Cybersecurity Architecture [How to Build One & Key Components]

Anwita

Anwita

Feb 05, 2024

In May 2021, one of the largest fuel pipelines in the United States was forced to shut down after malicious actors successfully breached their computer network and launched a ransomware attack.

The shutdown of this critical infrastructure highlights how hackers can exploit vulnerabilities and halt operation, even in large government systems. 

Officials responding to this incident noted that ransomware has become more sophisticated. It is crippling critical infrastructures like hospitals, manufacturers, and police departments – a growing concern that officials often try to hide due to failure to protect their systems. 

A closer look at the incidents shows that the culprit is not a single point of failure, but weak posture and poor cybersecurity architecture. If hackers can infiltrate government networks, you can be next. 

In this article, we learn what a cybersecurity architecture is, its importance, components, and how to build one. 

What is Cybersecurity Architecture?

A cyber security architecture is the strategic design of an organization’s network security processes, design principles, rules for application interaction, and elements of the system to defend against malicious attacks and protect system components. 

A well-designed cybersecurity architecture should offer the flexibility to support business operational risks in a continuously evolving landscape of cyber threats. 

Think of the risk factors of any modern organization – hybrid work environments, digital transformation, and continuously evolving threats all contribute to a larger attack surface. 

To add to the already complex security landscape, malicious actors today have access to sophisticated tools designed to circumvent the barriers of traditional security tools.  

This is where a cybersecurity architecture comes in – a system that consolidates multiple principles to tackle the security challenges of a modern business security landscape. 

Cybersecurity architects evaluate your existing security process and controls to find gaps and vulnerabilities to mitigate them before they become costly incidents. 

A well-designed architecture is the key to a better posture that minimizes threats, builds customer trust, and facilitates growth. 

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Key goals and objectives of cybersecurity architecture

The key goal of cybersecurity architecture is to minimize the risk posed by security threats and protect the organization from malicious attacks. Implementing security into your end to end operation helps to reach that objective. 

Here are three main goals and objectives of cybersecurity architecture:

Data security

When it comes to cybersecurity, prevention is better than cure. Most organizations do not implement security measures until they are forced to, often after a breach. 

Preventive measures don’t guarantee 100% protection against security breaches. However, a proactive approach, rather than a reactive one is your best bet to minimize breach instances and save costs associated with minimizing and containing them.

Most organizations use basic security measures like firewalls, password protection, and anti-malware solutions. While these rudimentary measures are the building blocks of the first line of defense, they fail against sophisticated threats. 

A robust security architecture helps you proactively manage incidents throughout their life cycle – detection, prevention, mitigation, and investigation. Security measures like a zero trust embedded into every stage of an organization’s development life cycle aid developers to innovate and build in a secure environment. 

Additionally, it helps security administrators determine the right technology, processes, measures, and cater to an increasingly complex threat landscape. 

Also checkout: Data security posture management: How it works and what are the use cases?

Scalability

The world of cyber security is a never ending cat and mouse game. Malicious actors are constantly looking for ways to exploit vulnerabilities in the security infrastructure while the IT team patches the gaps. 

An efficient cyber security architecture helps to identify and patch vulnerabilities while assisting security teams to respond to incidents with the right protocols. It equips them with the tools and knowledge needed to respond to breaches in real time using automation and intelligent threat detection tools before they contaminate your systems.

As your organization scales by adding more people, processes, and tools, it only adds to the IT complexity and opens up more gaps. 

A well designed security architecture consolidates siloed tools and processes to synchronize critical events and threat response management. A well synced system lays the foundation of a scalable infrastructure for streamlined operational processes and efficiency. 

Data compliance 

Lastly, most organizations that process sensitive customer data must comply with data security and privacy regulations. 

For example, if you process and transmit healthcare data of patients in the United States, the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is mandatory. 

If you collect and store customer data of E.U residents, the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) laws apply to your business. 

