Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Security Management

06:00 AM
Marzena Fuller
Marzena Fuller
Marzena Fuller

Bootstrapping Security Programs: How to Gradually Implement an Enterprise-Level Security Program at a Fast-Growing Startup

You can't expect to build an adequate security program without investment in both people and security tools.

Given my experience with building and managing security programs at fast-growing, successful startups, I am often asked how to "bootstrap" security programs.

Investing in people and tools
You can't expect to build an adequate security program without investment in both people and security tools. The level of investment will vary based on a company's risk tolerance, customer verticals served and data processed. Ideally, a company should hire a senior technical security leader as part of their core team. Designing a product with security in mind, incorporating product security features aligned with go-to market strategy, making security a key element of development and testing processes and implementing security best practices early is a non-negotiable element of a solid security program.

However, that scenario is far from ideal for most startups.

Building a security program from the ground up

  1. Create a core security team. As I stated above you can't build an effective program without a dedicated security team. For a startup that means a senior security leader, an infrastructure security engineer, an application security engineer and a compliance professional. Each of these roles should be filled with an experienced professional who can develop a security roadmap, prioritize initiatives based on risk and implement processes and practices that will scale with a company's growth and can hire and develop their respective team. At the same time, the founding members of a security team must be hands-on and be able to execute on the critical elements of the roadmap themselves.


  • Create a partnership with engineering. A strong partnership with engineering teams is critical to building a successful security program. Firstly, engineers who work on the product can point out known product design security gaps and opportunities for improvement. Secondly, engineering time and commitment are required to implement a secure software development lifecycle, address pen test findings and implement customer-facing security features. This not an easy task especially at a startup where engineering has to execute on the product roadmap quickly while under resource constraints. However, it can be done successfully by demonstrating that addressing security early in the deployment pipeline will ultimately save time. This is a great example of how security can accomplish its objectives via influence rather than control.



  • Leverage automation. Leveraging security automation from infrastructure security monitoring and auto-remediation through static and dynamic code analysis and vulnerability management is essential. Implementing automation where possible will make security an inherent part of each process and ultimately allow engineers to save time.



  • Open source investments There are a number of very good open source security tools; however, it is important to remember that while they do not require a license fee these tools require time to implement and configure, which is not free. With a small security team in place investing in tools that can be implemented and configured by the vendor is often a more effective approach.


Implementing a successful security program from the ground up takes time and requires prioritizing initiatives based on risk and a company's risk appetite. A security roadmap should always be aligned with a company's go-to market strategy and expected growth.

— Marzena Fuller is the chief security officer at SignalFx.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 7/2/2020
Ripple20 Threatens Increasingly Connected Medical Devices
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  6/30/2020
DDoS Attacks Jump 542% from Q4 2019 to Q1 2020
Dark Reading Staff 6/30/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
How Cybersecurity Incident Response Programs Work (and Why Some Don't)
This Tech Digest takes a look at the vital role cybersecurity incident response (IR) plays in managing cyber-risk within organizations. Download the Tech Digest today to find out how well-planned IR programs can detect intrusions, contain breaches, and help an organization restore normal operations.
Flash Poll
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
This report describes some of the latest attacks and threats emanating from the Internet, as well as advice and tips on how your organization can mitigate those threats before they affect your business. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-02
Apache Guacamole 1.1.0 and older may mishandle pointers involved inprocessing data received via RDP static virtual channels. If a userconnects to a malicious or compromised RDP server, a series ofspecially-crafted PDUs could result in memory corruption, possiblyallowing arbitrary code to be executed...
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-02
A vulnerability in the web-based management interface of Cisco Unified Communications Manager, Cisco Unified Communications Manager Session Management Edition, Cisco Unified Communications Manager IM & Presence Service, and Cisco Unity Connection could allow an unauthenticated, remote attack...
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-02
In versions 3.0.0-3.5.0, 2.0.0-2.9.0, and 1.0.1, when users run the command displayed in NGINX Controller user interface (UI) to fetch the agent installer, the server TLS certificate is not verified.
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-02
In versions 3.0.0-3.5.0, 2.0.0-2.9.0, and 1.0.1, the Neural Autonomic Transport System (NATS) messaging services in use by the NGINX Controller do not require any form of authentication, so any successful connection would be authorized.
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-02
In versions 3.0.0-3.5.0, 2.0.0-2.9.0, and 1.0.1, the NGINX Controller installer starts the download of Kubernetes packages from an HTTP URL On Debian/Ubuntu system.