Cybersecurity is an important concern for companies of all sizes. Yet, many small and medium businesses (SMBs) don’t put much effort into protecting themselves from the risk of cyberattacks because of the size of their company. Unfortunately, that simply isn’t true.
In fact, according to a report, 66% of SMBs have experienced a cyberattack, and 63% experienced a data breach. This, in turn, has led to 75% of SMBs now agreeing that there should be more emphasis placed on security in their organisation. Cyber attackers are well aware of the fact that small businesses typically have less security than a large corporation. And, this fact puts SMBs in the ‘sweet spot’ for cyber attackers, making them more vulnerable to risks for attacks.
If you’re a small business and believe that you are secure enough against the cyberattacks, think again. With today’s dynamic environment, you might have to re-plan your security posture now. Below are four ways SMBs can protect themselves from cyber-attacks.
Understand Emerging Trends and Evolving Risks
Cybersecurity preparedness is probably the first step for SMBs to start with. And to be ready with your cybersecurity posture, it is imperative for business leaders to have a comprehensive understanding of the vulnerabilities — be it internal or external, that can affect their business and how hackers can gain entry including their different methods and motives, and points of weakness. According to reports, for most of the instances, cyberattacks happen to businesses having a weak security system. For some other cases, the reason could be the weak firewall of the business that no longer can ward off potential attacks. And, therefore learning different types of cyber fraud schemes and common threats – everything from phishing and spoofing scams, to systems hacking and pharming, will help SMBs to plan their moves way ahead of the actual attack.
Cyberattacks could also be as a result of employee carelessness where there is a divulgence of confidential business information to third parties. Understanding these will guide SMBs to create effective strategies of protecting their business from potential attacks.
Here are some common cyber-attack methods to be aware of.
- Hacking – Hacking occurs when cybercriminals gain unauthorised access to company emails or systems to view and manipulate the information within it. This creates vulnerability for a company’s sensitive data. Email and systems hacking are the two most common types of hacking.
- Phishing – Phishing is another prevalent form of cyber theft, which occurs when cybercriminals manage to collect sensitive data, such as passwords, personal information, and credit card information. This happens when employees put their critical data on fraudulent websites.
- Social Engineering – By using social engineering, cybercriminals use social interactions in order to build trust with the targeted individual in an effort to gather sensitive information about their organisation.
- Malware Threats – Malware, also known as the malicious threat, is a cyber threat where criminals use software sent to your devices or online platforms in order to get access to your personal information. Such an attack can not only damage the hardware of your employees’ systems but also can harm the data and software within them.
- Identity Theft – In this type of attack, cybercriminals obtain personal information of your employees and use it without their permission to commit fraud.
Develop a Security Policy
For SMBs to run smoothly without the fear of being attacked by cybercriminals, it is critical to defining protocols to abide by. But in order to be effective in this dynamic environment, the security policy must permeate throughout the organisation, through every department, and should be squarely embedded into its overall business strategy. A robust security policy should direct how each employee should operate in the organisation. After all, employees do contain sensitive information about the company, which makes them the first line of defence against corporate account takeover. Consequently, SMBs need to educate their employees about data and its sensitivity. Every employee should be aware of the warning signs, red flags, safe practices, and responses to a suspected attack. Each employee should make sure to use complex, unique passwords and should also maintain a clean desk environment so that the company’s confidential information isn’t exposed in any way.
Many experts believe that the best offence is a good defence. In order to ensure that SMBs are protected from cyberattacks, business leaders must define a robust security protocol inherent within their business strategy. As, nowadays, more sensitive information is stored digitally, it’s critical for SMBs to create a policy that covers not only standard practices such as routine security audits and data backup, but also addresses newer concerns such as, social media security, cloud computing, and the Internet of Things. Additionally, SMBs should also be prepared to have an incident response plan in place, so that in case of attacks, employees are prepared to respond appropriately.
Keep Your Hardware Up To Date As Much As Your Software
All SMBs should secure their hardware devices and their software network with the most robust security solutions available and should keep them updated, which also includes having a firewall. As much as SMBs need to secure their software, it is as much essential to secure their business’ hardware. Most small and medium businesses tend to overlook this, which later can cost them during an actual cyber attack. Any loss or theft of business hardware could be as dangerous as it is equivalent to a vital data breach. Therefore business leaders must ensure that only authorised employees are given access to integrities of business hardware. To secure business hardware, SMBs can set up password access to their hardware for securing business’ vital documents and installing surveillance to protect your physical server room. Another important aspect is to keep an updated anti-virus software to help you guard your SMB against the ever-evolving threats and keep your infrastructure secure.
Some of the critical precautionary measures should include:
- Using a firewall or security access for your business internet connection and essential information
- Regularly updating anti-malware, anti-virus, and anti-spyware software on every employee computer used in your business
- Keeping your software updated as they become available, in order to safeguard your business applications
- Securing your workplace WiFi networks and ensuring remote employees to log in with secure connections
- Monitoring employee systems continuously to detect potential problems
Educate Your Employees
Last but not least, the most important thing for an SMB to foolproof themselves from cyberattacks is to educate their employees. Usually, employees are unaware of the high-risk their online behaviour can create for your business. Therefore it is vital to train your staff with best practices of cybersecurity they should follow and the red flags of cyberattacks they should be prepared for. Apart from the IT guy of the company, every employee should be aware of, as well as concerned about the cybersecurity threats.
Also, if your SMB has a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy, you need to make sure that your business includes guidelines for securing employee devices. Lastly, enforcing a strict password policy for your employees will help leaders to protect their business accounts. When developing passwords, employees need to keep in mind to use a unique password for each account, and the password should be a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols. SMBs should inform their employees not to include personal information or common words in their passwords and should keep your passwords secure at all times. It is also essential for all to regularly change passwords.
The bottom line is that If you’re a small business and have not started thinking about the consequences that cyber-attacks could have on your company, it’s time you start taking it seriously. As the saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry. However, we all should be ready for an actual attack, and it is also crucial for SMBs to have a plan of action for responding to a cyber incident. Even more important, it should be practised so that all your employees know exactly what to do in the event of a breach.
It’s high time for SMB owners to take cybersecurity seriously, but cybersecurity should never act as a burden on resources or a blocker of innovation. Instead, a robust security framework should be designed in such a way that it adds value to your business. With a combination of the right policies and cutting-edge technology, SMBs can be closer to achieving immunity from cyber-threats.