Protecting tech startups without compromising on innovation

Protecting tech startups — an afterthought for the innovators?

Tech startups are fast becoming the heartbeat of the digital economy — disrupting and at the same time, driving innovation across entire industries. But, how can these emerging establishments protect themselves against an increasingly complex and dangerous cyber threat landscape when they don’t have access to the security resources of the largest organisations.

According to Bill Conner, CEO of SonicWall, tech startups must adopt these six practices to protect themselves:

• Multi-factor authentication
• Backup.
• Network security — “you must have a firewall that covers everything, including your non-standard ports,” said Conner. Last year, 19% of attacks were coming through non-standard ports and it’s more than that now.
• Encrypted communications — “there are still only 5% of businesses that are working in encrypted traffic. That’s up to 1,100 per customer,” he continued.
• Support smart apps, whether it’s Office 365 or Slack and Conner expressed that startups “should be looking at the content of cloud applications,” within this.
• Capture RTDMI (real-time deep memory inspection technology) — tech startups, and larger businesses, need to have a second layer that supports all of the above.

“It’s not rocket science,” explained Conner. “It’s just takes a bit of time to get everything together, do the basics right and promote a culture of security.”

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The cyber security cost

Cyber security is expensive. And the majority of solutions are embedded and delivered through consultants — this is what makes things expensive and shrouds the whole area in mystery; rather than empowering people to take charge of their own cyber security.

The vendor is crucial to this new, democratic era of cyber security. They need to build solutions that target real problems, not niche or edge problems which often we see a lot of hype and marketing noise around, in a cost effective way.

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It seems SonicWall has heeded this advice and according to Conner, it charges just $150 a month (that covers the above security practices) for organisations with less than 100 employees. And the thinking behind the cost of this service is obvious — small businesses can’t afford absurd sums on cyber security. It’s not feasible.

“Vendors have got to quit talking, bring in security efficacy and total cost of ownership. And then you’ve got to rate it against how much you want to spend,” explained Conner. “Forget insurance — if a small tech startup is successful hit, then they’re are out of business.”

Of course, the level of protection differs depending on the SME’s industry: “Joe’s pizzeria is different from a tech startup,” joked Conner. “Some businesses need more protection [the ones that handle sensitive data, for example] and others don’t need as much.”

“Don’t use old technology”

Today, tech startups don’t build data centres, they go with the cloud. They don’t build out a lot of apps, they use off the shelf. They’ve got laptops, desktops and mobile devices — some will use LANs depending on the kind of business and the network, but in general, they use WiFi.

Following this state of affairs, Conner advised: “Don’t use old technology [when it comes to protecting tech startups]; you can use virtual firewalls, cloud app security and client security that connects to the cloud.

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Protecting tech startups: think about security

Most tech startups will not be set up with security in mind — unless they are, of course, a cyber security startup. Instead they will focus on innovation; solving that next great business problem.

“They’re thinking of non-physical data centres, wiring and capital costs,” said Conner. “But they must redirect their view to secure software (clouds and apps) — the next generation of security.”

Bill Conner advises governments on how they can champion cyber security within their tech startups.

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...