Defense in Depth: A Guide to Layered Security


The cybersecurity landscape is becoming increasingly dangerous each year. In fact, cybercrime now affects the security of more than 80% of businesses across the world. All companies are ultimately at risk, regardless of size, location, or industry.   

As businesses continue to go through digitization and increase data consumption, protecting digital assets becomes increasingly important. And one of the best approaches businesses can take is to combine defense in depth with a layered security strategy.  

Read on to learn how defense in depth and layered security work, the benefits of using them, and a breakdown of each layer.


What Is Defense in Depth?

Defense in depth is a security strategy that involves creating as many barriers as possible to prevent cyberattacks from cascading across the network.  

This strategy centers around the concept that it’s impossible to achieve complete cybersecurity protection—but that it is possible to implement measures that reduce the effectiveness of a threat.  

For example, a store can’t prevent someone from walking in and trying to shoplift. But it can install cameras, sensors, and security guards to make it difficult for shoplifters to achieve their objectives. Likewise, a business can’t always prevent a hacker from penetrating a line of defense. However, it’s possible to implement mechanisms that slow or frustrate threat actors to the point where they stop trying to achieve their goals. 

It’s important to keep in mind that threat actors often look for the easiest possible path into a network. A defense-in-depth strategy aims to prevent attackers from quickly accessing information.  


How Layered Security Works


One of the major components of defense in depth is layered security. This strategy involves stacking multiple defense mechanisms to close security gaps. 

Businesses typically layer security mechanisms across different areas. For example, an enterprise WAN may contain DNS-layer security, a secure web gateway, interactive threat intelligence, and a cloud access security broker, among others. Each technology ultimately combines to form a comprehensive strategy.


The Benefits of Defense in Depth and Layered Security


Creating a defense-in-depth strategy with layered security isn’t something you can achieve overnight. It takes time and requires ongoing upkeep and management to achieve the best outcomes. However, the benefits far outweigh the time it takes to create an effective strategy. 

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the top reasons to combine defense in depth with layered security. 

Prevent Catastrophic Attacks

Cyberattacks can bring business operations to a halt and lead to irrevocable data loss. Organizations are often unable to recover fully and wind up with significant financial loss and reputational harm.  

By combining different security components, you can prevent dangerous attacks from impacting business operations. Defense in depth and layered security are key for business survival in today’s unpredictable cybersecurity landscape. 

Share Responsibility 

Another benefit to defense in depth and layered security is that it removes pressure from individual security components and spreads responsibility across different systems.  

To illustrate, someone may steal a password and use it to gain unauthorized access to an account. But by layering additional identity verification and monitoring technologies, it’s possible to deter the intruder from continuing into the system.  

In other words, if one security point fails, another solution can be activated to thwart suspicious activity. 

Reduce the Attack Surface

Most companies today have a large and expanding attack surface that includes multiple user accounts, cloud services, physical devices, and more. Cybercriminals often bank on companies being unable to protect their entire attack surface and look for weak entry points to exploit. For example, this may include cloud misconfigurations or dormant accounts with weak authentication controls.  Increasing cybersecurity coverage and stacking defenses on top of each other reduce the attack surface. This, in turn, makes it harder for threat actors to capitalize on opportunities and tap into private resources.


What Are the Layers of Defense in Depth?

At the end of the day, there isn’t a right or wrong answer when it comes to building a defense-in-depth strategy. It depends on the system you are trying to protect and the length you are willing to go to secure it.  

It’s also important to remember that the cybersecurity market is constantly changing and adapting to threats as they emerge. In light of this, it’s a good idea to keep a pulse on new technologies and protocols and weave them into your environment.  

With this in mind, here are a few common layers of defense in depth to have on your radar. 

Physical Controls 

Physical controls are security mechanisms that prevent unauthorized users from accessing physical equipment, areas, and documents. Some common examples of physical controls include security guards, doors with locks, cages, and alarms.  

Identity Access Management (IAM) 

IAM involves creating policies that protect and limit the reach of digital user identities. By integrating IAM controls, it’s possible to prevent user identities from gaining excessive privileges. 

An identity can be either human or non-human. For example, an AWS Lambda function is an example of a non-human identity that can potentially gain unauthorized access to private cloud environments.  

Data Governance 

Data governance involves creating procedures and policies to ensure optimal data security and handling. A data governance strategy contributes to defense in depth by providing a framework that prevents bad behavior. For example, a business may establish an automated data destruction policy to prevent information from falling into the wrong hands.  

Creating an effective data governance strategy typically requires working with internal IT stakeholders who oversee specific databases, devices, and user groups. 

Intelligent Threat Monitoring 

Businesses today lack the bandwidth to investigate and track security events manually. Most companies now use AI-powered threat monitoring tools to discover and alert team members about important security threats

Threat monitoring often prevents threat actors from penetrating system defenses and reaching end users. For example, a monitoring system may be able to pick up on incoming traffic from known IP addresses and block intruders from entering the organization.

Network Security

Network security involves protecting communications infrastructure from attacks and misuse. Common network security components may include intrusion prevention systems, firewalls, virtual private networks (VPNs), cloud security systems, and behavioral analytics services.


API Security

Application security protocols (APIs) are one of the most overlooked—but one of the most important—aspects of a defense-in-depth strategy. Companies use APIs to link customers and partners to data and applications and extend their digital services. However, they often fail to protect their APIs with the latest security enhancements. 

APIs can either be an asset or a liability. One of the best ways to protect your APIs is to use a purpose-built security tool that automatically tracks APIs, evaluates risk, and provides context-rich data to help you make better decisions.


Make API Security a Core Part of Your Defense-in-Depth Strategy 

The more layers you add to your security strategy, the harder it becomes for cybercriminals to inflict harm against your organization and access sensitive data. As such, it helps to form a comprehensive strategy that includes everything from strong physical access controls to API security. 


About Traceable

Traceable is the industry’s leading API security platform that identifies APIs, evaluates API risk posture, stops API attacks, and provides deep analytics for threat hunting and forensic research. With visual depictions of API paths at the core of its technology, its platform applies the power of distributed tracing and machine learning models for API security across the entire software development lifecycle. Book a demo today.