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Cyber Security by Design: The Smart Way to Start and Succeed in Business

One of the main reasons small businesses close their doors prematurely is financial hurdles. They incur heavy losses, do not make enough money, or are slapped with exuberant fines from regulators.  

One such hurdle is posed by cybersecurity breaches, which has an explicit average cost of £1,100 per breach for micro to small-sized businesses in the UK, although it’s worth bearing in mind that losses of time, focus, and customer trust and business are not factored into this. 

The good news is all of these are avoidable. By implementing the ‘cyber security by design’ principle, you can safeguard your business from hackers and prevent the hefty fines, payouts and recovery costs that come with breaches. 

What is Cyber Security by Design? 

At times, changes in mindset and approach to things can have drastic, radical effects. And when it comes to cyber security, one simple tweak in approach can dramatically increase your business’s security. 

That approach is called the ‘Cyber Security by Design’ concept. 

Unlike reactive strategies that respond to incidents after they occur, ‘security by design’ involves integrating cyber security measures at every stage of business operations, making it an integral part of the organisation’s DNA. 

At its core, ‘security by design’ emphasises building robust security protocols into the very fabric of a business, from the early stages of planning and development to the ongoing maintenance of systems. This means that security is not just an add-on or an afterthought but is a fundamental consideration from the outset. 

This proactive approach strengthens the overall cyber security posture and saves businesses from the potentially devastating consequences of data breaches and cyber attacks. 

The concept is loosely borrowed from aerospace, nuclear power, and other critical sectors with high stakes. Technicians consider all the risks and design preventative measures. This minimises the impact of any major fiasco that may unfold. 

Likewise, the IT support team designs preventative measures to counter the cyber threats before they unfold. 

How to Take Proactive Cyber Security Measures? 

Cyber security is a broad field with numerous practices and methodologies. There are certain standardisations. But when it comes to security by design, IT services and companies usually follow the OWASP Development Guide. 

It lays out several secure design principles to follow. When adopting the cybersecurity by design principle, here are some of the proactive measures to take: 

  • Defence in depth 

Defence in depth involves implementing multiple layers of security controls to protect against various types of threats. Rather than relying on a single security measure, this practice ensures that if one layer is breached, there are additional layers to prevent further compromise. 

A small business might employ a combination of firewalls, intrusion detection systems, antivirus software, and employee training. If a malware-laden email bypasses the email filter, the antivirus software on the endpoint can serve as another layer of defence, preventing the malware from executing. 

The more defence layers there are, the better. 

  • Fail-safe 

There are times when hackers will be able to breach the systems by targeting a loophole. In such cases, you’d want to minimise the impact. 

The fail-safe principle aims to design systems in a way that defaults to a secure state in the event of a failure or breach. This minimises the potential impact of a security incident. 

For example, you can implement automated system backups that regularly store critical data. So even if a ransomware attack encrypts current data, the organisation can recover from a secure backup, reducing the impact of the compromise. 

You don’t have to hire a data recovery company to get the data back, which is a reactive measure. Instead, you prepare yourself for the ransomware attacks. 

  • Least privilege 

Least privilege is one of the most important cyber security concepts that must be followed diligently. 

The least privilege principle involves granting users the minimum level of access or permissions required to perform their job functions. This limits the potential damage that can be caused by a compromised or malicious user. 

Restricting employee access to sensitive data ensures that only those who need it for their tasks can access it. For instance, a finance team member may access financial records, while a marketing team member may not. 

  • Complete mediation 

Complete mediation involves validating and authorising every access attempt, ensuring that permissions are consistently checked throughout the user’s interaction with the system. 

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is an implementation of complete mediation. Even if a user successfully logs in, MFA requires an additional authentication step, providing an extra layer of security by verifying the user’s identity at various points. 

  • Least common mechanism 

Lastly, there’s the ‘least common mechanism’ that is core to the cyber security by design philosophy. This principle recommends minimising shared resources and mechanisms between users to reduce the risk of unauthorised access. 

In the context of web applications, implementing session management that assigns a unique session token to each user upon login ensures that users do not share the same authentication mechanism. If one user’s session is compromised, it does not affect others. 

Security is Not an Afterthought But a Proactive Part of Your Business Strategy 

By integrating these core concepts into their cyber security practices, small to mid-size businesses in London, Essex and Sussex, can establish a robust and proactive security posture, mitigating risks and fortifying their defences against a wide range of cyber threats. Contact us today to learn more.  

Not sure where you stand against cyber threats? Claim your Free Cyber Health Report to understand the lay of the land with cyber protection in your business.