Cybercrime is continuously in the news today with terms like “data breach” and “denial-of-service attack” peppering headlines. But what about cybersecurity? “Cybersecurity” refers to the preventative measures you should be taking to protect your business from cybercrime. And while you may trust that your IT team is paying attention and keeping your network safe from threats, did you know that YOU, the business owner or manager, should be just as vigilant? Promoting a strong cybersecurity culture among all employees is also vital. Cybersecurity is now more than just an IT issue – it’s a whole business concern – especially for the small to medium-sized businesses that are our focus here at Antisyn.
You may already be aware that lax security around your network can put your entire business in harm’s way, but many business owners don’t know what’s at risk. From becoming a victim of data or monetary theft to incurring fines from credit card issuers, your business has much to lose in the event of a security breach. Even if you do not suffer direct financial losses, your business’s reputation can be irrevocably damaged as customer trust is betrayed. (Consider Facebook as a timely, grand-scale example of lost customer trust.)
Additionally, if you have been the victim of a hack once, you should not assume you’ve done your time; the unfortunate truth is that your business could be regularly under attack. In fact, you may have already been a victim of a cyberattack and not even realized it. That’s a scary thought, but it happens every day as cybercriminals throughout the world have quietly turned their attention to unsuspecting smaller businesses. Moreover, just because most of your client base is local to your geographic area does not mean that you won’t be a target of hackers from halfway around the globe.
Luckily, the right cybersecurity solutions can protect your business from harm. And, implementing these protective measures does not have to require a significant time commitment on your part once you’ve got the right IT partner on your side.
How to Address Cybersecurity in Your Business
As more essential functions have moved online in recent years, the amount of data that’s now connected to the wider world has exploded. In the past, cybersecurity for your business perhaps meant not much more than a robust firewall installed on your network and antivirus software installed on individual computers, and that was enough to keep hackers out. In fact, you probably have these cybersecurity measures in place already, which is excellent, but if they are not actively monitored or updated regularly, they are doing little to protect you.
Today, due to the rising sophistication of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, hacks can be deployed without actual hackers having to lift a finger on their keyboards, which means they can attack 24/7. And, the threats are constantly evolving and changing, as well, which has made cybersecurity a difficult job. No cybersecurity solution today is “set it and forget it” as it may have been several years ago. You need protection that counters the never-ending threats every time.
The key word in considering cybersecurity today is “active.” Your tools need to be just as responsive as the threats, and your employees also need useful, up-to-date training that promotes active awareness of the dangers coming across their screens. From knowing how to recognize email spoofs and phishing attempts to learning how to react if a hack is suspected, every member of your team absolutely must be part of the cybersecurity solution. Development of an effective strategy that’s easy for people to work with is also crucial. Otherwise, employees will feel overburdened and may ignore their training.
You Need a Cybersecurity Strategy
The only way you can be sure your business is properly protected is to develop an effective cybersecurity strategy that fits the unique needs of YOUR business. A significant first step in developing this strategy is knowing who is already on your side, protecting your technology assets. Perform a basic assessment of your current cybersecurity protocols by talking with your IT team about the tools and technology they’re employing today. You don’t have to have a deep IT background to understand how your current protections are already working, so don’t worry!
If you do not have an in-house IT team, but contract out to a consultant or company who is not easy to reach when you have questions or concerns, it may be time to reassess your relationship with this partner. You should not have to figure out cybersecurity solutions or your strategy on your own. Since your basic cybersecurity assessment will serve as the roadmap for any strategic improvement plan you develop, having a qualified expert working with you side-by-side is a smart move. If you do not have that expertise available to you today, properly evaluating IT consultants should be an immediate priority.
Once you’ve got a responsive IT partner working for you, they will be able to help you with the following key items as you begin to outline your strategy:
- Know what’s connected to your network. You may be surprised at the number of devices and systems that are connected to your business’s network. It is critical to identify each connection and know what data each is able to
- Identify critical data. What’s your business’s most sensitive data that you would not want unauthorized individuals gaining access to? From customer financial information to proprietary product information, your business likely has incredible amounts of confidential data stored on your network and being transmitted between users or accessed via the internet.
- Limit users with administrative privileges. Do you know how many of your employees possess “the keys to the kingdom?” Be sure that only those that require high-level access for their job functions have that access, which reduces both the likelihood of unauthorized tampering and accidental data loss.
- Encrypt data that are both “at rest” and “in motion.” Both stored data and data as it is moving between systems need to be encrypted to strong industry standards that are often being improved and changed.
Your IT team or qualified consultant will agree that other solutions such as using strong passwords and dual-factor authentication in login and sign-up processes are important, too. Phasing out older equipment, software, and systems that are no longer supported by their manufacturers is also critical, and a point that many businesses do not even consider. Often these old assets cannot be brought up to date in terms of security standards and may be akin to an unlocked door to your business.
What are the risks?
Unfortunately, just about every aspect of your business is directly in harm’s way in the event of an attack, and your risks are substantial. Customer and employee data that you store in databases on your network is certainly at risk, but so too are your physical IT and systems equipment, your communications systems like phones and email, and your money. You could also inadvertently harm other companies that you are connected to like suppliers, manufacturing partners, or vendors. Not only is that embarrassing, but essential business relationships could be destroyed based on a single data breach disaster that you could have prevented.
Still feel like a breach could not happen to you? Let’s put it another way. You purchase insurance coverage for your business’s physical assets like inventory, equipment, and buildings. You do not enjoy paying the ongoing premiums for this coverage for “things that will never happen.” However, when these impossible events do happen – say, a fire ruins your offices or thieves break in and steal thousands of dollars worth of inventory from your warehouse – you are happy you paid those premiums. And, you likely come back stronger after clean-up and rebuilding are complete. You install better fire prevention measures in your offices, or you beef up your building’s security alarm system.
Cybersecurity is this protection for virtual “things that will never happen.” With one big difference – unlike natural disasters like fires and floods (which are rarely due to someone with malicious intent), cyber crime is people actively focused on breaching your business’ security. It’s a big business, and it’s only getting bigger as literally thousands of these criminals constantly launch attacks on the internet trying to find their next victim, and payday.
So far, we have established that it also involves an incredibly complex system of tools and procedures, and that likely means adequate protection is expensive for your business, too, right? Not really, if you consider that the full financial impact of a single data breach can be between $82,200 to over $250,000, according to industry experts. Ongoing, customized cybersecurity support from any reputable IT consultant will be designed to fit your business’s budget while meeting your precise security needs.
Need help with developing a solid cybersecurity strategy for your business? If you are located in the Greater Jacksonville area, you’re already in the right place. Get in touch with us here at Antisyn now to talk strategy or have us perform an audit of your current cybersecurity protocols.