Amid Industry 4.0, cyber security is a hugely important consideration for businesses of all sizes. With occurrences of data breaches increasing in frequency and complexity across the globe – putting companies' network integrity, consumer trust and overall reputation at risk – entrepreneurs must equip their businesses with tailored security plans to address these challenges.
To help, we've compiled a quick list of essential cyber security tips to implement within your organisation, including the key structural changes you should make, and the critical factors that you and your people should be aware of.
Here's what you need to know:
Build Your Security Approach
As a business owner, you should begin by creating a holistic approach to security, ensuring that you are able to review, manage, and address your information security needs. Start by looking at the following:
Set a Budget
Unfortunately, maintaining security can be expensive – although not as costly as the fallout of a breach. Therefore, the products, software solutions and human resources required to execute your security strategy should be managed by a single, dedicated budget. This will allow you to monitor your security expenditure against outcomes and better evaluate any additional investment requirements.
Small businesses should note that a larger budget does not necessarily equate to better security coverage, as many other elements contribute to satisfactory protection against breaches, malware and infections.
Hire a Dedicated Security Expert
Internal IT expertise should be considered a primary necessity for any small business, with at least one employee dedicated to managing your cyber security and evaluating the medium-to-long-term development of your security infrastructure. Though companies can turn to third parties for outsourced support, no external security firm will be able to understand the particularities of your company's requirements as intimately as your employees.
Ensure you are Always Up to Date
Given the nature of advanced threats and developing technology, the computer security industry is continually evolving. As a result, your business needs to adapt your security facilities, update existing elements and purchase new products to tackle fresh vulnerabilities. This can include software upgrades, renewals, product replacements and further additions.
Likewise, internal IT and security personnel must have access to regular training in order to stay informed about the developing security climate and maintain your internal security proficiency.
Know and Address Your Key Threats
Knowing the threats most relevant to your organisation will allow you to allocate your security resources appropriately, and inform your workforce of any additional measures they will be required to take on a daily basis to remain protected.
In particular, small businesses tend to fall victim to the following vulnerabilities:
Email Security Threats
Business emails can prove to be a particularly easy way for hackers to enter your digital ecosystem. As emails are so widely used within corporate organisations – and by employees who may have no security expertise – it is crucial to educate your team so that they are accountable for their email security.
Advise employees to avoid conducting business emails over public WiFi connections, for instance, which is incredibly insecure and can offer cybercriminals connected to the same network access to their devices.
Your team should also be aware of phishing email scams that request the recipient to share confidential information. These emails appear as though they are sent from a known individual (or a reputable organisation) and, therefore, user discretion is required.
Rather than requesting data from the recipient, these emails will redirect the viewer to a link that may lead them to an unsafe online destination, and even trigger a malicious download. Colleagues should be advised to never interact with incoming emails that are sent from unknown addresses, are written out of typical business context, or generally appear suspicious.
In addition to colleagues' caution, companies can implement email security software that pre-screens incoming messages for suspected spam or malicious intent, and flag these to users.
Integrated Products and Solutions
Purchasing security products and software that are not compatible with each other can leave you with significant gaps in your computer security, and leave you widely exposed to data breaches and malware infections.
Any solutions that you employ must fulfil a wider security plan and meet its objectives. These can include email security software, malware protection applications, firewall systems; even physical security cameras. Therefore, when purchasing these components, you will need to consider the integration capabilities of each one. The more connected and integrated your solutions are, the greater protection they will offer you, working together to provide a complete image of your threat landscape.
When the need for new security products or infrastructure arises, look for solutions compatible to your existing systems, and ensure that your IT team can adequately evaluate and manage the additional tools. This will minimise the complexity of your security practice, and support any automation you may implement in future, freeing your IT team to focus on more valuable tasks.
Buy Authorised Solutions
Enterprise-grade cyber security solutions can be expensive. Business owners should, however, be wary of obtaining solutions through unauthorised distribution channels that are promoted at a significant discount.
Such 'grey market' products, not purchased from the original supplier, are not guaranteed to perform to the same standard as genuine products. Unbeknownst to you, they may already have been used, repaired, or are counterfeit. These illicit versions of the 'real deal' can leave your business vulnerable to additional security risks, and will likely not include the valuable after-sales support, troubleshooting and customer service that you require.
To avoid this, always check your supply source, and try to verify the authenticity of new solutions before purchasing.
Boost your Security Awareness
A key component of cyber security is to have relevant frameworks and structures in place. Therefore, you should reinforce your security awareness by implementing standard approval procedures, as well as consistent monitoring practices.
Check Your Security Inventory
Keeping track of your security inventory can be challenging, as IT teams are typically overloaded and frequently pressed to meet new security needs with immediate updates. For this reason, it is advisable to schedule inventory checks every six months, so that you can keep track of all new security solutions acquired, as well as additional integrations completed, recent upgrades, and modifications to existing infrastructure.
Human capital should also be included here, listing any recent training, technical certifications and participation in conferences and workshops. Evaluating your IT team's current knowledge will help you to discover any gaps they may have, and ascertain how to address them.
This, in turn, enables you to possess central visibility regarding the capabilities of your security personnel, and better evaluate the security budgeting requirements for forthcoming quarters.
Create an Approval Chain for Security Changes
One of the key responsibilities of your IT team is to assess the immediate actions required to keep your security infrastructure updated. To be able to manage these changes in a timely yet controlled manner, you will need to create a formal approval process. Under this structure, any additional investment will be reviewed by you and your senior management team, ensuring that you remain within overall budget, and that any changes are in line with the business' overall security policies and approach.
Start by creating a formal IT approval workflow. Then, create a request submission form that will support your security team in outlining the new investment requirements, evidencing the need for these changes, and sharing their implementation expectations. Finally, deliver any relevant training to your security team to walk them through the steps they must follow to obtain full approval. In time, this process can be adapted to offer additional visibility to management, include further details for security experts to address, or even facilitate investment monitoring.
There are few business risks more critical to organisations right now than cyber security. With threats increasing in frequency and sophistication nearly every day, you must be proactive, ready to adapt, and prepared to invest in the right resources to adequately protect your data and reputation. With no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to security, be sure to consistently monitor your strategy and approach, continue to develop the expertise of your IT team and ensure that you always remain protected!
In the meantime, learn how to protect your business website from basic threats with our in-depth guide.
What other information security tips would you recommend for business owners? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below!