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5 Must-Have Cybersecurity Strategies for Small Businessesby@ASmith
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5 Must-Have Cybersecurity Strategies for Small Businesses

by Aaron SmithMarch 28th, 2023
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Small businesses are a prime target for cybercrime. SMBs can take several steps to proactively prevent falling victim to cyber crime. Standardize IT practices to reduce the threat of error or misassumptions. Enabling multi-factor authentication in applications and networks bolsters the security infrastructure.
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Cyber threats are continuously evolving to increase the probability of damage to the targeted organization, and maximize the opportunity for cybercriminals to get paid. Given the lack of resources and the minimal budget small businesses have for their IT departments, it makes them a prime target for cybercrime.



However, this does not mean nothing can be done and SMBs (small businesses) should merely be considered sitting ducks. Alternatively, there are several steps organizations can take to proactively prevent falling victim to cybercrime.


1. Standardize IT Practices

Statista.com


Standardization across all IT practices reduces the threat of error or misassumptions. It will provide certainty that best practices are indeed being implemented.


A few examples of standardizing IT practices include:

  • Enable browser controls to limit the sites available to staff members while connected to the company network. This will reduce the likelihood of malicious software found on questionable sites having access to the corporate network or company files.


  • Require staff members to change their passwords quarterly. There are often software settings that can prompt the user to reset their password. By enabling these settings, if a password is used across multiple platforms or is exposed to a breach, the risk of compromise to the company network is mitigated.


  • Establish an onboarding and offboarding protocol for staff members. This includes standardizing access credentials by creating access roles such as an HR role, marketing role, IT role, etc. which only gives access to software and platforms needed to complete specific job duties. Furthermore, post-employment, the organization should have protocols in place to remove access credentials for the departing staff member.


  • Implement controls to reduce the threat of IoT devices connecting to the network. This may include personal laptops, employee phones or smartwatches, and tablets. To limit the threat of these devices connecting to the network, organizations can specify which devices can be authenticated for corporate access.


  • Ensure files are being backed up accurately and on time. Setting this process up automatically can help a business restore its networks if a malware attack does take place. Again, automating this process eases the workload for the already limited IT staff; however, it is important to always spot-check these backup systems to ensure they are updated and accurate.


    2. Timely Updates

    Some of the biggest cyber attacks were a result of outdated software and operating systems. To close the security gaps left by outdated programs, employees must be sure they are completing updates as timely as possible. One of the issues organizations face with expediting this process is the uncertainty of how the update may impact the organization’s network. When an update is available, it is important to test the update before rolling it out company-wide. If proper testing is not done, and an issue results – it may take far longer to remediate than if testing was done initially to identify and resolve any issues that may result.

    3. Multi-Factor Authentication

    Enabling multi-factor authentication in the applications and networks that already possess the capability, bolsters the security infrastructure substantially. By doing so, the employee accessing the information will have to provide multiple credentials to gain access. This may be a password, followed by an SMS verification code, or biometric scanning coupled with a pin code. The verification methods can be tailored to what is most secure, and also provide heightened security for the organization as a whole. If specific programs do not already have two-factor or multi-factor authentication, there are software programs available that can be used on the company network to achieve this heightened layer of security.

    4. Application Allowlisting & AI

    Application allowlisting, formally known as application whitelisting, takes an altogether different approach to cybersecurity. When running programs within your network, most cybersecurity software solutions only block what is known to be bad. This worked in the ‘90s when the list of known bad programs was not growing by the second. Today, this approach is not feasible and is rather archaic.


    To keep up with modern cyber threats organizations should adopt application allow listing, which only permits tested and proven secure programs to execute. Some organizations utilize machine learning in cyber security to also best identify what is secure and can run within their environment. Given the continued advancements within the technological realm, AI or machine learning are also valid approaches to advanced security – and also can be found in many allowlisting solutions today.

    5. Employee Cybersecurity Training

    As a business owner, empowering employees through cybersecurity training is likely one of the best investments you can make. Most security breaches are a direct result of human error. By training staff members on the red flags of cyber threats, they can properly identify potential cybercrime. This will reduce the likelihood of them falling victim to the various cyber threats outlined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, like phishing or business email compromise (BEC) attacks, malicious downloads, ransomware, and spyware. Furthermore, cybersecurity training will enhance the staff member’s awareness of online safety.

    Implementation

    According to the US National Cyber Security Alliance, 60% of small businesses are unable to rebound after a cyber attack. Studies show these businesses closing their doors for good, within six months of being hit with a cyber attack. Given over 95% of businesses operating in the US are small businesses, the threat of cybercrime against these organizations is existential. It is imperative small businesses begin focusing on prevention and begin implementing cybersecurity best practices today.


    Many of the practices outlined are simple behavior changes and processes that can be set up through automation. However, if you do choose to automate any process, always be sure to check in to ensure it is functioning as it should. For instance, backup files are vital for an organization if hardware fails or a cyber attack infiltrates the network. If the process isn’t all-encompassing or is failing sporadically, the backups the organization will desperately need will not be accurate.


    For the items that may require some financial backing, like new cybersecurity software or employee training, always be sure to do your research. Disregard the marketing buzzwords and take a deep dive into what training and solution are best for your specific organization’s needs. To do this, you may want to look at the integration process, the total cost of investment, and long-term support services.