How to Keep Your Business Safe From Cybersecurity Threats
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Cybersecurity is a major concern for businesses big and small. Every year brings a new record number of cyber attacks and by 2025, cybercrime is predicted (https://www.forbes.com/sites/chuckbrooks/2021/03/02/alarming-cybersecurity-stats——-what-you-need-to-know-for-2021/?sh=12158d1d58d3) to cost the global economy $10.5 trillion annually.
Despite these alarming statistics, many entrepreneurs fail to consider cybersecurity until they suffer a breach. And many of them will: 28% of data breaches in 2020 involved small businesses, according to a recent report (https://smallbiztrends.com/2020/05/small-business-data-breaches-2020.html).
Small businesses and startups may lack the resources of larger enterprises. However, there’s still a lot that new businesses can do to secure their data. These are the key cybersecurity measures every business should take.
Network Security for Small Businesses
Cybersecurity starts with securing your network. Network security prevents unauthorized users from accessing a business’s network. Businesses accomplish this using a combination of several technologies.
Firewalls use IP addresses to monitor incoming requests to a network. Open-access firewalls allow all users except those that are explicitly blocked, while closed-access firewalls block all traffic (https://www.hostpapa.com/blog/security/why-your-small-business-needs-a-firewall/) that isn’t expressly permitted. Closed-access firewalls are necessary to protect back-end data and cloud environments.
Many firewall tools also include antivirus protection. Antivirus software blocks malicious threats including viruses, malware, and ransomware from infecting your network.
An endpoint is any device that connects to a network, including servers, computers, smartphones, and Internet of Things devices. Every endpoint in a network represents a potential vulnerability (https://blog.avast.com/endpoint-protection-without-it-department). Endpoint protection secures individual endpoints using encryption, antivirus, email filtering, and other security elements.
Virtual private networks
Virtual private networks send encrypted data to a dedicated endpoint server. VPNs allow businesses to accommodate remote workers without weakening firewall configurations.
Network security is pointless without strong password management. That includes password-protecting WiFi networks, implementing a password policy, and restricting data access to only the necessary users. Many companies use password managers (https://www.leadershipgirl.com/four-tips-for-introducing-new-tech-to-your-company/) to enforce a strong password policy.
The Importance of Cybersecurity Education
The human element is the weakest link in any cybersecurity plan. According to research, careless or uninformed staff contribute to nearly half of all cybersecurity attacks. This is a particular concern for businesses with a bring-your-own-device policy.
With that in mind, it’s no surprise that staff training (https://www.kaspersky.com/blog/the-human-factor-in-it-security/) is a top priority for business managers, second only to upgrading IT security software. Cybersecurity training should cover topics including:
How to manage, classify, and store company data.
Why and how to update software and hardware, particularly antivirus software.
Password security best practices.
How to practice safe internet habits.
Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies.
Cybersecurity for remote workers, including when and how to use a VPN.
Physical security controls and clean desk policies.
How to spot malicious activity, including phishing scams, unknown links, unsolicited email attachments, spoofed domains, and malicious removable media.
What to do in the event of a cybersecurity incident.
Creating a Cybersecurity Response Plan
It’s important to train employees on how to respond to a cybersecurity event because research shows that uninformed employees are more likely to hide what happened. This allows breaches to carry on undetected, escalating the impact and cost of a cyber attack. Companies should establish a process by which employees can easily notify their manager, HR, and IT of security events.
Learning about a data breach is only the first step (https://blog.infoarmor.com/employers/how-to-create-an-employee-data-breach-response-plan-for-hr). Businesses also need a comprehensive cybersecurity recovery plan. A data breach response plan should include:
Assembling a data breach response team with representatives in IT, HR, legal, public relations, and executive leadership.
Gathering information on a cyberattack, including what caused it, when it occurred, and what types of data were compromised.
Notifying affected parties and establishing a process for addressing questions and concerns.
Tactics for recovering data quickly to minimize disruption to normal business operations and reduce the costs of a breach.
Backup and Recovery Practices to Reduce Downtime
This last step is especially important. Most business processes can only handle four hours or less downtime before causing significant damage. The longer a business’s systems are down, the less likely it is to recover from a data breach. Yet many small businesses store data backups at physical sites that take precious time to access.
Off-site physical backups are important, but they shouldn’t be a business’s first choice for disaster recovery. Not only are they less accessible than the alternatives, but physical backups are prone to missing critical updates and growing obsolete.
Rather than rely on a single backup approach, businesses should use both physical backups and cloud-based solutions (https://www.leadershipgirl.com/5-tips-to-adopt-a-cloud-native-strategy-to-maintain-business-success/). Cloud-based backup services automatically backup data and improve flexibility and response times in the event of a breach.
The most effective data recovery plans pair robust backups with automated, cross-platform data recovery. Data recovery services ensure data availability across all business environments so your business gets back online faster. It’s not enough to establish a recovery plan, however. Companies should routinely test data recovery processes to ensure they’re able to restore high-priority applications in accordance with objectives.
Do Businesses Need Cybersecurity Insurance?
Some companies choose to purchase cyber liability insurance to protect against the economic consequences of data breaches, but is cybersecurity insurance really a necessity for modern businesses?
Entrepreneurs should look to the numbers (https://www.fisherphillips.com/news-insights/employment-privacy-blog/cybersecurity-insurance-does-our-business-need-it.html) to answer this question: One study, for example, found that 20% of U.S. businesses that suffered a data breach spent over $50,000 and 7% spent more than $100,000 to resolve damages. If that’s not a cost a business can weather, cybersecurity insurance may be a wise investment.
A typical cybersecurity insurance plan covers expenses related to lost business revenue, data loss and recovery, legal expenses, call center services and compliance with data breach notification laws.
These benefits limit a business’s exposure to the economic threats of cybercrime. However, they can’t prevent the hit to a business’s reputation and relationships following a data breach. Even with insurance, businesses need a robust disaster response and recovery plan to get back online quickly.
No matter a company’s size, cybersecurity needs to be a key part of its business objectives. Without a proactive approach to cybersecurity, it’s only a matter of time before a business is impacted by a data breach — and for businesses without a plan, there’s often no bouncing back. As the threat of cybercrime grows greater by the year, make sure your business is protected and prepared.