Cybersecurity essentials for Small-Medium Businesses
The Internet is the biggest and busiest hubs for any business to operate in. From small scale to large scale businesses, the internet allows a wider market reach with the advantage of working from any location. For businesses to work more efficiently and gain more opportunities, all kinds of computer-based tools are utilized.
And whether a company is involved in cloud computing or just basic operations like emailing and maintaining a website, cybersecurity should always be a part of the plan. Small companies might think they don’t need it – “We’re a small company, why would anyone try to steal our data? Our profits are not even that big!” is a wrong way to think about it. Once we deny the existence of cyber threats, the easier it is for cybercriminals to target your small business.
Small-Medium Enterprises (SME) are not immune to cyber threats.
Anything that involves technology, whether it be business or personal, is exposed to any cyber threats. Small businesses continue to be a top target for hackers. Risk-Based Security reports that in the first six months of 2019 alone, 4.1 billion records were exposed via data breaches. This does not even include unreported or undiscovered breaches.
85% of organizations reported experiencing phishing and social engineering attacks, with malware ranking as the most costly type of attack – costing an average of 2.6 million dollars in 2018. These attacks and costs are still rising every year. The top security risk, according to 96% of surveyed respondents, is email of phishing scams. And out of all the reported attacks, 22% of ransomware attacks in the first quarter of 2019 were targeted at professional services organizations, followed by software services, and then healthcare organization.
Stop putting your data at risk.
The amount of personal and sensitive data you have will be put at risk by not utilizing cybersecurity measures. This of course also means that the entire business would be at risk. Employees will suffer the fallout too, but most of all, the clients would. Clients of any business would expect that their data is in safe hands.
Operating your SME without cybersecurity means leaving it exposed and prone to losses. This is especially a big factor for medical care facilities, who cannot afford to have delays when it comes to providing crucial and emergency medical care. Not to mention the reputational damage that it can do on an SME, because putting clients at risk means they would not want to do business anymore. As a client, one would rather turn to a company that cares about cybersecurity.
All businesses should understand the risks that may lead to cybercrime.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Internet Security Essentials for Business guide urges business owners, managers and employees to improve their defenses and resilience against cyber threats, especially for small businesses that have become the top target. Furthermore, it indicates the following:
- Perfect online security is unattainable even for large businesses, but inexpensive practices can be implemented to improve the security of your information, computers, and networks.
- Businesses need to know how and to whom to report cybercrime incidents.
- Cybersecurity is a team sport. Following recommendations will have positive consequences for the security of businesses, communities, and the country.
US COC Cybersecurity Essentials source: https://www.uschamber.com/CybersecurityEssentials
What are the biggest threats to SMEs right now?
According to the Information Security Forum (ISF), with growing connectivity comes the increase of information security threat, such as:
1. Internet of Things (IoT) leaks
With the influx of devices used for real-time data collection, the risks of these devices getting hacked are high. Any device connected to the internet, like alarm systems, GMS, web cameras, and even medical devices can be targeted. With no built-in security, hackers can install malware and take the system under their control. It is recommended to change all passwords immediately.
2. Opaque algorithms
The increasing use of algorithms by organizations means that there is a risk to lose visibility into the functioning and interaction of their systems. With the lack of transparency, these algorithms can cause incidents when unchecked. To reduce this risk, there must still be a human monitoring present.
3. Security researches are beings silenced
When silenced by the government or private companies, security researchers cannot do their jobs. Transparency is the key – the public needs to know about the ongoing efforts to improve security. The ISF advices tech buyers (including small businesses) to insist on transparency when problems are found in their systems, and to not punish the researchers for the vulnerabilities they find.
Every business, together with their technical support, should take note of the following basic but effective measures:
All devices that are connected to the internet should have a firewall activated. A firewall is a set of programs a device, either hardware or software, that prevents outsiders from accessing data on a private network. Make sure the firewall of the operating system is enabled, or you can get one free from the internet and talk to your network admin about the current status of your network firewall.
2. Develop a strong password policy.
Require employees to use unique passwords and change the passwords every few months. Utilize more than 10 characters, and make it as complicated as possible. Check our article here on how you can better manage your password with password managers.
3. Encrypt your confidential data
Encryption can help protect data you send, receive and store on a device. It works by scrambling data into an unreadable format when being sent, then translating it back to its original form once the recipient accesses the message (decryption). It keeps the data private and it is an additional hurdle for cybercriminals.
4. Limit Access
Make sure to give permissions to which staff can access which data. This could reduce the risk of putting important data in the hands of an intern. This could reduce the risk of social engineering – meaning new employees can’t be swayed to give out important information that could put the business at risk.
5. Keep Tools Updated
Allow patches to be updated to fix holes in your software or systems. Having the latest software for security, web browsing, and operating systems are the best defenses against viruses and other threats. Antivirus software should run a scan after each update, and make sure other key software updates roll out as soon as they are available.
How can Cybersecurity measures help a business?
1. It reduces the cyber crime risk.
By following a standard, cyber crime can be massively reduced. (These standards from the Center for Internet Security guarantees a reduction of 85%) Less risk leads to less profit loss, and of course more productivity.
CIS Controls Link: https://www.cisecurity.org/controls/
2. It can expand the horizons of the business.
Government contracts follow a standard protocol, and businesses need to be certified safe to be accepted.
3. The business becomes more efficient and productive.
Security systems will always be in check and this will save you a great deal of time in the long run. Businesses will be able to grow efficiently without any threats to security.
4. It can help the business gain respect within the industry.
Stakeholders will know that you are to be trusted with their data. It will also be easier for new investors and clients to flow in once they know from their colleagues and competitors that your business can be trusted.
Here’s for the business owners.
SMEs should think big about their security measures if they aim to thrive in the competitive tech industry – choosing the right security provider and investing in cybersecurity will always pay off in the long run.
It is the business owner’s job to make sure that his business remains transparent, which makes security easier to achieve. Every member of the business must know the benefits and impacts of good protection so employees can be more careful about the devices they introduce to the networks and systems. This means that more focus can be placed on earning money, and therefore help the business reach its goals.