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4 min. read

Fortifying your data-driven operation: 8 essential security strategies you should consider before buying a software product

Seppe Dejonckheere

Just as you wouldn't leave your house with the door unlocked or stroll down the street with your wallet exposed, why compromise on the security and integrity of your business? 

the global average cost of a data breach in 2023 soared to 4.45 million USD

As businesses increasingly depend on software to drive their data-driven operations, the inherent vulnerabilities and complexity in these applications lead to a myriad of cybersecurity threats. IBM's statistics are telling: the global average cost of a data breach in 2023 soared to 4.45 million USD—an alarming 15% increase from 2020.  

In the era of digital transformation, safeguarding against these risks becomes paramount to ensure the resilience and security of organizational processes. That's why, in this blog post, we'll equip you with 8 essential security strategies that are table stakes when buying and deploying new software

1. Keep it lean

Less is more—a mantra to live by when it comes to enhancing security. Choose your software products wisely: opt for fewer products and consolidate your needs to a more limited set of software tools whenever possible. This will help streamline your operations and shrink your attack surface.

Here’s a simple rule to live by that will make security considerably more manageable: regularly assess your software inventory, remove redundant or unnecessary tools, and prioritize integrated solutions.

2. Harden your system

Your first line of defense is a well-hardened system. That's why you should only choose software products that come with well-documented and professional hardening guides. It's a simple thing to check, but very effective!

And, of course, you should also regularly check for and apply security updates provided by your software vendors.

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3. Professional identity and access management is non-negotiable

To say identity and access management is crucial is an understatement. CrowdStrike's 2023 Threat Hunting Report reveals a staggering 71% of intrusions are malware-free, with 80% of breaches exploiting compromised identities. These figures emphasize the importance of exclusively opting for software products that can seamlessly integrate with your central identity provider for user authentication, such as Active Directory, Entra ID, and the like.

4. Role-based access control

Place a strong emphasis on role-based access control, going beyond a limited set of pre-defined fixed roles. Strive for authentic granular control over every function within the product you are considering—control that is easily assignable and manageable across your entire user base.

And don't just go around handing out access control as if it were breath mints. Embrace the key principle of Least Privilege Access, granting users access only to the specific data, controls, or resources necessary for their tasks. Anything beyond that poses an unwarranted security threat.

5. Audit trailing  

Real-time audit trails serve as your window into system activities. By choosing products that provide detailed audit trails you can empower your DevOps teams with enhanced transparency and valuable insights.    

Ingrain the practice of consistently reviewing and analyzing audit logs to uncover any suspicious activities. And implement automated alerts for critical events to ensure a prompt response to potential security incidents.

6. Keep your APIs secure

In modern applications and software platforms, APIs are vital. However, they also pose significant cyber threats. That’s why it’s crucial to verify that the software products you’re considering have the ability to secure APIs with keys and token-based authorization.  

Additionally, establish a routine of regularly updating and rotating API keys and tokens, implement encryption for data transmitted through APIs, and monitor usage patterns for anomalies that may signal a security threat.

7. There's no "we" in API

There’s no use installing a lock when you're handing out the keys to the kingdom to every Jack and Jill, right? That's why personalization is key (no pun intended) in maintaining a secure API environment. So always make sure the software you buy allows for customization and restriction of API access based on individual users’ needs and requirements.

8. Trust but verify: third-party checks

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When it comes to implementing third-party software: trust but verify! Always insist on a formally attested full product review report from an independent cybersecurity expert. This added layer of scrutiny ensures that the software you choose has undergone a comprehensive assessment, instilling confidence in its security posture.

Main takeaway of this article

In the rapidly evolving landscape of digital threats, fortifying your operation is no longer an option—it's a necessity. The essential strategies presented to select new software components, ranging from streamlined software choices to rigorous access controls and API security measures, serve as the cornerstone for safeguarding against cyber threats. By adopting these selection criteria, you not only enhance your security posture but also fortify your organization against the ever-evolving challenges of the digital realm.