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Your map to securing architecture

Security Design Operations is an overarching model that allows organizations' business units, management, and architectural design practitioners to commit to collaboration and cohesiveness in designing and protecting the organization's architecture.  The users will gain a better understanding of how to systematically manage architecture security, and continuously measure progress to improve overall architecture security posture. The strategy will created and implemented to integrate into any existing organizations’ IT architecture maturity and any security frameworks or methods administered by the security team.

The Security Design Operations (SDO) is a comprehensive, industry-agnostic, and multi-domain operation that encompasses either on-premise or cloud architecture or hybrid assets. These assets comprise crucial elements such as data, development source code, components, systems, infrastructure, and networks. SDO promotes the formation of a strategic coalition to address and mitigate competing or rogue strategies effectively. Through a commitment to collaboration, consensus-building, and a shift from a flat organizational structure to a committee-based approach, SDO aims to conceptualize robust strategies, planning, standards, and frameworks. This transformative method ensures a holistic and adaptive approach for organizations to have one voice regardless of industry.

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Security Design Operations

Starting with ‘I Don't Know’

When formulating a strategy or making critical security design decisions, security architects often begin with the acknowledgment of "I Don't Know." Understanding what you don't know is important for discovery, detection, and defense. Rather than assuming complete knowledge, security architects embrace a mindset that acknowledges uncertainties.  What does my architecture look like?  What does my technology stack contain including infrastructure and networking components and systems?  What are my emerging threats based on the knowledge I have? This approach encourages thorough research, continuous learning, and a proactive stance to explore and understand the unknowns within the security domain. By starting with "I Don't Know," security architects foster a culture of curiosity, adaptability, and resilience, allowing them to better anticipate, assess, and address novel security risks as they arise. It emphasizes the importance of staying vigilant, embracing a learning mindset, and being prepared to navigate the intricacies of an ever-changing security landscape.

Multi-Domain Operations

For security architect practitioners, achieving operational excellence necessitates a deep understanding and mastery of various interconnected security domains. Recognizing the symbiotic relationship between these domains is crucial, and our approach, known as Multi Domain Operations (MDO) at ISAUnited, underscores the significance of simultaneously addressing multiple domains for a comprehensive security strategy. As practitioners, we delve into intricate domains such as Network Security, ensuring fortified communication channels; Application Security, fortifying software applications and systems; Cloud Security, safeguarding cloud environments and services; Identity and Access Management (IAM), expertly managing user identities and access; Data Security, implementing robust measures for confidentiality and integrity; Endpoint Security, fortifying individual devices; Incident Response, executing swift and effective mitigation strategies; Security Governance and Compliance, establishing and upholding stringent policies; Risk Management, adeptly identifying and managing cybersecurity risks; and Threat Intelligence, leveraging insights for proactive defense. Security architects must adeptly navigate and integrate these domains to architect resilient and secure systems.

The Security Design Operations (SDO) 3 Elements:

The Strategy adheres to three current security principles, representing recommended practices to be followed in the present day.


Design Decision-Making

The Design Decision-Making element represents a critical pillar within the SDO model. It emphasizes a strategic and collaborative approach to address potential conflicting strategies and ensure alignment with the overarching security objectives. Moving from a flat organization to a committee-based approach fosters a culture of inclusivity, where diverse perspectives contribute to well-informed decisions.

  • Committee Formation: Establish a committee comprising key stakeholders, security experts, and relevant decision-makers. This coalition is the central hub for discussing, evaluating, and deciding on security strategies.  Utilizing or creating committees such as Technical Design Authority (TDA), Center of Excellence (CoE) or technical project teams are a good central source for broader decision-making.

  • Mitigation of Competing Strategies: Identify and address any competing or rogue strategies within the organization. The committee plays a pivotal role in mitigating conflicts and ensuring that security decisions align with the broader organizational goals.

  • Collaboration and Consensus: Promote collaboration and consensus-building within the committee. Encourage open communication and the exchange of ideas to arrive at well-rounded decisions that consider various perspectives and expertise.

