From Silicon Valley to Times Square, startups of all kinds are popping up all over the United States and beyond. It’s easy for the founders to put all of their resources into starting the business and taking it to market, but what happens when the data that fuels that startup is breached? What happens when an immature information security program causes that startup to fail?
What Makes a Startup Successful?
There’s a lot that goes into making a startup successful – a great idea, strong leaders, a solid business model, investors, and grit – but there’s even more that factors into scaling a startup. In fact, there’s one key component to making a startup successful that’s often neglected: a robust information security program. In today’s age, information security is one of the top concerns of organizations because they know that it’s only a matter of when, not if, a cybersecurity attack will affect their business. Unfortunately, not all startups recognize how pervasive the current threat landscape is, or they don’t even know where to begin with implementing an information security program. In order for a startup to be truly successful, there needs to be a robust information security program created from the start. What should it include? We believe that there’s five key considerations that organizations must keep in mind when creating their information security program.
1. Get Executives on Board with Information Security from the Start
We often discuss the importance of implementing a culture of compliance from the start of your business, and this is especially true for startups. Why? Because a startup is usually made up of very few members and often does not include IT personnel. This means that for startups, it’s even more important that executives understand and acknowledge the importance of implementing a robust information security program; they need to make it a shared responsibility to design business processes and systems with security controls in mind from the start.
2. Know Your Assets
The value of having a robust information security program comes down to protecting your organization’s valuable assets. For startups, this should really hit home. It’s hard enough getting a company off of the ground, so what would happen if six months into launching, a breach occurred or a physical device containing your company’s data was stolen? It’s happened before and it will happen again. Knowing what assets you have and how much they’re worth to you will help you risk-rank which assets need to protected first.
3. Implement Information Security Basics
Almost all organizations use some form of technology to carry out their business processes, and startups are no different. In fact, most startups have mobile or web applications that are just as likely to be hacked or targeted as Fortune 500 companies. That’s why startups need to implement information security basics, such as firewall configurations, network access controls, antivirus software, password policies, and MFA, to mitigate the risk of malware attacks, DDoS attacks, API disruption, and the plethora of other cybersecurity threats startups are faced with.
4. Educate Your Employees
Employees are often thought of as the weakest link at any organization. Because of the limited number of personnel at a startup, focusing on security awareness training might not seem necessary, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Every single person working at your startup needs to know how they could unintentionally compromise your organization by falling for phishing attempts, using bad passwords, or just not following policies. Whether your startup has a team of two or thirty, investing in security awareness training from the beginning reinforces a culture of compliance and helps mitigate the risk of human error causing a security incident.
5. Establish Physical Security Controls
Another focal point startups must keep in mind is establishing physical security controls. Many times, startups work out of incubators or coworking spaces, but these environments might not always have the most secure physical security controls in place to keep their assets protected. Let’s say that a startup is based out of a coworking space – what physical controls are in place to protect your assets? Does the coworking space have security cameras? Do they have badges, key fobs/cards, biometric access controls, security guards, and/or receptionists? There’s no telling who could enter a coworking space and gain unauthorized access to your sensitive assets, so establishing physical security controls needs to be a top priority.
Malicious hackers don’t discriminate against startups. If there’s sensitive data to access, they’re going to find a way to get their hands on it. That’s why investing in a robust information security program from the start is so worthwhile: security incidents can cause outages in critical services and operations, ruin your reputation, and cause your business to fail before it even takes off. It’s every entrepreneur’s dream to see their business succeed – don’t let an immature information security program keep you from achieving that. As a firm that started out small, we know what it takes to grow a business and we’re dedicated to helping you do just that. Contact us today to learn more about how KirkpatrickPrice can help you implement a robust information security program for your startup.