How to Scale Your Information Security Program as You Grow

by Sarah Harvey / August 20th, 2019

It’s a great accomplishment for startups to meet compliance goals, like gaining SOC 2 attestation or becoming HITRUST CSF certified – but what happens after you receive your report? How do you continue to implement the lessons you learned and the controls you developed? What happens when a CISO or an IT director leaves the company? Will your information security program withstand your projected growth? These are all things to consider when developing your information security program.

Why is an Information Security Program Important for Startups?

Information security tends to be sacrificed due to the resources it requires – resources that could be used or spent elsewhere. There are always more prospects to pursue, contracts to sign, growth to focus on, and more problems to fix. Initially, an information security program is typically viewed as a headache that seems to get worse year after year, requiring more time, money, and attention. And yet as an assurance firm, we know that a business built with an information security program at the foundation has an advantage because a business process or IT solution is so hard to change once it becomes core to the enterprise and its operation. Every shortcut taken during the design processes, technology solutions, or internal systems will haunt your startup forever – even when you’re not a startup anymore. That’s why creating an information security program must be a priority from the very beginning.

Creating a Scalable Information Security Program

What does it mean for startups to create information security programs that scale as they grow? It means that the work you put into your program at the inception of your organization will pay off in the long run. You will reap the benefits of your information security program long after you’ve graduated from being a startup. What are some ways to create a scalable information security program?

  • Bake information security into the foundation of your organization, but don’t overwhelm your personnel. What are the information security basics that you need to cover? How can you configure AWS in a secure way? Have you created an incident response plan? Have you installed 2FA? A business that is driven by security and integrity will create a quality service or product.
  • Even if it’s not a full-time position, someone needs to be responsible for information security efforts. Maybe it’s something that grows into a full-time position, but if no one is in charge of the information security program, you will regret it down the line. Eventually, you will get to the point that you have a full-time position heading up your information security program.
  • Conducting a formal risk assessment is not only a way that startups can identify and assess organizational risk; the findings can be used to prioritize risks to your organization’s business continuity, reputation, and financial health. Risk assessments will be essential as a startup grows; what new risks are you exposed to that you weren’t a year ago? How can you mitigate them? How can you monitor them?
  • When startups have a product, customers, and the customers’ data (and possibly their customers’ customers’ data), they are a more interesting target to hackers. Do you have engineers and developers who know how to design a secure system? Can they review code? Do they know how valuable penetration testing is? Do controls scale alongside your infrastructure?

What Our Clients Say

What do we hear from our clients about creating an information security program that is scalable?

  • “As a startup, if you’re going to deal with data that has privacy and compliance requirements or talk to customers that are heavily regulated, you have to think about that in your initial design and business strategy because that’s the success. That’s the difference between being profit-positive inside of one year and being profit-positive at year seven.”
  • “We want to be able to tell our clients and our clients’ customers that the framework that we’ve built and the design or architecture that we’ve built is as secure as is available on the market. We knew that the sooner we could close that gap and prove to our customers and prospects that we’ve rolled out an information security program, thought about the processes and procedures, and considered privacy laws and requirements around the globe, that opens the door to more conversations and builds confidence in us as a vendor.”
  • “Compliance cannot be an afterthought. If you’re starting a business, please think about information security first.”
  • “Going through a gap analysis was the best thing that we ever did.”
  • “Going through an audit made our documentation lightyears beyond what it was.”
  • “We’re a small company, but as we grow, the Online Audit Manager is architected in such a way that you can delegate the questions out to the right people in your team and get accurate answers. It also alleviates businesses from having a single point of contact that must do it all. Having an online platform with delegation and tracking capabilities plus the feedback from the auditor in a digital format, along with the daily email reminders, is a great way to keep the audit process moving forward.”

If your organization is a startup considering undergoing information security assessments or penetration testing for the first time, KirkpatrickPrice wants to be your resource for building a scalable, solid information security program. Want to learn more? Contact us today.

More Resources for Startups

Auditor Insights: Compliance from the Start

You’re a Target for Cyber Attacks No Matter Your Business Size

5 Strategies to Keep You From Wasting Time on Security Questionnaires

5 Information Security Considerations to Make Your Startup Successful