CTO toolkit: Building an early stage security stack

November 3, 2022
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If you’re a CTO at an early stage company, you know just how impossibly hard the role can be to pull off. As if writing code and hiring engineers wasn’t enough of a challenge, you also have to handle the need for cybersecurity tooling to help keep your company (and your customers) safe from a data breach. 

Too many CTOs at small startups put off building security foundations because it’s not their area of expertise, they don’t have time, or they simply don’t know how to get started. We get it. The security SaaS landscape is overwhelming—and it's growing more complex every day.

“For a lot of CTOs, compliance isn’t something they care about until they get their SOC 2 and start getting questions from customers,” said Cody Wright, CTO at HyperComply.

“The last thing you want is to do a penetration test and realize you’ve been insecure for the past year. Luckily there are lots of new tools today that make it easy to get started with compliance at an early stage.”

We partnered with our friends at Drata to help put together the starter toolkit that any CTO can use to build a security program and set their team up for success. We’re also excited to share integration updates for HyperComply and Drata that are coming soon—but more on that later.

Keep reading to learn:

  • Why legacy security SaaS won’t work for startups
  • The HyperComply + Drata security toolkit for early stage companies
  • How HyperComply + Drata are making security even easier

Why legacy security SaaS won’t work

There’s no shortage of tools out there today offering to automate, simplify, or enforce application security processes across your organization. A map of the security landscape from Momentum Cyber has an eye-boggling number of logos on it, and the number of providers for each niche continues to grow every month.

Unfortunately for startup companies, there are a few reasons why most of the current solutions won’t actually help you get compliant or stay secure:

  • Current solutions are built for large enterprise companies
  • Pricing puts tools out of reach for startups
  • Implementation is resource intensive

Security tools are built for the enterprise

Cybersecurity has long been a top-down initiative. Government regulators focus their attention on Fortune 1,000 organizations with the greatest access to sensitive customer data, and the highest likelihood of attack. So it’s no surprise that most security tools are built to support enterprise-grade solutions at global companies with large security teams and pre-existing infrastructure.

Current solutions are cost-prohibitive

While enterprise companies making hundreds of millions in revenue (if not billions) won’t blink at investing heavily in security technology, small companies have to be much more cost conscious. It’s not realistic for an SMB or early stage startup to spend tens of thousands of dollars on tools to ensure security while they’re trying to build revenue growth. As a result, startups need to weigh the tradeoffs and find solutions that provide the most secure offerings for the most efficient prices.

Implementation takes too long

And if startups don’t have money to burn, they sure don’t have tons of extra time to waste on implementation either. Enterprise-grade security solutions can take several quarters to fully stand up across an organization. Startups today are looking for security options that plug directly into their existing tools and start providing value from day one.

The HyperComply + Drata security toolkit for early stage companies

While most legacy security solutions were created with enterprise customers in mind, there is a new generation of tools providing fast, flexible, automated security support for companies of all sizes, including today’s startups. 

At HyperComply, we review thousands of security questionnaires, and understand the types of security policies and programs that are critical to meeting your customer’s expectations. And Drata is the leading automated compliance provider, with the best understanding of what it takes to get (and stay) compliant. Together with our partners at Drata, we put together an overview of the key tools every startup CTO needs to have in their security toolkit to ensure data compliance and safety.

The foundation of a CTO’s tool kit is going to be built by three point solutions that protect, assess, and improve your application security: 

  • Protect network access with Authentication as a Service
  • Assess ongoing application security with Vulnerability Scanning
  • Improve application security with Penetration Testing

From there, CTOs need to layer on two horizontal tools to complete the toolkit. First, a compliance automation tool will provide continuous monitoring of the point solutions above (as well as other security practices) to ensure your company gets compliant and stays compliant. Finally, a security questionnaire automation tool makes it easy to capture all of your security information and share it with potential customers–as well as requesting this information from your own third party vendors.

