Network Security for Startups: 4 Things to Do Right Now

Posted on August 11, 2020 - by Darren Gallop - in Building Your InfoSec Program

How startups can protect network security

In the whirlwind of things you need to accomplish for your startup, network security often falls by the wayside. It can be hard to make it a priority when a million other issues demand your attention.

Think you’re too small to be noticed by criminals? Think again.

Don’t be tempted to fall into the trap of thinking that hackers aren’t interested in you because you’re small. Verizon found that small businesses and startups comprised 28 percent of all breaches and hacking attempts in 2019. While that number has actually declined in recent years, hackers still target small businesses because they assume startups don’t have the expertise and budgets of their larger rivals.

Invest in network security from the get-go, and build strong foundations that keep you safe in the long run. 

4 Strategies for Startups to Improve Network Security

So what is network security?

According to the SANS Institute, network security is defined as, “the process of taking physical and software preventative measures to protect the underlying networking infrastructure from unauthorized access, misuse, malfunction, modification, destruction, or improper disclosure, thereby creating a secure platform for computers, users and programs to perform their permitted critical functions within a secure environment.”

Here are four things you can do right away to strengthen the network security in your startup:

1. Develop Security Awareness

Awareness is the first step to developing stronger security in any business. Your employees may be smart, diligent, tech-savvy individuals, but there’s no limit to the ingenuity of cybercriminals. Frequent, creative security awareness training can help cultivate an information security culture right from the start.

2. Use Penetration Tests and Vulnerability Scanning

New vulnerabilities appear almost daily because it’s just not possible to catch all of them before software or a security strategy goes live. However, that means you must be proactive about catching these weak points before malicious actors do. We recommend:

  • Periodically running thorough, deep scans with your antivirus
  • Running regular vulnerability scans to identify risks
  • Use penetration tests to check your cybersecurity strategy
  • Consider using a third-party expert to conduct a risk management or security audit

3. Implement a Robust Set of Policies

Formal policies and procedures aren’t just for the big companies – startups should have them in place, too. Policies help you standardize security across your entire startup, keeping everyone on the same page. They also help make abnormal behaviors or unusual activity on the network much easier to spot.

Consider using a framework to provide methodical guidance for your policies. We like the CIS Controls framework because it’s comprehensive without being overbearing, and simple enough that any business can implement it themselves.

4. Practice Open Communication

Did you know that as many as 45 percent of employees hide cybersecurity incidents instead of reporting them? That’s one of the worst things that can happen because incidents resolve with the best outcome when they’re addressed promptly. However, this happens when a blame culture exists and staff is afraid of repercussions, such as being fired or even sued. 

You can combat this by encouraging an environment of open communication. Make it easy for your employees to report potential incidents and reassure them that they won’t be punished if they fall for some clever scheme concocted by a criminal. 

Network Security Done Right

Startups cannot afford any extra expenses, least of all an expensive breach that scares off investors and customers. The strategies we’ve provided are steps that anyone can take to improve the network security in their startup. They’re simple, quick, and can help you build a solid security foundation that signals to investors or customers that you take their data seriously. Implement effective security controls the first time around, and enjoy staying focused on business in the future.


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About the author

Darren Gallop is a tech entrepreneur, information security expert, Techstars alumni, board member, and the CEO of Securicy. He co-founded Securicy and led the team to develop a SaaS product that guides businesses through creating, implementing, and managing their information security and privacy compliance program. Gallop previously co-founded Marcato and was CEO there for 10 years, until the successful event management software company was acquired by Patron Technology. He is fluent in English, French, and adept in Spanish. Gallop spends much of his non-work time traveling or engaging in the outdoors. Swimming, fly fishing, canoeing, camping, and surfing (basically in that order). He is from Nova Scotia, Canada.