Cyber security architectures help you incorporate security controls and measures to systems that store or process data in a way that complies with data protection laws. 

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Components of Cybersecurity Architecture

There are three main elements that form a cybersecurity architecture – people, processes, and tools. These are interconnected and interdependent on each other to function as a whole. 

The people 

They are your users or employees within different functions tasked with certain roles and responsibilities. Processes and tools don’t work by themselves, so it is fair to say that the people component is the most important aspect of the golden triangle. 

Equipped with the right training and technologies, individual users can be your strongest resource against breaches. At the same time, poor security practices and lack of security awareness is a recipe for potential disasters. 

Despite the potential strength of the people component, in theory, implementing it to its full capacity is not as simple. Most humans are resistant to change and don’t take training efforts seriously as they underestimate its value. 

To counter this, the management has to come up with intuitive solutions to ensure a security-first culture.

The processes and policies

The process component connects people and tools by defining the “how” question. It is a series of steps used to meet a business goal. 

A comprehensive process should define how each role fits within a particular workflow, detail the end-to-end steps for an activity, offer relevant training materials, have a review system, and a success evaluation metric system. 

Additionally, it should clearly detail the expectations, set deadlines, and visualize workflows by mapping processes. 

Policies are a crucial supporting component to processes. It is a set of your business practices and proposed actions that outlines your commitment to data security. 

Security policies should be transparent, easy to understand, and answer why it is adopted. Update the policies as often as necessary to reflect every minor change. 

The tools

To execute the processes efficiently, people need tools and technology. Technology as a resource has become a focal point for industries to drive operational efficiency. But choosing the right security tools is equally important. If the tool does not fit your unique use case, it can become a headache rather than an enabler. 

To make the best of this component, discuss the objectives internally and evaluate which vendor meets them best. Try to understand the problems and how to solve them before making an investment. 

You can conduct training sessions on how to use the tool correctly or use in app guidance solutions to automate the guidance sessions and boost the tool’s performance. 

Network 

With the rise in adoption of the cloud, network is perhaps the most critical component of a cybersecurity architecture. It consists of: 

  • Network nodes like routers, repeaters, bridges, switches, modems, print servers, Network Interface Cards (NICs), and more
  • Security protocols like firewalls, EDR (endpoint detection and response) systems, IRS (incident response systems), antivirus solutions, threats detection solutions, and more
  • Communication protocols like HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol, HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure), FTP (File Transfer Protocol), SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol), IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol, DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol), and DNS (Domain Name System)
  • Network topologies like bus, star, ring, mesh, tree, hybrid and more

Security frameworks 

Although not always necessary, this component can be compulsory depending on the type of data you process. Security frameworks like HIPAA, PCI DSS, ISO 27001, GDPR, NIST, and more help you implement security best practices and provide guidelines to manage your posture. 

How to design your Cybersecurity Architecture

Building a cybersecurity architecture is a multi-step process. Let’s understand them better. 

The basic principles

The basic principles are essentially concepts based on security best practices. These are the building blocks of your architecture. These five principles are: 

  1. Defense in depth: As a security measure, defense in depth does not depend on a single mechanism but combines multiple tools and processes. These processes are multi-factor authentication, endpoint management systems, firewalls, data encryption, and more. Configure your processes and systems in a way that creates a strong barrier against unauthorized users
  1. Principle of least privilege: Perhaps the most common security control, this works on the concept of data minimization. To implement this, give your users the minimum amount of access to systems, critical applications, or accounts they need for a specific certain function. This not only helps to reduce the attack surface, but also minimizes security failures like accidental data leakage or data theft by malicious insiders. 
  1. Separation of duties: Also known as segregation of duties (SoD), separation of duties limits access privileges for a single user. It reduces insider threats by giving access to different users for each part of a system. 

For example, if user A is responsible for making code repositories live, user B can manage the editing activities. Similarly, if the same individual can request access and approve it, it makes little sense from a security perspective. 

