Data has become crucial for the success and survival of almost any business in today’s world. When data is stolen, even the most successful businesses can be put into bankruptcy.
Protecting digital systems is difficult because there are a wide range of known and unknown threats that can lead to a data breach. Businesses seeking to protect their data often use either layered security or defense in depth. Unfortunately, misunderstandings about what layered security and defense in depth mean cause errors in decision-making and delays in the implementation of security practices. Therefore, it is important to have a strong understanding of these two terms so that your organization can stay protected in today’s digital threat environment.
Why Layered Security Matters
Layered security recognizes that there is no single point in a computer system that can ever be fully secure. Therefore, layered security seeks to implement multiple mitigating layers of protection so that intruders have to break through many security measures at the same time. Hackers are often able to figure out how to break one layer of a system’s security, but properly implemented layered security forces hackers to break hundreds of additional layers of security at the same time. In practice, hackers are almost never able to simultaneously get through all of the security measures within a system, so layered security is an effective protection method.
Layered security emphasizes the importance of using secure networks, routers, computers, and servers. Sensitive data is usually quarantined in its own part of a network so that potentially compromised systems are unable to access this data. Layered security even takes into account the importance of good internal controls, premises security, and the utilization of trustworthy security professionals. When layered security is used properly, sensitive data can be protected against highly sophisticated adversaries.
Objectives of Layered Security
The goal of layered security is to prevent a single security vulnerability from compromising an entire system. The layered security approach that is widely used in today’s systems aims to ensure that each component of a system’s defense has as many backups as possible. These backups are designed to counter any possible security defects that could arise in the event of a sophisticated breach.
Formally, layered security is divided into three objectives:
Prevention: The best way to protect a system is to prevent attacks from happening in the first place.
Detection: When attacks are detected quickly, security professionals can respond with appropriate countermeasures while filling security gaps that have been discovered.
Response: Security professionals should always respond immediately when security gaps are found.
Layered Security vs. Defense in Depth
Defense in depth takes a different approach to security practices. Unlike in layered security, defense in depth assumes that no system can ever be secure. As a result, defense in depth seeks to add as many hurdles as possible to slow down hackers trying to break into a system.
In practice, defense in depth uses most of the security practices that are utilized in layered security. However, defense in depth strategies usually go another step further by implementing a wider range of controls and using tactics that assume the existence of active intrusions. Deception is often used in defense of depth, such as by adding clues designed to trick an adversary into thinking sensitive data is on a nonexistent server. Many tactics also aim to slow down an adversary with the goal of creating enough frustration to make the adversary give up.
Regulations on Layered Security
Data security is crucial in the modern economy, so many regulations have been implemented in an attempt to safeguard consumer information. The FFIEC published a document called “Authentication in an Internet Banking Environment.” This legally enforceable document requires financial services businesses to implement measures to minimize data breaches. GDPR is another important law since it specifies rules that companies are required to follow to keep data within EU jurisdiction while protecting it from hackers. The Californian Consumer Privacy Act is also an important law in the security field since it imposes liabilities on businesses that fail to safeguard customer information.
The 7 Security Layers
Information security specialists divide the concept of security layers into seven layers. Intruders attempting to overtake a system must sequentially break through each layer. Therefore, optimizing these seven layers is the focus of any information security professional.
1. Security Policies
Most intrusions fundamentally happen because poor decisions are made by managers who are responsible for safeguarding computer systems. Security managers are responsible for implementing security policies that prevent unauthorized access. Having strong security policies can systematically prevent data breaches while also increasing awareness of security protocols within your organization.
2. Premises Security
Data has become so valuable that hackers often resort to attacks that involve breaking into a facility or even infiltrating an organization from the inside. As a result, strong premises security is crucial for preventing criminal organizations from breaking in. Premises security can also help to monitor employees who have access to sensitive systems. Walls, cameras, metal detectors, and security guards are only a sample of the assets organizations with sensitive data need to keep their facilities safe.
3. Network Security
Once your facility is secure, you will need to turn your attention to securing your network. Hackers need access to your network before they can attempt to break into computers and servers within your organization. You can keep hackers out by properly configuring modern routers and firewalls. Only one vulnerability is needed to enable hackers to break into your network, and new vulnerabilities emerge every day. Therefore, implementing proper network security practices requires a significant amount of time and effort.
4. Software-Based Malware Protection
Today’s malware protection software is much more advanced than it was in the recent past. Software-based solutions come with a broad range of features, including:
- intrusion detection systems,
- encryption tools,
- anti-spam tools,
- software-based firewalls, and
- virus detection software.
Proper protection at the software level usually necessitates using only one software program that comes with a range of applications and extensions.
5. Access Control Measures
Security professionals know that unauthorized access is usually the ultimate cause of a data breach. Consequently, organizations seeking to protect important data must utilize best practices for controlling access. Access control professionals ensure that secure passwords are used throughout an organization and that a minimal number of users have access to sensitive systems.
6. Data Protection
It is also important to implement protections that shield sensitive information from being stolen if an unauthorized user gets into one of your systems. Data should always be encrypted when it is stored, and keys must be saved using secure practices. Organizations should also make use of data backups to avoid losing important information when hard drives fail or when an intruder deletes data within a system.
7. Monitoring and Testing
The best way to keep your systems secure is to test them regularly. Many organizations bring in teams of professional hackers who are rewarded with big commissions if they succeed at breaking into a computer system. You should also actively monitor your systems for signs of unauthorized access and for opportunities for improvements. By working to continuously improve the security of your computer systems, you can keep your organization protected against new threats while decreasing the probability of experiencing a data breach in the future.