Small businesses are just as likely to fall victim to cyberattacks as large businesses. In fact, the probability of hackers targeting small businesses is higher due to inadequate security controls.

Limited budgets and manpower, as well as tight timelines, often force small businesses to backburner their cybersecurity plans. What they fail to realize is that the costs of a cyberattack—

  • ransom payments,
  • customer trust erosion, and
  • even closure of the business—

are much higher than what it takes to implement an effective cybersecurity plan in the first place.

Small businesses need to invest time and money in building a strong cybersecurity plan that includes both technology improvements as well as security awareness training for employees to detect and mitigate risks early and save unnecessary costs in fines and ransom payments.

Goal setting is the first step in building a strong cybersecurity plan

As with any business strategy, the first step toward building a successful cybersecurity plan is identifying the security goals your business wants to achieve.

These goals could include:

  • storing your data more securely,
  • ensuring that your email communication is not interceptable,
  • recovering more quickly from system outages or blackouts caused by disasters, or determining how secure your website is and taking remedial measures.

You should discuss these goals, and brainstorm how you can achieve them, with your IT team, your de facto IT manager, or an external security consultant. A successful cybersecurity plan for achieving these goals will include steps to implement security technology solutions as well as to improve security awareness among employees.

Software solutions automate and strengthen your cyber defense

Installing security solutions, such as antivirus software, is one of the first steps that many small businesses take in their approach to cybersecurity. Security technology solutions automate the process of monitoring your IT network for anomalies, scanning documents for malware, updating operating systems and applications, and quarantining or removing malicious files.

The security software landscape today offers many integrated and niche products that cover network, application, infrastructure, and internet of things (IoT) security. This wide array of available security products can make it challenging to choose the most essential tools for your business.

The technology solutions discussed below are those that are most commonly needed for small businesses that want to build a strong cybersecurity foundation.

  • Access controls. Access management tools use controls such as authentication, authorization, passwords, and biometrics to ensure that only the right people have access to company data.
  • Backup software. Backup solutions store a copy of your data that can be recovered and worked on in the event of data loss or a system outage.
  • Encryption. Encryption tools encode information to ensure that only authorized persons can access/open it. It is important to encrypt data while in transit to reduce data theft losses.
  • Endpoint protection. Endpoint protection software safeguards desktop devices, servers, and mobile devices from getting hacked using anti-malware, data loss prevention, and device control features. IoT security capabilities are also included in advanced endpoint security solutions.
  • Network security. Network security solutions monitor and control access to your IT network. Firewalls, antivirus tools, and intrusion detection systems are the main components. Advanced solutions also offer machine learning capabilities to detect anomalies and threats.
  • Patch management. Patch management tools automate installing updates on existing applications to ensure that known security loopholes are plugged and the latest features added.

If budget constraints are keeping you from implementing cybersecurity solutions, there are many free and freemium versions of security software for data backup, anti-malware, and network security that you can explore.

Security awareness training reduces social engineering attacks like phishing

Educating your employees about the consequences of cyberattacks and how they can remain safe is as crucial as deploying security software. It also helps you build a security-driven culture where employees proactively adopt safe cybersecurity practices such as using strong passwords, not sharing confidential data, and installing updates on time.

Here are some components you should institute into your security awareness program:

  • Security awareness training plan. Prepare an ongoing security awareness training plan with computer-based awareness programs, regular email tips, simulated phishing exercises, and red team versus blue team exercises (where employees are divided into two teams to identify vulnerabilities and improve defenses).
  • Data privacy policies. Consult with cybersecurity legal experts and prepare data privacy and acceptable use policies. Ensure that your employees are aware of it, as well as put it to practice every day.

A strong security foundation protects businesses against diverse cyberattacks

The nature of cyber threats will constantly change with time and advancements in technology, but the fundamentals of a strong security structure—network monitoring, data protection, endpoint security—remain the same.

In addition, scaling up your security structure and adding more advanced capabilities, such as IoT security, is easier if you already have a well-defined cybersecurity plan and a strong IT security foundation in place.

Revisit your cybersecurity plan at least once a year and modify it to reflect the changing threat landscape and regulatory compliance requirements. A well-defined, well-executed, and up-to-date cybersecurity plan will go a long way toward securing your business, making it more difficult for hackers to target and penetrate your systems.

Authored by: Gitanjali Maria

Gitanjali Maria is an analyst at GetApp covering cybersecurity, IT management, and data analytics topics. She writes on various themes including cybersecurity awareness, security assessments, remote asset monitoring, business continuity strategies, and related topics.