  1. Security by design: As we previously discussed, prevention is better than cure in security. Security should not be a reactive action or an afterthought to an incident. You should design your systems and processes in a way that reflects good security practices in its core. 

Think of a product life cycle for example – requirements, design, code, install, test, and launch. In a poorly designed architecture, security is not prioritized until the last phase. In a well designed one, security is part of every stage. In other words, security can’t be a lock only at the last door of a house but embedded throughout the structure. 

  1. KISS (keep it simple, stupid): A commonly misunderstood concept around “strong security posture” is to make the guardrails as complex as possible. This is not necessarily a good approach as you may end up making it difficult for system administrators and easy for malicious actors. 

Let’s understand this with an example of authentication. If you create a maze of hurdles at each step for accessing a system or file, you have likely created a frustrating and unnecessarily complex system for authenticated users. 

Also check: How to create an effective cybersecurity strategy for 2024

The security triad 

The security triad, or the CIA of security are the fundamental principles – confidentiality, integrity, and availability. 

Confidentiality is a privacy measure that protects sensitive information from unauthorized access. It works primarily on two controls – access control and encryption. 

Access control sets the rules and criteria for who can access, manage, or edit a particular application or file. A common technology to implement access control is multi factor authentication (MFA). It verifies user identity using a combination of something they are, something they are, or something they know. 

Encryption is the process of scrambling data in a way that renders it unreadable to anyone who is not authorized to read. Only authorized users can unscramble the data into a readable format using a key. 

Integrity focuses on ensuring the accuracy, authenticity, and reliability of data. Tools like digital signatures and message authentication codes (MAC) compare a set of logging trails with the original one to investigate unauthorized changes. 

Another example is the blockchain technology, in which access is digitally distributed. Anyone can add new information but won’t be able to change the already existing data. Using digital signatures, one can verify if the changes are correct and who made them.

Availability refers to data accessibility to the authorized individuals as and when they need it. 

Two of the most common security threats against data availability include Distributed denial of service (DDoS) and ransomware attacks. 

DDoS is a technique used by malicious users to disrupt normal operations by flooding a system with traffic to render the system unable to process legitimate requests. 

Ransomware is the most commonly used technique that malicious actors use to encrypt files and deny access to them unless the owner pays the ransom.

Conclusion

Sprinto helps you build a strong cybersecurity architecture from bottom up. It instantly connects with your system to continuously monitor system controls and make the end-to-end process fast and effortless. 

It streamlines and automates all components of your cybersecurity framework or enterprise cybersecurity architecture using advanced or traditional security measures to strengthen your cybersecurity posture

Talk to our experts to know how we help you meet business objectives, protect against future threats, and ensure continuous business growth. 

FAQs

How long does it take to create Cybersecurity Architecture?

There is no straightforward or objective answer to this. It depends on factors like your primary goal, security requirements, selected security standards, business strategy, type of cybersecurity threats, and more. It can take anything between months to even years. 

What is a security architecture framework?

A security architecture framework consists of a set of security principles, guidelines, and security technologies. TOGAF, SABSA, and OSA are some popular frameworks that help to implement cybersecurity architecture plans. 

What is an example of a cybersecurity architecture?

Examples of a robust cybersecurity architecture include application security, access management, zero day attack prevention, cloud environment protection, antivirus programs, firewalls, and more. 

What is a network security architecture?

Network architecture security refers to the elements in network infrastructure like wireless routers, communication protocols, and network topologies that are structured in a way that protects security security systems from external threats, internal threats, and malware. 

Anwita

Anwita

Anwita is a cybersecurity enthusiast and veteran blogger all rolled into one. Her love for everything cybersecurity started her journey into the world compliance. With multiple certifications on cybersecurity under her belt, she aims to simplify complex security related topics for all audiences. She loves to read nonfiction, listen to progressive rock, and watches sitcoms on the weekends.

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