One of the foundational pieces of starting a company should be cybersecurity. It’s true for businesses in any industry but especially those in the SaaS and tech space. After all, how can customers trust your products to be reliable and secure if cybersecurity isn’t a pillar of the organization? Startup cybersecurity can involve a variety of components, including vulnerability assessments, pen testing, strategies, disaster preparedness plans, CISO-as-a-service, and more.
In this post, we’ll look at why the investment is necessary and where to spend those dollars.
Reasons Why Startups Should Prioritize Cybersecurity
Should you really care about cybersecurity? Would your new organization be a target for hackers? It’s natural to ask those kinds of questions when you’re building a company. However, before you gain any customers, you have to find investors and partners. They will care about your cyber acumen and defenses just as much as potential clients.
Here are some key reasons to prioritize cybersecurity for your startup.
Every business has sensitive data that needs protection
Data is the new most valuable asset for any company. Much of it will be sensitive and may fall under PII (personally identifiable information) or PHI (protected health information). Other may be proprietary and related intellectual property.
Keeping this data safe and secure is critical to your ability to grow the business. If you suffered a breach, you’d likely be unable to recover from the financial impact and reputational harm. The average cost of a data breach in the U.S. is $9.44 million. A financial burden like that would devastate any business.
So, you will need a cybersecurity policy and parameters for data, including how you collect, use, transmit, and store it. This plan would involve how you set up your networks to house the data, encryption processes, and other stopgaps to put in place to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.
Hackers will target you with the assumption that you have few resources
Cybercriminals find SMBs very attractive, and they are keen to attack startups because they typically have fewer safeguards in place. It puts a target on your back before you’ve even begun. The harder you make it for them, the more likely they’ll move on to another company.
Compliance requirements are non-negotiable
Depending on your industry, you may have to follow and comply with regulations regarding data security and privacy. For example, any organization in the healthcare industry or those that act as vendors for it must abide by HIPAA. Due to this, you’ll have to undergo a HIPAA Security Risk Analysis. Additionally, pen testing is also a good tactic to meet HIPAA standards. The law doesn’t explicitly require those, but they help you manage obligations under the HIPAA Security Rule, the HIPAA Privacy Rule, and the Breach Notification Rule.
If your startup is involved in medical device development, you’ll have additional compliance obligations to fulfill from the FDA. You won’t be able to go to market without this.
Technology startups in any field will also need to meet SOC 2 compliance. SOC 2 applies to those that store client data in the cloud. To achieve SOC 2 compliance, you have to conduct a cybersecurity audit to analyze five controls—security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy. A SOC 2 pen test will support these efforts.
You have to earn the trust of partners, investors, and customers
No matter how unique your product is or the reputation of your team, you still have to earn trust in the business world. You must be sure that you can be confident in the controls you have in place to protect data and your networks. The more you can demonstrate this to investors, partners, and customers, the better. It can even be a competitive advantage for your business.
Build trust with vulnerability assessments, internal audits, pen testing, achieving compliance certifications, and other avenues to validate your cybersecurity posture.
Achieving cyber resilience reduces the risk of business disruption
As your startup takes off, any interruption in service or downtime could sink you before you get started. Cyberattacks are the most common disruptors of service. You can’t afford to be offline for even a few minutes.
To avoid this, cyber resilience and business continuity are critical. Testing how prepared your system is and the plans you have are a best practice, and you can do that through Black Box Penetration Testing. In this simulation, ethical hackers attempt to find and exploit weaknesses, taking the same steps an actual cybercriminal would. These pen tests are also helpful in complying with HIPAA, FISMA, PCI DSS, and SOC 2.
One or more of these may be the drivers behind cybersecurity planning. So, where do you start?
7 Things Startups Need to Do Relating to Cybersecurity
Startups’ cybersecurity strategies should involve all these activities.
- Define your network and all assets on it. As your business grows and becomes complex, having details about your network and assets will become harder to do. Conducting this audit from the beginning helps you manage this from the start.
- Develop a cybersecurity strategy. Documenting your cyber plans would include policies, protocols, procedures, and more. It’s your single source of truth for everything related to digital security. It should consist of an overall view of how you’ll manage cyber threats, disaster recovery, compliance requirements, and more. Often, startups will create this in partnership with a cyber firm as part of a CISO-as-a-service relationship.
- Implement the security measures you’ve defined in your strategy. Next is putting the tools in place to fortify your cyber defenses. This includes things like intrusion protection systems, firewalls, antivirus and antimalware software, encryption, patch management, and monitoring tools. This can be a significant investment, but the alternative is having weakness gaps that hackers can target. There are many advanced cybersecurity resources available, but investigate what the ROI is before you make any choices.
- Put backups and recovery mechanisms in place. System failures can occur due to natural disasters, and hackers can paralyze your operations with ransomware. These threats are only growing. One of the essential ways to avoid something catastrophic is to ensure you have a backup and recovery plan.
- Hire an experienced team to conduct vulnerability assessments and pen tests. These exercises are critical in understanding where weaknesses are and how hackers can exploit them. You’re getting a perspective from experts that can act just like cybercriminals do. As noted before, these things can support compliance and trust. The objective of both is to find what’s weak, unpatched, or misconfigured before a hacker does. Make these a central part of your cyber philosophy, and ensure you do them regularly.
- Bolster security with continuous validation and limited access. Identity and access management are vital in cybersecurity. First, you should have user-level permissions regarding what data or networks people can access. Second, workers should have to verify who they are through multifactor authentication. You could also use zero-trust architecture. In this framework, there’s no implicit trust. Continuous validation replaces it.
- Train and educate employees. Humans are often the weak link in cybersecurity. Hackers target employees, counting on them making a mistake. In 41% of all cyberattacks, phishing was the primary means, and human error was a contributing factor in 95% of all breaches. To mitigate this risk, your staff will need to undergo training on how to recognize and respond to these threats. Make it a part of onboarding. Then reinforce it with training throughout the year.
These areas will be the foundation for your cybersecurity ecosystem. You may not be able to address them all immediately due to limited capacity and budgets. Keeping them on your radar and prioritizing them will help. A vulnerability assessment classifies weaknesses by severity. It could function as a guide for you. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to depend solely on internal resources. A partner can perform assessments, pen testing, help with strategies, and deploy remediation efforts.
Investing in Cybersecurity for Your Startup Final Thoughts
Ultimately, if you make cybersecurity a priority, you’ll be able to develop a secure culture. It will become second nature to your employees and how you conduct business. Your applications will be secure by design. As your revenue, team, data, and networks grow, you already have the fundamentals in place to remain in a secure position. Investing in cybersecurity is investing in your organization’s scalability and future. Consider it an opportunity, not just an expense or nuisance.
Remember that hackers do see you as a viable target and depend on you being unprepared. When you are, it ruins their plans and keeps your business safe and running. Going it alone is the biggest mistake and challenge that startups make. Cybersecurity isn’t your core competency, but it is ours. We collaborate with emerging companies in many industries to ensure they can grow and flourish without a dark cloud hanging over them.
From vulnerability assessments to pen testing to CISO-as-a-service, we can be the support partner you need. Get started by requesting a discovery meeting with the team.