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July 12, 2023
By: Jack Nichelson

How to Tackle Security Compliance for Startups

For many startups, and small businesses in general, focusing on information security is often a secondary concern. You have ideas to put into action, products to develop, and a business to grow after all. But failing to account for security compliance for startups leaves these organizations at serious risk. 

Pursuing compliance with a security framework or certification gives freshly-minted businesses a roadmap forward. It also aids in helping small organizations avoid the many pitfalls that come with not addressing compliance guidelines. With a framework in place, or applicable certifications, startups are faced with many hurdles, including: 

  • A higher risk for cyber attacks, data breaches, and data loss 

  • Being unable to meet qualifiers in place from vendors and potential customers 

  • Being unable to qualify for necessary cyber insurance policies 

  • Potential fines for failing to adhere to industry regulations 

No business can afford to ignore cybersecurity compliance, especially startups. Verizon’s 2023 Data Breach Investigations Report cast a spotlight on the dense threat environment facing smaller organizations — which often lack the resources to properly implement resilience cybersecurity measures. 

  • In the last year, 41% of data breaches affected businesses with fewer than 250 employees, up from 38% 

  • Most organizations are not prepared. Only 35% have a formal incident response plan in place, and only 29% have a comprehensive security awareness training program 

  • Data breaches are becoming more costly. The average cost of a data breach was $4.24 million, up from $3.86 million 

It’s imperative for startups and small businesses to take security compliance seriously. Let’s dive into the models available that offer a starting point and how doing so helps organizations erect stronger protections for their data and systems. 

Make Sure Your Business is Protected: Connect with our cybersecurity experts to get started on your tailored security solution today.  

3 Biggest Challenges to Robust Cybersecurity

There’s no one single type of threat, regulation, or engineering challenge that stands in the way of any business or organization improving their security. Instead, the biggest hurdles often derive from a mindset, or specific traits that become present when it comes to discussing IT security. 

Ignorance — You don’t know what you don’t know. The sheer number, and level, of threats present in the digital space have increased in recent years. Hackers are continuing to evolve their methods to overcome current security measures. If you don’t know about the types of threats present, or what you need to protect, you’re not prepared to stop any of them. 

Arrogance —  Maybe you taken some steps, like installed a firewall or added anti-virus software. That’s good enough right? Not likely. Relying solely on traditional tools won’t cut it. Malicious actors today are attacking your people more than a specific technology and are constantly finding new ways to access what they shouldn’t.  

Apathy — The most dangerous train of thought for startups or small businesses in thinking they’re too small to be a target. The fact is smaller organizations are MORE likely to be targeted. Such organizations often have fewer or less sophisticated defenses and are more likely to pay up to resolve ransomware demands. Small businesses are also more vulnerable; 60% of small businesses that are victims of a cyber attack go out of business within six months. 

By addressing security compliance for startups, smaller businesses can set a path forward to erase such outdated modes of thought while generating a concrete plan of action to improve their cyber resiliency. 

Frameworks for Security Compliance for Startups 

Beyond better protecting your business, adhering to a security framework is necessary for startups and small businesses for several other reasons.  

Frameworks give you a baseline to assess your current security controls, your overall posture, and methods to detail what you’re doing to protect your data and your people. They’re essential for showing you’re meeting industry recommendations and complying with many state laws that encourage their use. For instance, in the State of Ohio,  Ohio Senate Bill No. 220 (S.B. 220) was introduced to provide businesses with an incentive to achieve a “higher level of cybersecurity” by maintaining a cybersecurity program that substantially complies with one of eight industry-recommended frameworks. Many similar laws have been enacted in other states across the country.  

Businesses need to show they’re trying to adhere to these standards and practices. Doing so meets both legal and regulatory requirements and helps position startups best to offer details when it comes to securing or renewing cyber insurance policies, or answering customer/vendor questionnaires.   

So, which frameworks or certifications should a small (or new) business pursue? Here are four strong options to consider; keep in mind frameworks need to be chosen based on a business’ specific industry, its customer requirements, and any other business requirements that are necessary.  

CIS Critical Security Controls 

Developed by the Center for Internet Security, the CIS Top 18 is a prioritized set of best practices created to address the most pervasive and dangerous threats of today. This easily approachable framework is a recommended starting point for most small businesses. If you don’t have a specific regulatory framework in mind, this presents a great place to start. 

NIST Cybersecurity Framework 

This framework is more robust than the CIS version, and far more recognized. It’s often used or cited as the basis or starting point for many industry standards. It’s also typically the tool used to gauge an organization’s readiness. Working within this framework aligns businesses with the controls they need for cyber insurance requirements and to provide proof on customer questionnaires. 

SOC 2 Certification 

If you’re a small business that hosts, stores, or processes other people’s data, then acquiring a SOC 2 certification should be a priority. Achieving this certification can be long process with several stages, but the benefits of SOC 2 compliance for startups are substantial — and is particularly important for showing customers you’re deserving of their trust.  

CMMC Certification 

If a business works within (or wants to break into) the Defense Industrial Base (DIB), then achieving CMMC Certification should be a primary goal. CMMC is a unified standard that mandates a strengthened cybersecurity baseline for companies in the DIB. The requirements for CMMC Certification are significant and require an extended time-frame (up to 24 months) to implement. The help of a third-party is critical here as they can outline and define each step of the process.  

Present a False Front for Defense: Deception-based security measures mitigate risk and provide invaluable insight that enables you to stay ahead of cyber threats. Learn more with Inversion6

Solutions for Security Compliance for Startups from Inversion6 

Inversion6 helps businesses from across the spectrum tackle issues impacting their cybersecurity resilience. From security compliance requirements, fractional CISO services, managed MDR, complete SaaS security support and more, we help you become proactive in securing your digital perimeter. 

Inversion6 offers a path forward for startups and small businesses looking to juggle the demands of improving their security resilience while moving their organization forward. Two priority solutions for organizations just beginning their cybersecurity advancement include: 

Written Information Security Program (WISP) — This is a document that details an organization’s security controls, processes as well as policies. In other words, a WISP is a roadmap for an organization’s IT security, and in addition, it is legally required by several states. In addition, a WISP demonstrates to the public you value their data and take the responsibility of securing it seriously. 

Risk Assessment — One of the key elements of a WISP that every business is expected to undertake is a cybersecurity risk assessment. This evaluates and identifies your risks and therefore allows your team to mitigate them in order of magnitude and likelihood of the threat. Risk assessments help you discover what you have, what’s important to protect, and identify gaps between where you are and where you need to go. 

While it can seem overwhelming, plotting a path toward better security compliance for startups is within reach with Inversion6. Connect with our team today to learn how we can help. 

Post Written By: Jack Nichelson
Jack Nichelson is a Chief Information Security Officer for Inversion6 and a technology executive with 25 years of experience in the government, financial and manufacturing sectors. His roles have included leading transformation and management of information security and IT infrastructure, data management and more for organizations in numerous industries. Jack earned recognition as one of the “People Who Made a Difference in Security” by the SANS Institute and received the CSO50 award for connecting security initiatives to business value. Jack holds an Executive MBA from Baldwin-Wallace University, where he is an adviser for its Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC) team. He is certified in the following: CISSP, GCIH, GSLC, CRISC, CCNP, CCDA, CCNA and VCP.

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