Cybersecurity has a lot in common with structural integrity. Case in point, the most dangerous weaknesses are found in the foundation and framing. Flaws in the architecture itself undermine the strength of the entire system. Of course, issues can be addressed after the fact, but less robust initial designs mean less protection from future disasters. 

Solid cybersecurity architecture doesn’t happen by accident. However, if not made an explicit priority and pursued with the necessary resources and support, the system will struggle to compensate for current vulnerabilities and ever-evolving threats. 

What’s Cybersecurity Architecture?

Cybersecurity architecture is a way to protect computer systems and networks from online attacks. Think of it as a fortress to protect your valuable information. Cybersecurity architecture refers to all the tools, processes, and policies used to secure computer systems and networks.

The first layer of defense is prevention. This involves implementing security measures to prevent cyber attacks from occurring. For example, you can install firewalls to block unauthorized access to networks, or use anti-virus software to detect and remove malware.

The second layer of defense is detection. This involves monitoring computer systems and networks for any signs of a cyber-attack. For example, organizations can use intrusion detection systems to detect and alert them to any unauthorized access to their networks.

At RiskRecon, a Mastercard company, we set up an automatic risk detection system that shows you potential threats before they happen. Regardless of your technical expertise, the system will organize third-party vendors by risk and risk type, helping you make informed decisions about your data and other assets.

The final layer of defense is response. This involves having a plan in place to respond to cyber-attacks if they do occur. For example, organizations can have a backup system in place to restore important data in the event of a cyber-attack.

Why Do I Need Architecture in Place?

In today's digital age, cyber attacks are becoming more frequent, and they can have serious consequences for individuals and organizations. Cybercriminals can steal sensitive information, such as passwords, credit card details, and personal data. They can also infect computer systems with viruses or malware, which can lead to the loss of important data or even the complete shutdown of a business.

That's why cybersecurity architecture is essential. It helps organizations protect their systems and data from cyber-attacks. A strong cybersecurity architecture is built on several layers of defense, which work together to prevent, detect, and respond to attacks.

Cybersecurity Architecture 101

Protecting information privacy and preventing disruption to operations takes concerted effort. It doesn’t happen by accident. Like building a skyscraper, it takes proper planning and execution.

In both cases, that’s the purpose of architecture. Cybersecurity architecture (sometimes referred to as Network Security Architecture) refers to the system environment as a whole and the security measures in place to protect it. This includes:

  • The principles, policies, and procedures that govern how the system is designed, built, and maintained.
  • The hardware used, from servers to endpoints—including where they’re housed and how they’re connected.
  • The software, from operating systems to end-user applications.
  • The security tools in use across the system.

Cloud security architecture that is carefully designed is akin to large structures that are engineered to withstand major natural disasters. A less robust cyber architecture is analogous to buildings constructed without following industry best practices or meeting regulatory codes. 

And similar to disasters, a security breach can neither be fully predicted nor fully safeguarded against. So, strong architecture also includes plans for response and remediation. Cybersecurity architecture is most resilient when built from the assumption of “when not if” regarding risk management and cloud security architecture. 

How Architecture Affects Systems, Platforms, Apps, and Programs

The quality and integrity of the network architecture can impact:

  • Information systems stability
  • Ease of maintenance
  • Efficacy of monitoring
  • Response time
  • Scalability of structure, processes, device count, and organization headcount

Additionally, how the system is built will largely determine the difficulty level involved in making changes, improvements, or migrations later down the road. For example, architecture can go a long way toward easing server migrations when EOL events happen. 

Good architecture, in other words, improves the reliability and longevity of the system. Of course, quality engineering tends to have that effect. But if investing in better network architecture means better security, easier maintenance, and a healthier system overall, why would any organization choose not to?

For the same reason, any individual or group chooses not to make a long-term investment: short-term gains are higher on their priority list. 

Ask any software engineer or network security architect, and they will likely offer up a wealth of anecdotal experience on this topic. Building a better network, a better app, a better system of any kind—it takes work. Funding. Resources. And time

It’s easy to say, “build it right or build it twice,” but most CIOs, CISOs, and CTOs are charged with getting their product up and running as quickly and cheaply as possible. Time and cost are difficult to balance with quality.

Here again, cybersecurity professionals are quick to point out the painfully familiar nature of this “zero-sum game.” There are three options: fast, cheap, and good. Only two of the three are possible at a time. Product or I&O teams are rarely provided with the support and leeway to achieve “good.” 

So what can be done to avoid leaving a technological “house of cards” for developers and IT staff to have to address at a later date? And if the current system is a few spades short of a flush, how can more secure architecture be implemented after the fact?

Architecture, Frameworks, and Optimizing Network Security

Building security architecture is a complex process.

In a best-case scenario, an organization will start with stable and secure architecture from day one. The worst-case scenario short of a cybersecurity incident is a complete overhaul, tearing out the entire network structure and rebuilding from scratch to ensure its integrity. Most use cases will fall somewhere in the middle.

Regardless of your position on that spectrum, though, the optimal starting point is the same: adopting and implementing a cybersecurity framework.

A framework is a set of guidelines and principles that facilitate the planning and design of network architecture. It’s not the blueprint itself; it’s the regulations the architects adhere to when laying out the design. These rules are self-imposed. Some may be tied directly to legal regulatory compliance, but not all of them are. 

Put another way, adopting a framework means committing to security standards that exceed the minimum requirements simply as a way to minimize vulnerabilities. 

How implementation will be achieved will depend heavily on the size, age, and current integrity of the system. But the framework will simplify decisions regarding what to keep, what to improve, and what to replace. 

Frameworks also help address the “human” side of the equation. Architecture, in most contexts, is primarily a matter of technology: the hardware, the software, the physical and digital infrastructure, etc. But many of the greatest vulnerabilities are flaws not in the machines but in the humans that depend on them. 

With a framework, it becomes easier to prevent internal and external users from compromising security through vectors that the system can’t control. After all, a lock does little to prevent unauthorized access if the keys are not properly safeguarded.

Beyond the Architecture

Even with the proper architecture and systems in place, sometimes details slip through the cracks. For that reason, a third-party security audit can be invaluable, providing an external perspective on internal risks. That’s where we come in.

Whether the gap between your current architecture and your security goals is vast or trivial, RiskRecon can help you get started closing the distance. Unlock your free 30-day trial today!