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Cybersecurity for Small Businesses: Essential Steps to Securing Your Organization

Cybersecurity for small businesses is like a seatbelt - you hope you never need it, but you're glad it's there when things get bumpy.

In today's digital age, cybersecurity is no longer just a concern for large corporations. Small businesses are increasingly becoming targets for cyberattacks as they often lack robust security measures. In 2021, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) accounted for 43% of cyberattacks in the United States. The average impact of a data breach on organizations with fewer than 500 employees is $3.31 million.


Additionally, recent statistics show that small businesses accounted for 58% of all reported cyber attacks in 2020, and it can take months or even years for a business to recover (if possible at all). Companies with fewer than 100 employees are subjected to 350% more social engineering attacks, such as phishing, baiting, and pretexting, than larger corporations.


Why Small Businesses are the Target


Small businesses are becoming more frequent targets of cybercriminals due to several reasons. Small businesses often lack strong security measures and awareness of cybersecurity threats, which makes them more vulnerable to ransom demands. Shockingly, only 14% of small businesses have a formal cybersecurity plan. Additionally, small businesses tend to spend lesser on cybersecurity and training of their employees.


The Impact of Cyberattacks on Small Businesses


Small businesses are at a high risk of being targeted by cybercriminals, leading to serious consequences. In just 2021, 82% of ransomware attacks were against businesses with fewer than 1,000 employees. Apart from direct financial loss, cyberattacks can severely damage a business's reputation, erode customer trust, attract significant fines from enforcements and disrupt daily operations. In extreme cases, cyberattacks can even force small businesses to shut down forever.


Studies show that 60% of small businesses are out of commission within 6 months of a cyberattack. Interestingly, 69% of poll respondents are against visiting a firm that has experienced a data breach, and 29% would never visit that company again. In 2019, the average recovery time for a business after a cyberattack is 279 days. Additionally, the average cost of legal fees associated with a cyberattack hovers around $1000. However, they can add up quickly; for example, Home Depot was ordered to pay $15,300,000 in fees and expenses to lawyers who litigated a class action case against the organization.


Critical Steps to Protect Your Small Business


There are several things that small businesses can do to protect themselves from cyberattacks, such as:


Implement a Comprehensive Cybersecurity Plan


A comprehensive cybersecurity plan should include the following.

  • Risk assessment: Identify and assess your company's cybersecurity risks.

  • Policy development: Develop clear and concise cybersecurity policies that cover everything from employee training to password management.

  • Technical controls: Implement technical controls, such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and data encryption.

  • Incident response plan: Develop a plan for how to respond to cyberattacks. Define the actions and responsibilities of individuals and teams in case of an cyber emergency.


Educate and Train Employees


Employees are often the first line of defense against cyberattacks. It is important to educate employees about cybersecurity threats and how to protect themselves and the company. This can be done through regular training sessions, simulated phishing exercises, and awareness campaigns. A study of 1000 breaches found that 90% of data breaches could have been prevented with proper employee training.


Implement Strong Password Management Policies


Passwords are frequently exploited by cybercriminals to gain unauthorized access to systems and data. Shockingly, research reveals that over 80% of breaches related to hacking can be attributed to weak or stolen passwords. It is imperative to implement robust password management practices, such as imposing the use of strong passwords, regular password changes, and avoidance of reusing passwords across multiple accounts.


Keep Software(s) Up to Date


Exploiting software vulnerabilities is a common method for cybercriminals to gain access to systems. The majority of cyberattacks, exploit known software vulnerabilities. To prevent such attacks, it is essential to keep all softwares up to date, including operating systems, applications, and security software.


Back-Up Your Data


It's crucial to regularly back up data to ensure that you can restore it in case the worst, a cyberattack happens. Your backups should be safely stored offline in a secure location. Shockingly, a study conducted in 2021 revealed that only 34% of organizations have mandated basic data management techniques such as encrypt USB storage devices for protecting data on the move. Organisations can follow and implement the 3-2-1 data backup strategy.


The 3-2-1 Data Backup strategy
The 3-2-1 Data Backup strategy

Implement Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)


MFA enhances security by requiring a code from a device in addition to a password, potentially reducing unauthorized access by 99%.


How Multi Factor Authentication (MFA) works
How Multi Factor Authentication (MFA) works

Be Cautious About Opening Links and Attachments


Phishing is the cause of approximately 90% of data exposures. 83 percent of organizations reported phishing attacks in 2021, and they have the potential to escalate by 400% annually. Cybercriminals employ phishing emails and attachments to deceive people into clicking on malicious links or opening infected attachments. It is essential to be cautious before opening any links or attachments in emails, even if the sender seems familiar to you.

Secure Your Network


A study conducted in 2021 discovered that about 42% of businesses don't have a plan in place. It's essential to have a secure network to establish a robust cybersecurity posture. To achieve this, it's crucial to start implementation with basic network security measures such as using a firewall and restricting access to sensitive data.


Firwall and it's Working
Firwall and it's Working

Stay Informed about Current Threats


In today's world, cybercriminals are finding new ways to attack computer systems every day. 80% of companies have experienced at least one cloud security incident in the last year. 96% of organizations have experienced significant challenges when implementing their cloud strategy among which 2nd biggest concern was security. It is crucial to stay alert and informed about current threats so that necessary steps can be taken to safeguard your business.


Consider Cyber Insurance


It is crucial to protect your business from the financial losses caused by a cyberattack. A data breach can be very expensive, with an average cost of USD $4.45 million in the year 2023, a 15% increase over 3 years. Cyber insurance can help cover the costs of data breach notification, remediation, and legal fees.


Standards, Guidelines, Regulations, and Policies for Improving Cybersecurity Posture of Small Businesses


In addition to the essential steps outlined above, small businesses should also consider the following standards, guidelines, regulations, and policies.

  • NIST Cybersecurity Framework: The NIST Cybersecurity Framework is a set of guidelines that can help organizations of all sizes improve their cybersecurity posture.

  • ISO 27001: ISO 27001 is an international standard for information security management.

  • PCI DSS: PCI DSS is a set of standards that organizations must comply with if they process credit card payments.

  • State and local data breach laws: Many states and localities have data breach laws that require businesses to notify customers of data breaches.

and many more complaince frameworks can be considered depending on the businesses needs.


Conclusion


Cybersecurity is a constantly evolving challenge that small businesses cannot afford to ignore. By following the essential steps outlined above, small businesses can significantly reduce their risk of a cyber attack.


References:

 

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