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Cybersecurity Basics for Small Businesses 

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The statistics around cyberattacks on small businesses are worrying. According to a survey, 42% of small businesses experienced a cyber attack in 2020-2021. A January 2020 study showed that 43% of SMBs in the US and UK lack a cybersecurity defense plan. Coincidence? Likely not. 

In spite of awareness around cybersecurity increasing, it is clear that small businesses lack a clear strategy for securing their systems against the threat landscape. This makes them an easy target for cyber criminals. Going by the statistics, cyber criminals are fully exploiting this vulnerability. 

If small businesses think that investing in cybersecurity is not a priority due to budget constraints, consider this: The average cost of a data breach for small and medium businesses is $2.98 million. Apart from the obvious financial implications, a cyber-attack can also bring your critical systems to a standstill, tarnish your brand image, lead to stolen client data, and much more. 

Here are some strategies and best practices that small businesses can incorporate to protect their businesses from the fast-evolving cyber threat landscape. 

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8 First Steps to Cybersecurity for Small Businesses 

  1. Use Secure and Strong Passwords – Weak passwords and using the same password for multiple accesses are the two very common and very serious mistakes when it comes to cybersecurity. Research from GoodFirms shows that 30% of online users reported a data breach due to poor password practices. Always use strong passwords and change them regularly. Never use the same password for all your accounts. And avoid using security questions that can easily be guessed. Using two-factor authentication is also a good idea to strengthen your login credentials. This basic hygiene can go a long way in making sure your systems are secure. 
  2. Educate Employees on Cybersecurity – Many attacks are engineered through unsuspecting employees via phishing or password breaches. A Stanford University report indicates that nearly 88% of all data breaches are due to human error. When trained properly, your employees can become your first line of defense against cyberattacks. Regular training that emphasizes best practices such as secure passwords, the importance of data security, and guidelines around software usage can be immensely helpful in creating an aware workforce. When employees are more aware, they are also more likely to report any suspicious activity helping you detect cyber threats early. 
  3. Keep Software Updated  – Too many businesses ignore the need to keep their software updated. As the security threats change, software programmers release security patches as part of the updates. When you fail to install these updates, you are creating vulnerabilities that could have been easily avoided.  
  4. Factor in the Devices and Networks Being Used – With the rise of remote working and employees working from home, cybersecurity is at a greater risk. Ensuring that all users that have at least some access to business data are following security best practices becomes critical. For remote employees, their home systems also need to be protected by a firewall. Also, since many users access systems from mobile devices, too, mobile security best practices also need to be considered and implemented. Password protected devices, security apps, and reporting stolen devices immediately are some of the basic requirements when sensitive business information is accessed on mobile devices.  
  5. Limit Data Access – Unnecessary exposure of information should be avoided by using role-based access to data. This ensures that only a limited number of users have access to critical data, thereby reducing the chances of compromising the data. 
  6. Invest in Relevant Security Products for your Business – Getting security products such as anti-virus, secondary anti-ransomware, and firewall protection for your system are security best practices that shouldn’t be ignored. Most contemporary antivirus programs integrate firewall and malware protection for comprehensive cybersecurity. Keep these security programs updated and make sure new patches are duly installed to get the most out of your investment in these products. 
  7. Have a Data Backup Plan – Regular backups of all important data ensure that disaster recovery is quick, in case there is a security breach. Go for automatic backups wherever possible and schedule regular backups for other systems. The data backups can be stored offline to reduce the risk of encryption. They can also be stored on the cloud. Taking multiple backups can help you significantly reduce data losses in the event of a cyberattack. It can also help you restart business critical systems faster after an attack.  
  8. Go for Cybersecurity Insurance – If your business is at risk of heavy financial losses in the event of a cyberattack, it makes sense to go for cybersecurity insurance. A good insurance plan will cover financial implications including the cost of informing stakeholders, the cost of the investigation into the attack, and managing any legal settlements.  

 Cybersecurity Is Critical for Businesses of All Sizes 

From taking stock of the possible system vulnerabilities to keeping an eye out for the evolving security threats, small business owners need to be more involved and invested in cybersecurity practices.  

Of course, choosing an IT services partner that takes the responsibility for cybersecurity is an easy option. However, cybersecurity is more than just a set of activities, most of which you can outsource to a professional agency. It is a culture that needs to be built by creating more awareness among all stakeholders – not just the IT department. 

Now, more than ever, small business owners need to view cybersecurity as a critical business priority. Cyber threats are evolving, but so are the solutions to ward off these attacks. Cybersecurity is a largely proactive strategy. With a modest investment and the right approach, you can effectively protect your business systems from cyberattacks. 

About The Author

CISSP - Certified Information Systems Security Professional
CEH - Certified Ethical Hacker
CISM - Certified Information Security Manager

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