The Top 5 Essentials for any Start-Up's Security Stack
Cybersecurity is a critical consideration for all companies. Whether you sell software as a service (SaaS) or platform as a service (PaaS) solutions—or something else—technology is pervasive within today’s businesses. Implementing strong security measures helps maintain the trust of your employees, customers, and business partners. As a start-up, this trust is integral to long-term growth.
Every company needs a robust security stack—a set of technologies that protects the various aspects of a company’s technical operations. However, we also know that the world of cybersecurity can be an imposing one—bursting with acronyms and hundreds of competing software vendors—all against a backdrop of security threats reported weekly. The modern company is also growing more complex and dispersed with the ascent of remote work. Employees are using personal devices to access internal systems, and assets are moving to the cloud.
This article lists key components that we believe are critical to a modern start-up’s security stack. Additionally, we’ll share some industry-leading tools and vendors in each focus area. Assembling a full security stack will give your company a galvanized, protective foundation—upon which you may host assets and conduct safe business.
Remote access security products ensure that only authenticated, authorized individuals have access to your corporate network, resources, and other assets. With the pandemic having made telework more mainstream, remote access control helps form the backbone of the modern company’s security stack.
Traditionally, VPNs have been used to secure remote access to corporate networks. These legacy solutions are widespread yet starting to show their age, as they’re hampered by vulnerabilities, maintenance challenges, and limited control over individual resources on the network. Since they govern access at the network level, VPNs often cannot benefit from (nor provide) the same fine-grained configuration as other resources. However, those that leverage evolving access architectures (like Zero Trust) can be highly effective.
Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) solutions are a nascent category of secure remote access products. The zero trust concept is a modernized approach that assumes that all network traffic is untrusted, regardless of where that traffic originates. This essentially means that all network access is considered “remote.” This approach ensures that all network requests are authenticated and authorized while restoring fine-grained access control for key resources. Accordingly, it’s easier to prevent users from accidentally gaining elevated privileges while operating within the network. Security and compliance also go hand in hand. Remote access security can help you meet these compliance requirements (e.g., SOC) more effectively by promoting better security, privacy, and confidentiality at the networking layer.
Some popular remote access solutions include:
- Twingate: a Zero Trust Network Access solution that simplifies the deployment and management of a Zero Trust architecture
- Cisco Meraki: a well known hardware-based VPN solution
Any company, both large and small, oversees a growing pool of work devices over time. These laptops, mobile phones, tablets, desktops, servers, and virtual machines (on-premises and remote) are called “endpoints.” Because such devices tap into corporate and other networks (which may be insecure), it’s important to oversee them and safeguard them against external threats. Endpoint detection and response technologies operate at the device level, whereas network security governs safety over network infrastructure.
A cybersecurity admin’s chief concern is that a compromised device may put the entire ecosystem at risk. Consider a 2020 Ponemon Institute study that found (at the time) that 68 percent of organizations experienced one or more successful endpoint attacks. These attacks compromised data and IT infrastructure to some degree. Additionally, 68 percent of IT respondents also noticed increases in endpoint-attack frequencies.
Endpoint detection and response specifically aims to counteract the following threats:
- Device theft and compromisation
- Web-based attacks
- Social engineering attacks (phishing, etc.)
- Account takeovers
That said, what mechanisms are common within EDR? Firstly, usage-data collection through continual monitoring is a hallmark process and one that helps illuminate any suspicious activity. This quantity of information can be daunting across thousands of devices, hence why many EDR tools employ AI algorithms to uncover meaningful patterns. From there, mitigation and remediation are typically much easier. It’s even possible to automate some of those processes. Alerting is also key in helping specialized team members squash any threats before they spread.
While not specifically tied to endpoint detection and response, companies can often employ multiple, supplemental measures to boost security. Firewalls, email filtering, and website filtering combine to solidify endpoint security alongside EDR tools.
Some popular EDR solutions include:
- CrowdStrike: top ransomware-prevention platform focused on next-generation antivirus (NGAV) and AI-automated threat elimination
- Malwarebytes: surface-level and lower-level threat detection centered on malware and ransomware scanning, alongside device management and isolation capabilities
- SentinelOne: SentinelOne’s Singularity platform is a well-rounded autonomous EDR solution that has the ability to correlate data across disparate enterprise systems to uncover malicious behavior
Adjacent to endpoint detection and response, mobile device management aims to oversee the content and configurations of numerous devices at once. Admins leverage MDM platforms to trigger batches of updates, application rollouts, detailed logging, and 24-7 monitoring. Additionally, MDM software provides data protection features. Teams can wipe compromised and stolen devices or even disconnect them from afar. Because of this, companies can mitigate many security risks tied to distributed devices.
