Secure by Design

January 17, 2024 by
Mark Nash

Cybersecurity has become a critical foundation upon which businesses rely. Whether you're a large enterprise or small business, network security is essential, as cyberattacks can have serious long-term consequences. Not to mention that the frequency and sophistication of cyberattacks continue to increase, with 2022 seeing an 87% increase in IoT malware attacks. This means it's essential to shift from a reactive to a proactive cybersecurity approach. One such method that has gained prominence is "Secure by Design" practices. International partners are taking steps to address commonly exploited vulnerabilities by implementing 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. So, what are Secure by Design principles, and how do they help?

Today's Modern Cyberthreats

Cybersecurity threats have evolved drastically since the early days of the internet. Today, cybercriminals use highly sophisticated tactics, and the potential impact of an attack goes far beyond the inconvenience of a virus. It is no longer feasible to protect your computer by installing an antivirus alone. Modern cyber threats encompass a wide range of attacks, including:

  1. Ransomware: Malware that encrypts your data and demands a ransom for decryption. It is one of the costliest attacks for businesses.
  2. Phishing: Deceptive emails or messages trying to trick you into revealing sensitive information or downloading other malware. Eighty-three percent of companies experience a phishing attack each year.
  3. Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs): Long-term cyberattacks aimed at stealing sensitive data.
  4. Zero-Day Exploits: Attacks that target vulnerabilities not yet known to software developers.
  5. IoT Vulnerabilities: Hackers exploit vulnerabilities in Internet of Things (IoT) devices to compromise networks.

These evolving threats underscore the need for a proactive approach to cybersecurity that prevents attacks from occurring in the first place instead of only reacting to them after the fact.

What Is Secure by Design?

Secure by Design is a modern cybersecurity approach that integrates security measures into the foundation of a system, app, or device from the start. It's about considering security as a fundamental aspect of the development process rather than including it as a feature later. How can businesses of all types translate this into their cybersecurity strategies? There are two key ways:

  1. Ask about Secure by Design whenever purchasing hardware or software. If the supplier doesn't use these practices, perhaps consider a different vendor.
  2. Incorporate Secure by Design principles into your own business developments, such as when planning an infrastructure upgrade or customer service enhancement. Cybersecurity should always be at the center, not an afterthought.

Key principles of Secure by Design include:

  1. Risk Assessment: Identifying potential security risks and vulnerabilities early in the design phase.
  2. Standard Framework: Maintain consistency when applying security standards by following a framework. Such as CIS Critical Security Controls, HIPAA, or GDPR.
  3. Least Privilege: Limiting access to resources to only those who need it for their roles.
  4. Defense in Depth: Implementing many layers of security that work together to protect against various threats.
  5. Regular Updates: Ensuring security measures are updated whenever new updates are available to address new threats.
  6. User Education: Educating users about security best practices and potential risks.

Why Does Secure by Design Matter?

The rise in the implementation of Secure by Design practices is due to the numerous benefits it offers in both cybersecurity and beyond. Those benefits include:

Proactive Security

As mentioned earlier, traditional cybersecurity approaches are often reactive. They only address security issues after an incident has already occurred and damage has been inflicted. Secure by Design builds security measures into the very foundation of a system in order to minimize vulnerabilities and stop attempted attacks before they become more than just an attempt.

Cost Savings

Addressing security issues near the end of a project or after a system is already in production can be costly. And that's before we even consider the grave costs that can be inflicted by becoming the victim of a cyberattack. 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, and substantial fines can be incurred if those regulations are not met. Secure by Design practices help you meet these compliance standards more effectively by considering their needs from the start. It reduces the risk of unknowns that end up costing you in fines and penalties.

Reputation Management

In addition to the usual consequences of a security breach, they can also severely damage your organization's reputation. Implementing Secure by Design practices demonstrates your commitment to protecting user data and can enhance trust among customers and stakeholders.


As cyber threats continue to evolve, Secure by Design practices help ensure that your systems and applications remain resilient, even against 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.