Cybersecurity architecture, simply put, is a framework that defines the structure of an organization's cybersecurity posture, which includes consideration for its policies, standards, and business objectives. It accounts for the organization's computers, network devices, network interconnects, security capabilities, and the data that resides within the whole environment. The organization's foundational defense plan is considered to protect against cyber threats and enrich its IT security.
Cybersecurity architecture defines how network security controls and other defensive capabilities will work together to protect an organization from cyberattacks. The main purpose of these controls is to protect critical IT systems from cyber threats and ensure their confidentiality, integrity, and availability.
Security architecture is not only limited to defining which security controls are needed to protect IT infrastructure, but the security architect is also responsible for anticipating potential cyber-threats and should work to install/develop the required security controls (hardware appliance, software, and security policies) to prevent cyberattacks before they occur.
There are various security tools already used to protect computer networks and data from cyberattacks, such as firewalls, intrusion detection and/or prevention systems (IDS/IPS), antivirus programs, and file integrity monitoring solutions, to name a few. To improve these tools' efficiency in protecting organization resources and other vital assets, all these elements must be incorporated into one cybersecurity architecture plan.
The success of a cybersecurity architecture plan depends greatly on the flow of information across all organization departments. All employees must adhere to the procedures and follow the processes mentioned to protect their organization from cyberattacks.
Cybersecurity architecture is used to secure different computing environments, such as:
- Traditional on-premise computer networks
- Public, private, hybrid, and multi-cloud environments
- Internet of Things (IoT) devices and networks
- Operational Technology (OT) devices and networks
- Endpoint devices (i.e., workstations and servers)
- Mobile devices (e.g., smartphones and tablets)
Security Architecture Components
A cybersecurity architecture is composed of three main components: people, processes, and tools. These components must work in harmony to protect information assets. To achieve this, security architecture must be driven by business objectives and security policy. The policy details the organization's expectations for applying the security architecture plan, how it will be implemented, and the processes needed for enforcement.
What is the security policy?
A security policy is a written document that identifies the rules and procedures enforced by an organization on its employees when using its IT systems to maintain the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data and information resources.
Every person within an organization must understand his/her obligations to protect data and IT assets. A security policy should include penalties when someone fails to adhere to its standards. A security policy should be written in a simple style with minimum technical jargon and define at a high-level, the best security practices to safeguard organization data and IT systems from malicious actors and accidental disclosure of sensitive information.
Benefits of Cybersecurity Architecture
The cybersecurity architecture plan's main aim is to make sure that organization network architecture and other connected systems that include sensitive information and critical applications are protected from cyberattacks, both current and future. Security architecture helps an organization spot weaknesses in its IT system and provide a systematic way to detect weak points and resolve them before they are exploited.
Having a cybersecurity architecture delivers several benefits for organizations:
- Increases the overall security, which leads to fewer security breaches. For example, many attackers use common attack techniques to exploit known vulnerabilities left unfixed by less vigilant organizations. By having a strong security architecture, such weaknesses will be discovered and fixed before they become a problem.
- Compliance with different data security standards: There are different data security standards (e.g., PCI DSS, HIPAA, GLBA, GDPR) an organization may need to follow, according to its industry. Some organizations must follow two or more standards at the same time. Following a cybersecurity architecture framework will help an organization to adhere to the security requirements of such regulations more efficiently, also to remain updated about the new requirements imposed by such standards to counter new and emerging threats.
- Increase customers' and vendors' satisfaction: Following a defined cybersecurity architecture helps corporations gain trust from customers, vendors, and all parties they deal with.
- Improve operational efficiency.
- Better fight and prevent zero-day attacks (e.g., zero-day vulnerabilities and APT attacks) and discover misconfigurations are existing within an organization network.
- Automate security controls across all organization departments.
- Provide visibility into threats facing an organization.
- By using a cybersecurity architecture, organizations can address risk deliberately and ensure a cost-effective approach.
Cybersecurity architecture plan and business objectives
Cybersecurity architecture plans should be aligned with the organization's business objectives; for instance, security leaders responsible for establishing the cybersecurity architecture plan- should first understand the current IT security state of their organization. They can achieve this by reviewing current assets (e.g., hardware, software, security policies, business plans,etc.) to understand the critical data types needed by the organization to remain operational in the case of a cyber-incident.
Security leaders must then meet with the organization's business unit to evaluate collected data and appreciate the importance of each IT asset in business processes based on the time and resources needed to replace it if it becomes unavailable due to a cyberattack. This allows management to understand each IT asset's importance and dedicate the required budget to protect the most critical components needed for the business to continue operation in the case of a cyberattack.
A cybersecurity architecture is considered the basis of any organization's cyber defense measures. It includes tools, policies, processes, and technologies used to prevent or mitigate attacks.
The cybersecurity architecture plan should address each IT component's business value, so its value to the entire business process can be appreciated and protected accordingly.
Cybersecurity architects have a deep understanding of computer networks and different know-how components of IT infrastructure work together. Their role is to identify potential threats, design the required security architecture plan, implement such plan accordingly, and supervise its implementation along the way to achieve the optimal results.