Updated: Feb 16
Cyberattacks have not only become a common occurrence; they have also become worse as the nature of these threats have evolved over time. At the same time, the damage these cyberattacks are costing on their victims have grown as well. In 2020 alone, the global average cost of a data breach was $3.86 million, and it's likely to increase in the foreseeable future.
Small businesses are especially vulnerable to these attacks. A recent US Small Business Administration (SBA) survey revealed that 88% of small-business owners feel vulnerable to cyberattacks. This is because small businesses possess information that cybercriminals want, such as customer data, finances, and other sensitive data.
At the same time, many small businesses do not have the security infrastructure of larger businesses, primarily because they do not have the resources or capabilities to set up professional IT solutions or hire personnel to help secure their network. They also have limited time available to focus on their cybersecurity and even if they do have such time, they would have no idea where to begin.
That does not mean small businesses do not have a chance against cybercriminals trying to compromise their system. Small businesses can fight back by following these four tips.
1. Educate Yourself
When it comes to cybersecurity, awareness should begin with the leaders in the organization. Management should especially be made aware of the different cyber threats that exist and must learn how to avoid falling into these threats. In addition, IT leaders must periodically check how their networks can withstand possible cyberattacks, as well as the measures in place to immediately address such attacks and immediately remedy the situation.
2. Adopt Strong Policies and Best Practices
It is crucial to set in place basic cybersecurity practices and policies that every person in the organization must adhere to. It is also important that these policies are compliant with any applicable governmental laws or standards (such as the New York SHIELD Act). Companies are considered compliant if they implement reasonable administrative, physical, and technical safeguards.
3. Educate and Train Employees
Employees are one of the leading causes of data breaches for small businesses as they often have little to no knowledge of cybersecurity breaches, especially if such breaches are designed to fool ordinary users. Therefore, it is critical for employees to learn the basic best practices when using the internet, such as how to spot a phishing email, using good browsing behaviors, avoiding suspicious downloads, creating strong passwords, and protecting sensitive customer and vendor information. More importantly, it should not be just a one-time event but one that should be done at least once or twice a year so users will be more prepared to catch possible security breaches and prevent them from inflicting greater damage to the business.
4. Invest in Cybersecurity Tools
While there is no substitute for dedicated IT support, it helps that a business invests in reliable cybersecurity software for greater protection. Effective cybersecurity software can immediately detect and block possible threats like viruses, malware, spyware, ransomware, and phishing scams. They are also regularly updated, so the system remains protected in the midst of future cybersecurity threats.
In addition, there are also free resources and tools available that businesses can use to improve their cybersecurity. These include the cybersecurity planning tool from the Federal Communications Commission that can help businesses build a strategy based on unique business needs, as well as the Cyber Resilience Review from the Department of Homeland Security's also offers a non-technical assessment to evaluate operational resilience and cybersecurity practices.
Cyberattacks will continue to pose a threat to small and medium businesses. But as long as the business takes these necessary defensive steps at all times, businesses can be assured that their network and especially the data contained there are less vulnerable and have a fighting chance to keep cybercriminals at bay.