Security questionnaire automation

What it is: Potential customers will want to know more about your security posture, and they will likely send you a security questionnaire to understand your standards. Rather than filling out 200+ questions in a spreadsheet manually, a security questionnaire automation tool can autofill your answers based on previous questionnaires and security documentation. 

What to look for: Some solutions are simply outsourcing questionnaire responses to overseas contractors. Be sure to find an automation tool like HyperComply that offers both technology solutions using AI and natural language processing, as well as a human QA layer. This ensures you get both the maximum speed for turnaround time while still ensuring quality.

Compliance automation

What it is: Historically, maintaining and achieving compliance meant companies spent hundreds of hours a year working across spreadsheets to collect evidence from controls and tech stacks, vendors, assets, devices, and people. Now, compliance automation software like Drata enables companies to monitor their security controls continuously while automatically collecting evidence to prove their compliance posture, saving time and resources and streamlining the audit process. 

What to look for: Because your company is unique, you’ll need a flexible solution that fits your specific compliance needs. A library of frameworks and robust integrations are important, as well as customizable features like custom frameworks and controls. Don’t forget to look for auditor features like a unique auditor view to facilitate a smooth auditing experience. You’ll also want to choose a solution that can scale with you as your company grows and your compliance requirements evolve over time. 

Authentication as a service

What it is: Rather than attempting to build your own identity and access management system, Authentication as a Service tools make it fast to apply multi-factor authentication (MFA) to secure access to any application.

What to look for: Since authentication is a fundamental piece of your user’s login experience, you’ll want to ensure your provider has strong documentation and support available to help you implement and troubleshoot.

Vulnerability scanning

What it is: Vulnerability scanners are software programs that automatically scan and check your network on a regular cadence. These programs ensure that daily code deploys or setting adjustments don’t result in unwanted security weaknesses.

What to look for: Most vulnerability scanning tools are rated for their accuracy, which will be the most important consideration. But you’ll also want to consider their integrations and how they will plug into your application network.

Penetration testing

What it is: Often the best way to avoid being hacked is to think like a hacker. With penetration testing, an expert attacks your systems to find potential vulnerabilities. Then they go one step further to identify the root cause of these weaknesses and help you implement stronger defenses.

What to look for: Some companies still opt to contract penetration testers directly. But new Pen Test as a Service options on the market make it easy to jumpstart the process and scale pen testing efforts as you grow.

How HyperComply + Drata are making security even easier

The CTO toolkit above is a strong program that early stage companies can implement with relatively little time and effort. Getting these five basic security tools in place will help any startup ensure compliance best practices are being followed, and make future security investments that much easier.

While these tools work well independently, we’re excited to share our vision for an even more seamless approach to security tooling in the future. Today, customers using both HyperComply and Drata are able to effectively achieve and maintain compliance and share security documentation. Drata relieves the burden of security and compliance through automated monitoring and evidence collection and scales with companies as their compliance needs grow. And with HyperComply, customers can share their compliance data with potential customers by automating the security questionnaire process.

“As businesses face increasing scrutiny during the sales cycle, the last thing you want is a security questionnaire slowing things down further. Companies that have established great compliance programs should be able to leverage that investment to build trust with their prospects," said Amar Chahal, HyperComply Co-Founder and CEO.

"Our integration with Drata enables businesses to do exactly that—leverage their compliance as a competitive advantage and accelerate revenue growth efficiently.”

HyperComply and Drata work well for our shared customers today, and we’re even more excited about what’s to come in the future. In the near future, customers will be able to directly connect their HyperComply and Drata accounts, making it even easier to capture and share compliance control details in the security review process.

"The Drata team knows firsthand how security questionnaires can slow startups down, especially when you’re managing them manually," said Troy Markowitz, Drata Co-Founder and CRO.

"Our partnership with HyperComply helps remove a major headache for startups, empowering them to easily show proof of compliance and to earn the trust of their prospects faster."

We’re excited to share more about the HyperComply and Drata partnership soon, and continue delivering even more value to our shared customers.

Ready to get started building your security stack? Learn more about HyperComply and Drata today.