A startup's guide to security compliance and building cyber resilience

June 7, 2023

Protecting sensitive data and complying with regulations are essential to establish trust with customers and partners. However, the path to cybersecurity compliance can be daunting, that's why we've created this comprehensive guide to help you navigate the complexities and understand what it takes to build a (truly) resilient organisation from the start.

In this guide, we'll walk you through the key aspects of cybersecurity compliance and the importance of cyber resilience⎯because compliance is just one part of the puzzle. We'll delve into the concept of cyber resilience and explain why it's essential for startups.

Understanding cybersecurity compliance

Compliance involves adhering to laws, regulations, and industry standards to protect sensitive information and mitigate cybersecurity risks. Startups must understand and comply with relevant requirements for legal and operational reasons.

Certifications and frameworks

Startups should consider pursuing industry-recognised certifications and frameworks to establish a strong cybersecurity compliance foundation. Some certifications and frameworks that startups may find valuable include:

  1. ISO 27001: An international standard for establishing, implementing, maintaining, and continuously improving an Information Security Management System (ISMS).
  2. PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard): A set of security standards for organisations that handle credit card information.
  3. GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation): A regulation that focuses on data protection and privacy for individuals residing in the European Union.
  4. NIST Cybersecurity Framework: A set of guidelines, best practices, and standards developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to manage and improve cybersecurity posture.
  5. SOC 2 (Service Organisation Control 2): An auditing standard that assesses controls related to security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy.

By achieving these certifications, startups demonstrate their commitment to implementing robust security controls, which enhances trust among customers and partners.

Compliance cost considerations for startups

Compliance implementation costs vary depending on factors such as the size of the startup, industry requirements, and existing security infrastructure. Startups should consider allocating resources for initial assessments, documentation, technology investments, training, and ongoing maintenance. It is advisable to conduct a cost-benefit analysis to understand the potential long-term advantages of compliance investments.

Prioritising certifications

While each certification is valuable, startups should prioritise certifications based on their specific industry and target market. For example, e-commerce startups focus may be on PCI DSS compliance, while healthcare startups would be prioritising HIPAA compliance. GDPR compliance is essential for startups that handle personal data of EU residents. Understanding industry-specific requirements will help your startup allocate resources effectively.

Engaging compliance professionals

Your startup may benefit from engaging compliance professionals, consultants, or managed service providers (check out our Partner Network here) who specialise in cybersecurity compliance. These experts can provide guidance, assess compliance readiness, assist in certification preparation, and help implement best practices. While there may be associated costs, their expertise can streamline the compliance journey and ensure adherence to regulatory standards.

Maintaining compliance

Compliance is not a one-time effort; it requires ongoing commitment. Your startup should establish processes for regular compliance reviews, employee training, risk assessments, and incident response planning. Staying up-to-date with regulatory changes and emerging threats is crucial to adapt security measures and maintain compliance.

The importance of cyber resilience

While compliance is crucial for a lot of businesses, it alone does not guarantee a startup's ability to withstand cyber threats. Building a resilient organisation means being prepared, responsive, and adaptable in the face of cyber incidents. Here's why cyber resilience matters:

  1. Business continuity: Cyber resilience ensures that a startup can continue its operations even in the face of cyber disruptions. By implementing comprehensive incident response plans and backup systems, startups can minimise downtime and maintain business continuity.
  2. Rapid response and recovery: Cyber resilience focuses on effectively responding to and recovering from cyber incidents. Startups should establish incident response teams, conduct regular drills, and ensure timely incident identification, containment, eradication, and recovery.
  3. Adaptability to emerging threats: Cyber resilience involves staying proactive and adaptive to evolving cyber threats. Startups should continually monitor and update their security measures to address emerging risks, vulnerabilities, and attack vectors.
  4. Customer trust and reputation: A resilient startup inspires trust and confidence among customers, partners, and stakeholders. By demonstrating the ability to protect customer data and quickly recover from cyber incidents, startups can maintain their reputation and competitive edge.

By pursuing relevant certifications and frameworks, startups can establish a strong cybersecurity foundation. Compliance implementation costs and priorities may vary based on industry requirements, but the long-term benefits of compliance outweigh the initial investment. Engaging compliance professionals and maintaining a proactive approach to compliance help startups navigate the evolving cybersecurity landscape.

Additionally, focusing on cyber resilience ensures that startups are prepared, responsive, and adaptable to effectively respond to and recover from cyber incidents. Together, these efforts safeguard startup assets, maintain customer trust, and foster long-term success in the dynamic digital landscape.

Unbeatable cyber resilience 🦹

Winner of 2021 iSANZ Best Startup

"We wanted a solution that was fit for purpose, reflecting our age and stage, while delivering the outcomes we wanted for our customers and people. After looking at what was available, Onwardly stood out as serving this purpose perfectly."

Kendall Flutey

Founder & CEO