8 cost-effective and critical cybersecurity tips for startups
By Bryan Lewis
Cybersecurity breaches are a major challenge for companies of all sizes. But when it comes to startups, even one cyber breach can destroy the entire operation. Cybersecurity attacks happen every day to businesses around the world. However, most of the news stories we hear on this topic only cover the attacks targeting large, international organizations. Sadly, this has led many new entrepreneurs to overlook how common cyber attacks are on small businesses, including startups.
Fortunately, the cost of securing a startup is not as expensive as most people will have you believe. To help you get started with this daunting task, we have made a list of cost-effective and critical security tips for your startup or small business.
Be proactive, not reactive
Before you start handling important data, such as employee and customer information, it is important that you have a system in place that protects this data. This system must be constantly monitored and updated to respond to threats, vulnerabilities, and new technology. If you wait to be attacked, you will waste precious time and money that could have been spent growing your business. Additionally, if your employees or clients are affected in an attack, such as their personal information is stolen, you may never be able to recover your business’ reputation. A stitch in time saves nine.
Don’t rely on just anti-virus software
Startups, especially those outside of the tech industry, often believe that using anti-virus software is sufficient to protect them from cyber attacks.
Now it must be stated that having an anti-virus software is helpful; but the free ones don’t provide as much protection as you may think. As such, make sure you invest in a trustworthy source; otherwise you might end up downloading software designed by hackers and other cyber criminals with malicious intent. Additionally, there are many ways hackers can gain access to your network, so anti-virus software must be but one of many practices you adopt to protect yourself. Layered protection is key. Look into products such as Malwarebytes Anti-Malware as well.
Watch out for third-party tools
Third-party tools are one of the most common ways hackers infiltrate a system to steal information. When it comes to startups and other small businesses, downloading free tools on company devices may sound like a great way to limit spending. However, some of these tools are not secure, and can even be created by hackers to gain access to your network. As such, make sure you are using reputable tools for your tasks, even if it’s for smaller tasks, like scheduling social media posts. Research everything before downloading or purchasing. The extra security of knowing your tool is secure is worth the price if you want to protect your data. It’s also a good idea to make a list of approved tools so employees know what’s safe and what isn’t.
Adopt a strict password practice
Did you know the most common password for the past seven years has been “123456”? So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that passwords have become a soft spot through which most cyber criminals gain undue access and launch disastrous attacks. Create company wide rules to govern passwords, such as changing passwords for all logins monthly, using a password generator to create a complex password, and using a password management tool, such as 1Password and Dashlane.
Invest in cybersecurity professionals
The world of cybersecurity is expanding at a rapid rate. We are learning of new threats and ways to respond to them every day. If you’re trying to run and expand a business, staying up to date on your cybersecurity can be impossible. Which is why investing in professional cybersecurity services is a must. One of these providers is SourcetekIT, a North American cybersecurity firm that has the only Government-certified Security Operations Center (SOC) in Canada. This service delivers a comprehensive and holistic approach to risk management, including quick response to threat detection and even employee training. Investing in services like these are especially important when startups begin to experience rapid growth.
No data is useless
A common mistake many companies often make is adjudging some data as useful and others as unnecessary. No data is useless; any piece of information that gets into the wrong hands can become a gateway for the company’s privacy to be violated. Minor details like the phone numbers of unresponsive leads or customer contact information can pose a significant threat if sent to the wrong hands. Thus, all data must receive the same amount of importance when developing a cybersecurity plan.
Minimize human error
Human error can be as simple as a member of staff carelessly giving away company information to a stranger or sending that vital information to the wrong hands by accessing information on unsecured WiFi networks. Surprisingly, human errors similar to these are one of the biggest causes of breaches. So, in order to protect your startup, you must educate yourself and others on what constitutes unsafe behavior. Also, it is important to know what suspicious behavior looks like, such as scam emails. When you know what to look for or avoid, your network will be less vulnerable to attack. Although these errors are often unintentional, they are known to cost companies a lot in damages settlement, and they must be minimized.
Opt for cloud computing
Businesses are increasingly replacing internal systems for cloud-based solutions. This is a great practice for startups to get on board with, as cloud-based has many additional benefits that startups and other small businesses typically cannot afford with an internal system. These include higher standards such as multi-factor authentication and physical security, and less room for error as all data is stored online so that if a device is misplaced, the data can be retrieved. There are many cloud stations like Salesforce that ensure your data is protected with maximum security.