Defense in Depth and Layered Security Explained

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Defense in Depth and Layered Security

What are “Defense in Depth” and “Layered Security” and can they be applied to your small business?

You may have heard the terms “Defense in Depth” or “Layered Security” being mentioned lately but do you really know what they mean?  Getting your head around these concepts and understanding how they can improve the security of your small business is important for any business owner.

In this article I will explain what each one is and how these different, but similar, strategies complement each other.

Layered Security

A layered approach to security can significantly improve your security profile whether you are small business with a few users or a large enterprise with multiple locations and thousands of users.

The concept is simple enough… no single security tool is perfect so a collection of tools is employed.  The premise being that different tools will cover the gaps found in others.  Cloud based mail filtering, firewalls/UTMs, antivirus software, security patching, data encryption and other tools can each protect your IT resources in ways the others can’t.  For instance, antivirus software may prevent malware from running on your PC but it may not prevent a security flaw in Java from being exploited.  Patching Java will address that but it won’t do anything for you should a laptop be stolen.

Some antivirus software companies offer packages that include virus scanning, mail scanning and spam blocking, a firewall, privacy controls, data encryption, etc.  This is a good start, but putting all your eggs in one vendor’s basket also leaves gaps.  First, none of these solutions works with 100% effectiveness.  A recent report claims that there are over 82,000 new virus variants created each day.  A single vendor cannot be relied upon to catch 100% of them.  Additionally, these all-in-one solutions tend to have a single point of failure.  A common system service that could stop unexpectedly, for instance.

A better solution is to combine the products of multiple vendors with different delivery points and methods of protection.   This “best of breed” strategy is more comprehensive and more secure than sourcing everything from one vendor.  Another benefit is that there will likely some redundancy in a layered approach.  Cloud mail filtering, a UTM and antivirus software will all check mail for malware giving you a greater chance of preventing infection.

Defense In Depth

This strategy is more comprehensive and encompasses layered security.  Defense in Depth assumes that no solution is foolproof and, as such, provides for the addition of monitoring, alerting and recovery.

Given time, Defense in Depth assumes an attacker will breach network security measures.  The goal, then, is to not give an attacker sufficient time.  Monitoring network systems for failed logon attempts combined with alerting gives network administrators the ability to take immediate countermeasures.  In the event these efforts fail and an attacker gains access to data forensic evidence may be collected.  Should the attack be malicious and data lost, Defense in Depth provides for recovery.

While my example is by no means a complete portrayal of Defense in Depth it should help you understand the concept.

Defense in Depth for Small Business

Fortunately Defense in Depth is scalable from the very small to the very large.  As such, it is not something that can only be implemented by large enterprises.  Very affordable and effective options are available in the form of services, software and hardware.  A short, but by no means comprehensive, list appropriate for small businesses might include:

Another benefit of many of these options is that they also address other issues such as HIPAA compliance and disaster recovery.

These are big concepts but, broken down into their smaller parts, can be easily and affordably implemented even at the smallest scale.  Cyber-crime is exponentially more pervasive and profitable than it was 5 years ago.  This is not a trend that will likely shift for quite some time.  Responsible business owners (like those of you reading this) understand this and are looking for ways to fight back.  Defense in Depth provides you with a solid framework to do that.

If you have any questions about Defense in Depth or Layered Security or wish to add to the discussion, please do so in the comments below.

Think your security could use some help?  Give us a call at 866-753-6279 or email us here.

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