  • Conceptualization of Strategy, Planning, Standards, and Framework: Leverage the committee's collective knowledge to conceptualize overarching security strategies, robust planning, adherence to standards, and establishing a comprehensive framework. This collaborative effort ensures security decisions are well-grounded and aligned with industry best practices.

The Decision-Making Process acts as the cohesive force that unifies various stakeholders, aligns security strategies with organizational goals, and establishes a framework for consistent and effective security design operations. By embracing a committee-based approach, organizations can navigate complexities and make informed decisions that contribute to the overall security resilience of the architecture.

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Know Your Architecture

Utilizing the ‘Know Your Architecture-RP-216’ design principle, security architects and architecture designers need to safeguard the organization's digital assets, and an understanding of its architectural components and systems is paramount to their success. By comprehending the intricacies of the organization's architecture, security architects can identify vulnerabilities, assess risks, and design robust security measures tailored to the specific technology landscape. This knowledge enables them to create holistic security strategies, ensuring that every layer of the organizational infrastructure is fortified against potential threats. Additionally, an intimate familiarity with architecture components facilitates quick response to emerging cyber threats, allowing security architects to proactively mitigate risks and maintain the integrity of the organization's information systems. In essence, the synergy between security architecture and organizational architecture is the linchpin in fortifying digital defenses and ensuring the resilience of an organization in the face of evolving cybersecurity challenges.


  • Comprehensive Inventory: Maintain an up-to-date inventory of all components and systems within the architecture. Regularly review and update this inventory to reflect changes and additions. This foundational knowledge is crucial for informed decision-making.

  • Infrastructure and Networking Understanding: A thorough grasp of the infrastructure and networking components is essential. Architects should be aware of how different elements interact and impact the overall security posture. This knowledge forms the basis for designing security measures that align with the organization's specific infrastructure.

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Know Your Attacker

Implementing the ‘Threat Intelligence Preparation-RP-217’ design principle, security architects must incorporate threat intelligence into their strategies to effectively fortify their organization's architecture components and systems. By staying abreast of the latest cyber threats, emerging vulnerabilities, and evolving attack techniques, security architects gain a proactive edge in anticipating and mitigating potential risks. Threat intelligence allows them to tailor security measures to the specific threats targeting their organization, enhancing the precision and efficacy of defense mechanisms. This proactive approach not only strengthens the overall security posture but also enables security architects to design resilient systems capable of adapting to the dynamic threat landscape. In essence, integrating threat intelligence empowers security architects to stay one step ahead, ensuring the continuous protection of organizational assets in the ever-evolving realm of cybersecurity.


  • Continuous Monitoring: Stay vigilant by continuously monitoring the threat landscape. Collect and analyze threat intelligence to understand the evolving nature of security threats. This proactive approach ensures that decision-making is informed by real-time data, allowing architects to adapt and fortify the security architecture accordingly.

The Security Design Operations was developed to integrate with existing security frameworks for an easy and effective operation.  Its three elements - the Decision-Making Process, Know Your Architecture, and Cyber Threat Intelligence (CTI), offer a holistic and adaptive approach to secure design operations in the day-to-day digital landscape operations.  SDO establishes an overarching model encompassing on-premises and cloud architecture assets, including crucial elements such as data, development source code, components, systems, infrastructure, and networks. The commitment to collaboration, consensus-building, and transitioning to a committee-based approach ensures that the framework remains responsive to emerging challenges. Through diligent adherence to the Know Your Architecture process and the incorporation of Cyber Threat Intelligence into the Defensible Architecture design methodology, organizations can proactively enhance their security posture, fortifying themselves against potential vulnerabilities. The Decision-Making Process, as a cohesive force, aligns security strategies with organizational goals, promoting inclusivity and informed decision-making for a resilient and allowing security architects to secure digital architecture.

Security Design Operations 

Design Decision-Making

Know Your Architecture

Know Your Attacker

In security architecture, a practitioner's Security Design Operations act as the overarching framework consisting of confidentiality, integrity, and availability, is a fundamental framework that guides efforts to secure information systems by ensuring data confidentiality, maintaining data integrity, and ensuring timely access to information.

Access the ISAU Library to download the SDO manual.




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