data is collected, why it is collected, and how it is used while limiting the collection and storage of that data with the best interest of the data owner in mind. Data privacy requires data security, but data privacy goals are to protect the data owner over the needs of the business.
Not taking the time to understand the business’s data security and data privacy requirements could lead to architectural issues that may require a significant level of effort to address later. This can also make it extremely difficult to attract and retain key customers, as the startup grows.
Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity
Disaster recovery and business continuity should be considered early in the design process of the startup. Knowing what your customer’s expectations might be or what the business can tolerate in the case of a disaster is key. Not having a proper plan to account for disaster or business interruption could be a business-ending event for a startup, as it will erode the customers’ trust. Investing in a strong business continuity plan that allows for continued operation or redundancy is a strong investment in the relationship with the startup’s customers.
This is a very large subject and one that is often overlooked as part of the strategy for startups. Startups should consider how they want to manage authentication, for both their product and internal resources. This can involve implementing SSO to offload the management of passwords and identities to your customer’s identity management platform or a trusted third-party platform (Google, Microsoft, Facebook, etc.).
Another key component to consider when building an identity management strategy is how access is managed for internal users. This includes onboarding, offboarding, and right management through the lifecycle. Overprovisioning access or rights to internal users can leave the startup susceptible to insider threats or data leakage, which has been an issue for many companies in recent breaches. Spending the time to understand the strategy of how to manage identities, authentication, and access management is key to a good cybersecurity strategy that allows for explosive growth.
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