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5 Tips for Achieving Security by Design in a Severe Cyber Threat Landscape

The COVID-19 pandemic massively disrupted the way we work, and many of these changes are here to stay. For example, a Github study found that over 50% of remote workers started working from home in 2020. Another study found that today, a whopping 30% of employees work at exclusively remote companies.

Modern offices look much different today than they did five years ago. Workforces are increasingly distributed across regions, and remote working is common. But to achieve this level of worker flexibility, organizations were forced to adopt more and more cloud-based apps and other emerging technology to support employee efficiency. And while these solutions have undoubtedly made the transition to remote working much smoother, they have some drawbacks. Most notably, each new piece of technology an organization adds expands the threat surface (the number of all possible points where an unauthorized user can access a system and extract data).

At the same time, cyberattacks are on the rise, with increasingly sophisticated hacking groups finding new ways to conduct successful ransomware and phishing attacks. It’s a dire picture. However, cybersecurity experts believe there’s a better way forward – security by design. With this in mind, let’s look at five tips for becoming secure by design.

Adopting a Zero Trust Security Model

In the wake of remote working and expanding attack surfaces, more and more companies are adopting a zero trust security model. In 2021, zero trust security initiatives among organizations stood at 90%, up from a measly 16% in 2019 .

Zero trust (ZT) models take the approach of “don’t trust anyone or anything” or “never trust, always verify.” In simple words, ZT models prevent data breaches by eliminating implicit trust. It uses strict identity verification for every person and device trying to access resources, regardless of whether they’re in the network or outside the perimeter. Contrast this with traditional approaches to verification, where everyone inside the network is trusted by default.

Restrict Shadow IT

Shadow IT refers to any IT hardware or software used within the company without the knowledge or permission of the IT department. With more employees using personal devices for work and as the number of cloud-based applications they use daily continues to grow, shadow IT is becoming more common. According to one report, shadow IT is 15 to 20 times higher than CIOs predict .

Shadow IT poses enormous risks for cybersecurity. For example, security teams can’t mitigate the risks of the expanding threat surface if they have no visibility of these risks. Users may also create accounts for shadow IT apps using their business email and password, potentially exposing sensitive credentials to threat actors.

Ensure Resilience with Red Teaming

Red teaming refers to asking a trusted group to launch an attack on your organization so you can test how your defenses hold up in a real-world attack scenario. Red teams can either be an internal group of trusted individuals or an external third party of ethical hackers.

Once the planned attack has concluded, the red team reports their activities to the security team, including any vulnerabilities they exploited. Armed with this information, the security team can strengthen its defenses and better thwart future attacks.

Reduce Supply Chain Attacks with Stronger Software Development Processes

According to a CrowdStrike survey, 84% of IT decision-makers believe that supply chain attacks could become one of the biggest cyber threats to organizations within the next three years . Supply chain attacks exploit trusted relationships. Essentially, hackers insert malicious code into an application that several thousand users will use. These attacks are a growing problem because today, much of the software companies use isn’t written from scratch. Instead, software companies will use many off-the-shelf components like third-party APIs and open source code. If these components are compromised, it can impact users across many different apps and companies.

To mitigate this problem, companies must strengthen their software development processes by continuously testing and validating software components and employing more robust prevention, detection, and response technologies.

Make Employees Your First Line of Defense

Employees can often be the weakest link in your cybersecurity chain. Lack of cybersecurity knowledge puts organizations at serious risk, and this lack of knowledge exists among all ranks of employees. Organizations must combat this issue with regular cybersecurity training sessions, educating employees on the most pressing risks. For example, employees need to understand the importance of good password hygiene and the dangers of shadow IT. Moreover, they must be encouraged to second guess suspicious communications and not act urgently when met with unusual requests.

Final Thoughts

Security by design should be a top priority for all organizations today. Here’s the bottom line. Cybercriminals will continue to leverage increasingly advanced tools to infiltrate systems and exfiltrate sensitive data – it’s proven to be a highly lucrative trade. If we want to keep them out, we must prioritize highly secure and robust approaches to protecting our networks, starting with design.