Architecting the Enterprise for Cybersecurity: Visibility-Focused, Data-Backed, and Streamlined

By: Gordon Cooper, Director of Customer Solutions at Ardoq

There’s often an allotted margin of error when it comes to business strategy or finance. Mistakes are built into the plan and are, to an extent, an accepted part of the process. 

However, the rules couldn’t be more different for enterprise security. One mistake or breach, according to IBM’s 2022 Cost of a Breach Report, can cost on average $4.35 million USD for a business, meaning these errors can not only damage reputations, but also cost companies years of progress and profit. Nowadays, with cybersecurity an evergreen problem, there’s a premium on how companies are minimizing the chance of cyberattack. 

For leaders who hope to prevent the detriments that breaches cause, enterprise architecture (EA) practices are a valuable solution to the challenge. By using a well-constructed EA and strong EA practices, companies can build strong, data-backed defenses that make them resilient to cyber threats.

Seeing is protecting: the value of visibility and visualization 

The first step to better protecting your company’s critical infrastructure is visibility. For leadership, it’s impossible to protect applications, data, and processes that they cannot see.

Businesses can use EA methods to model their enterprise – including the individuals, initiatives, technologies, applications, processes, risks, value streams, etc. –to gain a granular level of insight across the entire organization. From there, leaders can use the EA’s multi-dimensional, interconnected visualizations to connect people to their responsibilities, thus better defining roles for preventing or reacting to actual security breach events. This kind of foresight is invaluable to security teams in organizations that are large and/or complex.

Security teams can utilize the enterprise architecture models to understand the impact or consequences of a cyberattack. Creating virtual scenarios can highlight critical pain points or gaps in an enterprise’s armor – allowing leadership to identify which parts of the organization are most exposed and notify those in charge to take appropriate security measures. Visualizations help understand the probability and impact of a breach but without the steep costs of the actual event.

EA practices and methods allow the application of security concepts and controls to be applied or accounted for at the component level. This means that technologies in the approved technology catalog will have undergone the rigors of security review and hardened to the appropriate security standard, thus allowing solution architects to feel confident that their components or building blocks are already approved according to security standards as fit for use and fit for purpose. 

Data, data, data everywhere, but not a byte secured

Knowing the core components or assets that are modeled into a business’ EA is one thing, but mapping the data that flows through these people, processes, and applications is a completely different issue for leadership. When managed correctly, data is the foundation on which companies run. However, when mishandled, it poses the highest threat to security. 

To keep track of enterprise data, leaders can implement EA data lineage, which helps organizations answer questions about where data originates, its passage through the company, to its target end-user, and finally to its archival or retirement. This tracking of data can also give managers information about which applications, and more importantly which data, people have access to and are currently using– allowing them to see if this data is moving into unregulated or unauthorized spaces or devices. 

Perhaps most importantly, out of the wealth of data housed in an enterprise, there is a small percentage that is highly critical and can lead to the greatest exposure of business and customer information if hacked – such as confidential planning information, intellectual property, financial information or especially data related to the customer. Data lineage can point out the most sensitive areas of an enterprise’s data, allowing leadership to set up greater protections around those assets. Giving leaders insights into what data is of the highest value means they are better equipped to deliver an effective and efficient cybersecurity risk program. Data lineage, as an interconnected dimension of the EA, is essential for a higher-level understanding of strategic resource management and risk reduction. 

The bigger the application portfolio, the harder the fall 

Large, multinational, and technologically complex organizations have larger security departments for a good reason. The larger the company, the more vulnerabilities and the greater the threat exposure. The same logic applies to businesses that have extensive technology and application portfolios, as this means more entry points for attackers to target and hack. Companies that have undergone mergers, acquisitions, or just natural expansion are rife with technology and application sprawl.

The number of applications at the biggest organizations is on the rise, with numbers reaching counts into the thousands or tens of thousands. Not all of these tools are immediately useful to the business, making them not only wasteful for budgeting but potential security threats to the company as well. By implementing good EA practices, leaders can parse through their technology and application inventories, continuously analyzing and renovating the infrastructure with which they do their work – thereby eliminating superfluous software and latent security threats. Continual rationalization of technologies and applications at an enterprise can be equated to properly maintaining a car. By performing regular maintenance and running regular checks on the vehicle’s systems, a driver can spot or prevent problems before they lead to the car breaking down. 

Technology and application rationalization should be a continuous process undertaken by management, as they can ensure that their business runs in the most streamlined and secure manner. Misused, misconfigured, or unnecessary tools in an enterprise ecosystem can be difficult to spot without good EA practices, eventually leading to lapses in business efficiency, but more importantly, data security.

Since cybersecurity difficulties are here to stay for 2023 and beyond, the EA is a crucial tool for leaders to consider for enterprise security. Preparing for breaches now with data-driven insights and mapping will put companies in a better position to prevent or minimize the effects of a cyberattack. It is wise for leadership to employ this method for their business and the security of their infrastructure. 

Gordon Cooper is the Director of Customer Solutions at Ardoq. With almost 30 years of experience in Enterprise Architecture, IT Governance, Technology Risk, Compliance, Solution Architecture, and Project Management, he is tirelessly pursuing the complete contextualization of the enterprise in order to build adaptive enterprises and extend EA as a business evolution function.


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