Cybersecurity 101: How to Assure SME’s Security?
By Daniel Markuson
Leaks drive away clients, plus companies end up paying millions in fines and compensations. So where should businesses start with cybersecurity?According to research done by Verizon in 2019, about 43% of cyber attacks target SMEs (small and medium enterprises).
Cybercriminals target SMEs the most
Despite such huge numbers, the media focuses only on the big hacking scandals. That’s why small company owners tend to think only of major companies with vast amounts of valuable data as the primary targets.
As a consequence, SMEs often do not take the most basic steps to protect their digital resources. Not only don’t they invest in security personnel and technology, but also tend to not have enough general knowledge about safety online, such as password security. Such lack of attention to cybersecurity makes small companies easy to hack.
Due to their size, most of these companies underestimate their importance. Even if they don’t have vast amounts of data, these businesses have ties to larger enterprises. This way, hackers can access loads of user details. It can be anything from financial data that can be used for fraud to personal information valuable for identity theft.
Moreover, SMEs take more time to recover after cyberattacks. According to a study conducted by the Ponemon Institute, if an organization suffers from a data breach, the costs may carry over for years. For example, on average, 67% of the costs occur in the first year, but the financial impact may last for two years and even more. Thus, a cyberattack might be fatal to a small company.
How to secure your business?
Cybersecurity isn’t and shouldn’t be a luxury. Even if your company has no resources to invest in security personnel or individual strategies, you can still reduce the risks. With these 6 simple tips, you’ll be able to protect your business from cyberthreats:
1. Educate your team members
According to Verizon, insider caused about 34% of breaches. Such a significant percentage means a big lack of cyber knowledge. Every employee must develop a secure mindset, because individual mistakes end up affecting everyone on the team.
Invite a cybersecurity expert to host training for your team. If you don’t have the resources for that, your coworkers must learn this by heart: never download attachments or click links from unknown sources. Try updating them about the latest data breaches or recently detected technological bugs. Discuss social engineering tactics and phishing attacks as well. You can use an online cybersecurity test to understand how much they know about digital security.
2. Secure all your smart devices
Can you count all the devices connected to the internet in your office? Cybersecurity is not limited to smartphones, tablets, or computers used by employees. Almost any connected gadget can get hacked. But only 26% of organizations perform a security assessment of IoT devices, according to a report by Wipro.
If you don’t want to become part of the statistics, you need an accurate list of all work-related inventory and accounts. It’s necessary to change all default passwords of every device in the office. Also, each employee must have their credentials with an assigned role for each account used. Limit admin privileges, especially for accounts that have access to the most important documents.
3. Secure all your data
Hackers may access all the files on your system and track your activity online. They can do so if you’re connected to an unsecured network. Thus, both you and your teammates must avoid free Wi-Fi in public spaces — especially when accessing work-related material. Even if you all work at an office hub, your data might be unsafe.
But sometimes there are no alternatives besides connecting to unsecured networks. In such cases, you can still restrict unauthorized access by encrypting your data. That makes it more difficult for third parties to exploit or hijack information. A reliable business VPN service provider can encrypt the online traffic of all your employees. It ensures that your digital resources are safe when the staff needs to access them. It’s also a great solution when working remotely from home or while traveling abroad.
4. Always update your devices
From time to time, we all skip updates. Though sometimes they may seem to be intrusive or time-consuming, it’s important to keep all your devices up to date. If not, hackers will be able to access both your team’s and your clients’ information.
Updates can fix security vulnerabilities and system bugs, which may otherwise cause safety issues. Also, they can improve your experience using electronic devices or apps. So, computers, tablets, smartphones, and other appliances must always be updated. The same goes for software, too. Make sure to renew your firewall and antivirus programs as well. That will keep your devices secure and protect them from the latest viruses.
5. Do backups
Backups protect you not only from accidental losses of crucial files but also from ransomware attacks. Hackers can infect your computer with a virus, which could encrypt your data and restrict any access. Then they usually request to pay a ransom to decrypt it. If that’s not something you ever want to deal with, you must back up your data. Do this in a secure location – both offsite and offline. For small businesses, external hard drives might be enough. For more safety guarantees, consider paid backup security services.
Also, you can get a file encryption tool that allows you to keep work-related files both on the cloud and your computer. Thus, it allows you to share encrypted content with your coworkers, as well. That means only those with permission can access the documents. You can lock up all sensitive data – from photos and financial documents to backups and anything else. Accessing these files requires a master key, and nobody should own it besides you.
6. Create strong passwords
When you have so many accounts — both work-related and personal — you may struggle to create new and secure passwords. Usually, you use the same ones over and over. Or you come up with something super easy to remember and way too simple to guess. But by doing so, you help hackers out. Without effort, they can use your account details to access information associated with your workplace.
To avoid this, use unique passwords for different accounts or devices. Make sure they are strong and don’t forget to change them every three months. Also, your company must have a strict password policy and ensure that all employees follow it. For example, agree on using two-step verification when available. Password managing apps, like 1Password or NordPass, are great tools as well. With such managers, it’s much easier to make hard-to-crack passwords without ever forgetting them.