What Tech Startups Wish They Had Known About Security
Dakota Murphey

There can be no doubt that cybersecurity is a growing problem. Indeed, it is one of the biggest challenges facing tech startups through the early part of their existence. Cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated and well-funded, and businesses of all sizes can be targeted with powerful attacks.

Of course, hindsight is something that we could all benefit from. But there are certain lessons that tech startups invariably wish that they had learned before they started their business and faced security challenges.
In this article, we take a look at some of the key things that tech startups wish they had known about security, and how those lessons can be put into good use in your company.

The cybersecurity skills gap makes it expensive

Many tech startups believe that they can simply bring in cybersecurity expertise whenever they need it. But for smaller businesses – especially those with limited ability to spend on their IT system – it is not usually financially viable to hire cybersecurity staff. The reason for that is the cybersecurity skills shortage.

This is a worldwide problem. Functionally there are not enough people with appropriate cybersecurity skills and experience to fill all of the vacancies. Around 4 million extra cybersecurity professionals would be needed to achieve this, and there are many challenges in dealing with this issue.

Tech startups need to plan for the long-term and not assume that when they want to make cybersecurity improvements, they can simply employ a professional to help them. This approach could be extremely expensive.

One negative incident can ruin them

For tech businesses, breaches of security can be absolutely devastating. This is especially true when in the early stages of the company – studies have shown that 60% of small businesses that suffer a hacking incident close within six months. It is simply the case that many startups don’t understand the kind of impact that cybercrime can have.

In the aftermath of a cybercrime incident, your businesses not only faces the costs associated with setting everything right and ensuring the vulnerability is fixed – there are also a great deal of hidden expenses. Perhaps the most devastating can be the loss of reputation and customer confidence.

If your business has only just got started, suffering cybercrime can leave vital clients feeling that you can’t be trusted with their data. This shows exactly why tech startups need to take security seriously. One incident can have a completely devastating effect on the company. That means you need to do everything you can to minimise risk.

Physical security is just as important

Businesses are often surprised to find out that the cyber vulnerability that ended up being their downfall was nothing to do with their IT system. Indeed, there are many companies with powerful cybersecurity measures in place that have been overcome due to a simple failing in their physical security.

Modern cybercriminals are willing to go to extremes to get what they want. Many will be happy to do physical surveillance and even enter the building if they think it will give them an advantage.

Two of the most effective forms of physical security measures for deterring and mitigating cybersecurity risk are security guards and CCTV. Of course, there are pros and cons to both and you will understand the specific needs of your business best. But having some kind of visible security measure in place is extremely effective.

It’s OK to outsource

Many tech businesses believe that they need to do everything in-house for it to be cost-effective and efficient. However, this does not need to be the case, and it certainly is not true when it comes to cybersecurity. Given the aforementioned cybersecurity skills gap, businesses must look to other avenues to get the expertise they need.

Outsourcing can be an extremely effective way to get the cybersecurity skills that your business needs without having to face the cost of a full cybersecurity team. An outsourced team is also more likely to be able to offer 24/7 monitoring and expertise in highly specific areas of cybersecurity. This means that ultimately you could be getting a better overall service through an outsourced team.

You need to be proactive as well as reactive

There can be a temptation for smaller businesses to simply use reactive cybersecurity measures. And yes, there is still a place for traditional cybersecurity tools such as firewalls and antivirus software, but it can no longer be considered enough to keep a business completely secure as attacks occur.

Indeed, modern cybersecurity practice puts a much greater focus on being proactive. Gathering cyber threat intelligence, conducting penetration tests on your security system, and actively monitoring endpoints are all considered crucial cybersecurity measures. They are focused around not only finding out what kind of threats are most likely to be used against your business, but also understanding where potential vulnerabilities are within your system.

Overcome shadow IT

One major problem that many tech startups are facing is the issue of shadow IT. It is a challenge that has grown exponentially through the pandemic - and this is due to the rise in staff choosing to work from home.

Shadow IT refers to any program, app or software that is used on business computers or using business data, but that has not been approved by the company’s IT team. This is an issue because when apps and software are approved by the IT team, part of their remit will be to ensure that they are up-to-date and do not contain known vulnerabilities that could create a cybersecurity vulnerability that could be exploited.

When staff work remotely it is easier for them to use unauthorised software and apps without the IT team knowing about it. Training should be provided around only using approved software and checking with the IT before installing or using anything new.

All businesses need to take their cybersecurity extremely seriously. Cybercriminals are well-funded, experienced and becoming increasingly effective in overcoming traditional cybersecurity measures. This is especially important for tech startups, which can be heavily weakened by suffering an attack early in their existence.