Now more than ever, businesses must rely on solid, up-to-date Cybersecurity measures just to survive. Think of the giants of industry that have been hacked: Microsoft, Yahoo, JP Morgan Chase, Capital One Bank, First American Financial, LinkedIn, Marriott International, Adobe, Equifax, Target, Heartland Payment Systems, Facebook, eBay, Home Depot, and the list goes on.

Q: What is the difference between these businesses and yours?

A: They are all big enough to survive.

Are you?

Whether you’re a large enterprise or small business, network security is a must, and for Small and Mid-size Businesses (SMBs) a serious data breach or unresolved Ransomware attack can easily put you out of business – in less than a year. Cyberattacks can have long-term consequences.

The frequency and sophistication of cyberattacks continue to increase. In 2022, IoT malware attacks saw a sobering 87% increase – and the threat has not receded. Not one little bit. In fact, cybercrime continues to ramp up. Attack volume is also increasing due to the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

All businesses need to examine if their security measures are reactive or proactive. Reactive is like constantly playing ‘Catch-Up’ ball. While it’s essential to have remedies at the ready, a solid proactive approach greatly lessens the need to react. One such proactive approach that has gained prominence is the adoption of ‘Secure by Design’ practices.

International partners from the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K. have taken steps to address commonly exploited vulnerabilities. In August, they jointly released an advisory highlighting Secure by Design principles. This collaborative effort underscores the global nature of the cybersecurity threat landscape. As well as the need for coordinated action to protect critical infrastructure.

Let’s explore what it takes to put Secure by Design principles in place, and why they are paramount in today's threat landscape.

Today’s Modern Cyberthreats

The days when simply installing an antivirus could protect your computer are gone forever. Cybersecurity threats have evolved significantly over the years, and sterner measures are required. Today’s cybercriminals use highly sophisticated tactics, and the potential impact of an attack goes far beyond the inconvenience of a virus.

Modern cyber threats encompass a wide range of attacks, including:

Ransomware: An untrained employee clicks a link or attachment in a phishing email releases malware that encrypts your data and demands a ransom for decryption. One of the costliest attacks for businesses.

Phishing: Deceptive emails or messages that trick you into revealing sensitive information. According to Techopedia, 83% of companies experience a phishing attack each year.

Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs): Long-term cyberattacks aimed at stealing sensitive data.

Zero-Day Exploits: Attacks that target vulnerabilities not yet known to software developers.

IoT Vulnerabilities: The exploitation of vulnerabilities in Internet of Things (IoT) devices to compromise networks.

These evolving threats underscore the need for a proactive approach to cybersecurity. Instead of reacting to attacks after they occur, you want to prevent them from happening.

What is the concept of Secure by Design?

Secure by Design integrates security measures into the very foundation of a system, app, or device. It does this from the start.

It considers security as a fundamental aspect of the development process – built-in, rather than added as an ‘after-market’ product.

How can businesses of all types translate this into their cybersecurity strategies? There are two key ways:

  1. Ask about Secure by Design when purchasing hardware or software. Does the supplier use these practices? If not, you may want to consider a different vendor.
  2. Incorporate Secure by Design principles into your own business, such as when planning an infrastructure upgrade or customer service enhancement. Put security at the center instead of adding it as an afterthought.

Key principles of Secure by Design include:

  1. Risk Assessment: Identifies potential security risks and vulnerabilities early in the design phase.
  2. Standard Framework: Maintains consistency when applying security standards by following a framework such as CIS Critical Security Controls, HIPAA, or GDPR.
  3. Least Privilege: Limits access to resources to only those who need it for their roles.
  4. Defense in Depth: Implements many layers of security to protect against various threats.
  5. Regular Updates: Ensures that security measures are continuously updated to address new threats.
  6. User Education: Trains users on security best practices and potential risks.

What are the benefits of Secure by Design?

Understanding and implementing Secure by Design practices is crucial and its benefits are tangible:

Proactive Security

Traditionally, security approaches have most often been reactive in nature, meaning they address security issues after they've occurred. Secure by Design builds security measures into the very foundation of a system. It’s that ounce of prevention that’s worth a pound of cure because it minimizes vulnerabilities from the start.

Cost Savings

The downtime and accompanying factors involved with addressing security issues after a system is in production can be costly. The same holds true for trying to address them near the end of a project. By integrating security from the beginning, you can avoid these extra expenses.

Regulatory Compliance

Many industries are subject to strict regulatory requirements for data protection and Cybersecurity. Secure by Design practices can help you meet these compliance standards more effectively, reducing the risk of unknowns that end up costing you in fines and penalties.

Reputation Management

Compromised customer data through a security breach can severely damage your organization's reputation and lose precious customer confidence. Implementing Secure by Design practices demonstrates your commitment to protecting user data. It can also enhance trust among customers and stakeholders.


The evolution of cyber threats is continuous. Secure by Design practices help ensure that your systems and applications remain resilient against known and emerging threats.

Minimizing Attack Surfaces

Secure by Design focuses on reducing the attack surface of your systems. Using it helps in identifying and mitigating potential vulnerabilities. You mitigate threats before a hacker exploits them.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do hackers attack large companies?

Usually, the same way they attack small companies, but generally with a higher degree of sophistication. One might think that huge companies like Microsoft would have bulletproof security, but that is not necessarily the case.

Cybercriminals will use phishing, malware, DDoS (Distributed Denial-of-Service rather than the more commonplace DoS: simple Denial of Service) attacks, and a host of other tactics to target vulnerable companies and individuals that have poorly protected data. Hackers follow the money, and customer data can be used to commit identity fraud, traded on hacker's forums, or sold on the dark web.

What is the difference between Secure by Design and Secure by Default?

One begets the other: Secure by Design means security has been integrated from the design phase onwards. It creates a product that is Secure by Default, meaning that it’s secure out of the box, with no extra configuration needed.

How rare are zero-day exploits?

Fortunately, they are relatively rare – usually in the dozens yearly, compared to the 26,000 or more ‘non zero-day’ software vulnerabilities that are discovered in an average year. However, zero-day exploits are trending up.

What makes IoT devices easy targets for criminal hackers?

IoT devices connected to a network tend to be weak links, and if there’s one thing cybercriminals love, it’s low-hanging fruit. Given that IoT devices often don't encrypt their network traffic at all, they present a clear risk of data exposure. Pair that with weak default passwords that can be difficult or nearly impossible to change, this reality makes IoT devices inherently riskier than other enterprise technologies.

How secure is your network?

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Need Help Modernizing Your Security Strategy?

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