Modern cybersecurity requires a multi-layered approach to detecting and repelling threats. Emerging cyber risks can adapt to your initial firewalls or encryptions, so having more than one layer of defense helps to thwart these bad players. This type of cybersecurity strategy is called Defense in Depth.

In this guide we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about Defense in Depth, defining key terms and security measures along the way.

What is Defense in Depth (DiD)?

Defense in Depth takes its name from a military strategy that focuses on slowing down an attack by putting several obstacles in the enemy’s way, rather than relying on a single, strong defensive line. Once the enemy is drawn into the layers of defense, the defense can better analyze the enemy’s weaknesses while continuing to fight. Eventually this wears down the enemy so the defensive side can counter-attack.

Defense in Depth for cybersecurity borrows from this ideology as well, using multi-level security controls to keep your organization safe from potential cyber threats. The intent is that if one defense strategy fails, then another defense strategy will block an attacker. Information security teams use DiD when putting together cyber risk management protocols, planning for data breaches or malware at each level of defense.

Defense in Depth is important because it creates multiple barriers a cyber attacker must penetrate before reaching your protected information. Threats can therefore be better understood, and your organization’s cybersecurity strategy will improve by seeing which defense strategies are most effective within your DiD.

How Does Defense in Depth Work?

DiD relies on redundancies to block cybersecurity breaches from compromising your sensitive information. For example, if a cyber attacker breaches your firewall, your authentication controls could slow down the attacker while your information security team works in real time to better understand the attacker and how to stop it.

Antivirus programs are another example: They provide intrusion detection against potential threats, catching the threats and alerting your information security team to the attempts at infiltration.

These layers of security allow for regular re-evaluation of your information technology team’s cybersecurity protocols and the much-needed updates that come with understanding developing cyber risks.

Use Cases for Defense in Depth

End-User Security

End-user security protocols should be your first layer of DiD. Keep your key stakeholders apprised of security controls and security best practices via training and published policies; that will reduce the number of internal breaches. Assure that staff (or any other endpoint users) use authentication to access protected information; that is another layer, and one made even more effective if you require those login credentials to be changed regularly.

Antivirus software is a simple security strategy that you can assign to endpoint users. It’s best to keep the antivirus program installed on all PCs and laptops that access your organization’s protected information regardless of the devices’ physical location; this assures constant monitoring for malware and ransomware viruses.

Network Security

Think of network security as the DiD layer most closely associated with physical security. All on-site electronics, systems, and servers should use firewalls, virtual private networks (VPNs), and VLANs.

This category should also include intrusion detection and prevention, another layer of security associated with traditional IT systems onsite.

The Architecture of a Defense in Depth Plan

A good Defense in Depth plan will have a multi-part architecture consisting of layering security controls. These include:

Network Security Controls

Network security controls assure the privacy and security of the network systems within your organization. Examples include authentication, passwords, login credentials, and access controls. Another example of network security is encryption, where users cannot understand or parse the data until they log in (with proper authentication) to see the decrypted version.

Website Protections

Protecting your organization’s website is another simple yet effective layer of security within your DiD architecture. An unprotected website can result in a denial-of-service (DoS) attack or the exposure of customer personally identifiable information (PII).

One way of protecting your website is to scan and monitor for cyber threats continuously. Integrating a customizable cybersecurity dashboard into your company’s strategy can help you to monitor developing threats while indexing regular scans.

Another way to protect your website: require accounts and login credentials. This creates an audit trail of which users access what information, and blocks unauthorized users from gaining access to critical systems. Yes, account IDs and passwords can be stolen – but no single defense layer is perfect. All defense layers, however, can slow down or reduce the threat of attackers.

Administrative Controls

Administrative controls are those controls used by more senior employees (that is, the administrators) to manage your IT systems as a whole. For example, administrators might have the power to create new user accounts or close old ones; or to amend IT controls to require additional layers of authentication. They might also update policies, require new training, or impose other duties on fellow employees.

Administrative access should be tightly controlled. For example, all employees accessing data systems from remote locations might be required to use a VPN or multi-factor authentication – but administrators might be required to do the same for every instance of logging onto IT systems, even if they are using on-premises equipment. Likewise, changes to authentication protocols might be required to have two separate administrators approve the change.

Used wisely, however, administrative controls can enact security changes across a broad range of the enterprise quickly and efficiently. So treat administrative controls as the powerful tools that they are: carefully.

Perimeter Defenses

Think of a perimeter defense as drawing boundaries around your digital presence to secure that initial point of contact for any potential threats. In many cases, your perimeter will include all connections to the internet within your organization, as well as any connections to software-as-a-service (SaaS) systems. Securing these attack vectors provides a strong layer of security within your DiD architecture.

Advantages & Disadvantages to Defense in Depth Strategies

As with any cybersecurity strategy, Defense in Depth has its pros and cons.

The greatest advantage of Defense in Depth is that it protects against a single point of failure leaving your entire IT environment exposed to attackers. With multiple layers to cut through, your team will have time to analyze how to best stop a cyberattack before it reaches the heart of your organization.

On the other hand, DiD architecture is complex. It requires a considerable allocation of financial and talent resources to implement, maintain, and reinforce the multi-layer security system. In short: it’s expensive and time-consuming.

One way to counter the intensity required for successful DiD security measures is to integrate a cybersecurity dashboard that allows you technical controls, information assurance, and an improved understanding of the lifecycle of your depth approach.

Make Reciprocity ROAR Part of Your Multi-Layered Cybersecurity Plan

Reciprocity ROAR specializes in security products that make it simple for you to monitor all information systems within your layers of security.

You can better understand developing threats and analyze attack vectors within your organization while seamlessly maintaining all the different facets needed for successful Defense in Depth architecture.

The Reciprocity ROAR platform and dashboard give you all the continual data you need to maintain efficient cybersecurity over time. Regular monitoring and shareable reports help you adapt to potential threats and efficiently update your depth approach as needed.

Learn more about the platform and see in action! Request a demo today.