Protect your assets with an integrated cyber risk management strategy.
We’re constantly hearing news about security breaches at major corporations. As a result, many small business owners think small business cybersecurity is a big issue only for corporate giants. They may assume their businesses aren’t important enough to attract the attention of cyber criminals. The fact is, online criminals can as readily attack a small business as a large one, and there are reasons they might prefer to go after the little guys.
Hackers can use a small business to get through the door into a bigger company. Often small businesses have vendor relationships with larger ones and are required to share data. And small organizations tend to be more vulnerable because few can afford a dedicated security department. The owner or some other overworked person has to double as the cybersecurity expert. There’s less likely to be a network security prevention methodology for a small to medium-sized business.
Cyber attacks on small businesses are a real and serious threat, the same way attacks on the big players are. What should a small business do? As it turns out, considerations for cybersecurity for small businesses aren’t much different from cybersecurity tips for large corporations.
What are cyber criminals after when they go after small businesses? Targets include personal data such as social security and credit card numbers, medical records, and bank information. They can stage denial of service attacks. They might try to use small IT departments as backdoors into larger ones. They can maliciously encrypt small business data and demand ransom to unencrypt it.
Small business cybersecurity starts with a strategy and continues with technology leveraged to implement that strategy. Businesses of all sizes need to secure their networks, conduct threat analysis, and constantly scan for threats. It’s imperative for small businesses to actively defend themselves against cyber attacks, not only for their own safety but also for the well-being of their customers and partners.
Now that you know the details of cyber coverage, it is important to talk about your options when looking at potential cyber insurance companies. Most major carriers that you would already trust for your home, auto, or commercial insurance also offer some form of cyber liability policy. In fact, when it comes to cyber insurance market share, these are often the companies that have the biggest piece of the pie.
Large carriers aren’t the only option, however, as there are a plethora of independent carriers out there ready and willing to meet your needs. The cyber insurance market is quite varied, and finding the right solution for your situation isn’t as difficult as you might think.
Furthermore, there are also software companies that can help you not only find your ideal cyber insurance carrier, but also assess your existing systems to help find vulnerabilities that you might not have considered. This is a great option if you haven’t fully explored your risk level or you do not know the various scenarios that could happen during a breach.
Is it a better idea to purchase a separate policy than to rely on your typical business liability policy to carry you through? Often, but not always. It will generally depend on your exact needs and situation, such as the industry you are in and the level of risk your company presents and can tolerate.
There are actually four categories of cyber and privacy insurance to consider: data breaches, denial of service events, viruses, and other related incidents. Any policy you purchase should cover these topics extensively. In general, cyber insurance agents are there to help you analyze your risk and determine the best level of coverage for your needs by asking in-depth questions about your current environment.
There are a number of methods for countering cybersecurity threats for small businesses. Among the most important small business cybersecurity solutions is the implementation of security policies and procedures.
Critical practices include a set of guidelines that all employees must adhere to, in order to achieve consistency and establish accountability if an attack occurs. Employee passwords must be strong and not reused across multiple systems. Admin passwords need to be changed from the defaults. Bring your own device (BYOD) policies must be established and enforced. Employees must be educated to recognize and thwart phishing attempts. Sensitive data needs to be encrypted, security patches should be applied regularly, and networks must be protected by a firewall.
Business owners who are not confident in their ability to recognize and mitigate cyber threats should consider engaging a cybersecurity business to provide small business cybersecurity consulting. To help in understanding some of the threats and how to combat them, the Department of Homeland Security offers a type of cybersecurity consultancy in the form of DHS small business cybersecurity guidelines.
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Basic security considerations for a small business must take into account what kind of cybersecurity threats to business exist. Small business cyber attack examples include advanced persistent threats (APTs), which gain access to a network to harvest data over a long period of time. There are also malware attacks and phishing. Insider attacks can be deliberate or come from negligence. Denial of service (DoS) is one of the oldest attack types but still among the most common. Encrypting data for ransom is a favorite of cyber criminals.
One of the most important cybersecurity measures for businesses is to document policies and procedures for small business cybersecurity administration. Although a lot of a small business’s policies are distributed by word of mouth or implicitly understood, this is one area where it pays to write things down. Many cyber attacks can be prevented by educated employees who engage in good password practices, who recognize phishing, and who properly use BYOD.
One of the keys to small business internet security and small business network security is enforcing sound login practices such as multi-factor authentication. A simple and effective form of multi-factor is requiring that access to critical systems must include the reentry of a code sent to an employee’s cell phone.
Even small businesses that don’t have employees dedicated to cybersecurity jobs can institute basic techniques to protect their critical data and computer assets. These include encrypting databases, regularly backing up all data, installing anti-malware software, and installing firewalls. This might include not only an external firewall but the additional protection of an internal firewall. Don’t forget that employees who work from home are part of the network. Good business internet security demands firewalls for home systems as well.
It’s not too difficult to find a cybersecurity planning guide or even a free cybersecurity policy template. You can engage a cybersecurity consultant to provide you with a small business security plan template, or you can implement policies from your own small business cybersecurity checklist. However you do it, every small business cybersecurity plan needs to take into account the following considerations.
Employee education needs to be at the top of your cybersecurity checklist. This includes password best practices and email security, especially recognition of phishing attempts. Employees should be able to spot common cyber attack attempts and must understand and avoid negligent practices that can give bad actors a foot in the door.
Every small business cybersecurity plan template needs to address data. A data security policy must ensure that no more data is collected than is needed, that all vital data is encrypted, and that data is destroyed when it’s no longer required. There must be an information security policy for small business that classifies data by sensitivity and access requirements. Retention and encryption policies need to reflect this classification.
Monitoring is an integral part of the cybersecurity policy template for small business. This includes tracking account creation, account logins, and access to cloud services for any unusual or suspicious activity. It also requires the establishment of auditing procedures. A business needs to regularly examine activities all across its internal networks such as access to file servers and databases.
Small businesses are sometimes lax about who can be trusted. Their bias should be toward zero trust. All data access should be on a “need to know” basis. Access privileges need to be regularly reviewed to ensure no one can see or change what they shouldn’t. Access should be based on defined groups rather than granted to individuals.
The right tools must be in place. This includes backup/restore and encryption tools. It encompasses firewalls and possibly VPN tunnels to your work-at-home employees. It includes monitoring tools and auditing tools.
In many cases, a business owner can find a small business cybersecurity plan example and put that plan into effect. However, given the prevalence of cyber attacks on small businesses, the cost of these attacks, and the unpreparedness of most small businesses to deal with the threat, it might be wise to engage a cybersecurity consultant to provide and implement a cybersecurity plan template.