At least 42 percent of companies now view themselves as mobile-first, and the multicloud movement has pushed both employees and resources off-premises. A laptop is stolen every 53 seconds, and data breaches stemming from those thefts (or otherwise) cost employers 80 percent of the cost of a laptop. MDM tools can reduce costs associated with these security failures—if not prevent them altogether. IT teams experience less demand. The ability to isolate personal data from company data in a BYOD environment—characteristic of cash-conscious start-ups—prevents leaks and accidental data manipulation.
Some popular MDM solutions include:
- Kandji: an Apple-centric MDM platform that unlocks zero-touch deployment among iOS, macOS, iPadOS, and tvOS devices
- Jamf: another Apple MDM platform that also provides behavior detection, threat monitoring, compliance monitoring, and full device visibility
- ManageEngine: a Windows-focused MDM solution that helps enforce security policies and prevent data leaks
With healthcare and fintech regularly appearing on lists of leading start-up sectors, the need to secure internal infrastructure is essential. These systems often house some of the general population’s most sensitive data, including financial records, patient records, and other private, personally identifiable information. These industries are also two of the world’s highest regulated, and security plays a massive role in compliance.
Penetration testing has become an essential toolbox addition for start-ups, especially considering that one large data breach can bring a new organization to its knees. It’s said that 60 percent of small companies close their doors within six months of a hack. Thankfully, the adoption of pen testing can prevent attacks from succeeding. At worst, this periodic hardening of internal systems helps reduce each attack’s blast radius, controlling the damage done.
This form of testing leverages intentional, simulated assaults against various portions of one’s infrastructure. Each test is designed to uncover glaring weaknesses and obscure vulnerabilities, essentially gauging how successful a true black hat attack might be. Companies review these results and data to strengthen their production systems. Accordingly, planning, scanning, access acquisition and maintenance, and analysis form the testing process. Specific testing solutions allow us to automate and configure the scopes of these approaches as needed. AI often takes things a step further by offering security suggestions. They allow DevOps or cybersecurity teams to perform highly technical actions from within a GUI—simplifying these methods while providing rich, centralized visualizations.
Start-ups can perform penetration tests internally (malicious insider simulation), externally (outside attacker), blindly (for broad, real-time analysis), or in a targeted fashion. Pen testing often coexists with added measures, like web application firewalls (WAFs), to boost security. This technology even has fundamental ties to intrusion detection systems (IDSs) and security information and event management (SIEM).
Some popular penetration testing solutions include:
- Qualys: a cloud information-security platform designed to mesh with penetration testing software, while providing vulnerability visualization, real-time threat analysis, and patching suggestions
- AttackForge: a penetration testing management platform that aims to boost security and slash remediation times for companies of all sizes
Finally, cloud security posture management (CSPM) allows IT teams to identify any problematic configurations or cloud compliance risks. Often, services from external vendors are trickier to manage than in-house solutions. Furthermore, many configurations aren’t immediately visible or user-friendly to fine-tune. CSPM provides some added observability here. It also facilitates improved compliance by mapping out configurations, statuses, and infrastructure deployments to security frameworks. Teams can then assess how closely their deployments align with regulatory requirements.
CSPM cuts down on data breaches by highlighting any issues seen as low-hanging fruit. Many tools out there are married to specific vendor services or sets of best practices, thus making the selection process somewhat more involved. While many tools might be linked to GCP, AWS, or Azure, some may also be vendor agnostic. Overall, teams can remediate, analyze real-time data, and oversee multiple environments from one centralized interface under CSPM usage.
Some popular CSPM solutions include:
- Orca: a cloud vulnerability management solution that excels at uncovering misconfigurations
- Wiz: another multicloud security platform centered on risk management and toxic configuration conflicts
- Open Raven: a cloud security solution focused on data security, visibility, and compliance
When it comes to assembling your start-up’s security stack, there are numerous factors to be mindful of. Thankfully, marketplace tools today are plentiful, mature, and well-rounded enough to tackle many security challenges simultaneously. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, we believe it’s a great starting point for any organization serious about maintaining strong security.
Secure remote access has specifically been a pillar of ours since our inception. At Twingate, we provide a comprehensive Zero Trust solution that avoids the pitfalls of aging VPNs. Twingate is delivered as a cloud-based service alongside your existing infrastructure and provides heightened visibility into your unique ecosystem deployment.
Twingate empowers IT professionals to configure and manage user access to critical applications, giving your security strategy a much-needed boost. Contact Twingate today to learn more.