Cybersecurity for SMEs: Why Should You Worry and What Can You Do?

In the last decade, there have been so many data breaches in the corporate sector, that ransomware and hackers have gained international infamy. From Yahoo and eBay hacks that affected millions of people, to the national Aadhar breach in India which leaked the private details of over 1.1 billion people; it is obvious that no one from MNCs to national governments are completely safe in an online environment.

Why SMEs are in High-Risk Positions Right Now

In a situation such as this, it is quite natural and intuitive to think that a small or medium business would be too insignificant for hackers to hold hostage or steal data from, but unfortunately, the truth is the exact opposite.

In 2018, it was found that small businesses alone comprised of approximately 58% of all successful malware attack victims, which is definitely a wakeup call!

An estimated amount of over $2.23 million per business on an average was lost due to such attacks, after combining the ransoms, damages, recovery costs, etc.

It is therefore clear that small and medium businesses are not any safer than the big corporations. If anything, they are evidently a lot more vulnerable due to the following reasons:

  • Smaller companies often underestimate the threat and the fact that they could be targeted
  • As a result of that sense of false security, they do not take adequate measures against cybercrime
  • They do not have resources as vast as big companies, making them easier targets for hackers
  • The lack of awareness and alertness regarding basic cybersecurity measures is often absent in SMEs

What Can be Done?

The answer to this question is not so simple since hackers and the malware components they create are advanced enough to bypass common security measures easily enough.

It’s an ongoing battle which will continue indefinitely and possibly for as long as the internet exists. Therefore, the efforts of businesses and governments need to be continuous as well, to keep everything safe and secure.

To accomplish that, the following measures are essential and must be applied before it’s too late.

Awareness and Realization

Before anything else, awareness and consequent realization are the two most important aspects of ensuring cybersecurity.

Hold regular seminars and meetings with the IT head, to make your employees more aware of the risks that are potentially always one step away from ruining the business. The more aware they become of the possible risks and what they can do to prevent the company from getting hacked, the tighter the security of your office systems will be.

There is, however, a huge difference between knowledge and realization, which is exactly why hackers are so successful in breaching businesses via something as rudimentary as an email.

We are all aware of the impact of global warming and we even discuss it at times, but very few of us actually realize its impacts.

Awareness is a stage where the human mind knows about something, but cannot really associate with the information, but the realization is when the same person is able to associate with the information received. The difference between the two is like watching the news on TV and seeing the incidents in the news live with your own eyes.

Unless that realization is incorporated via regular meetings and strict penalties on ignoring any of the safety policies already detailed, the awareness alone won’t be enough to stop your employees from opening a malicious email and infecting the whole system.

Cybersecurity Training

Awareness can only take you so far unless you have the employees with the right kind of technical knowledge to protect your organization against the constantly evolving security threats in an online environment. Just because someone is in IT, it doesn’t automatically mean that the employee will have enhanced cybersecurity training that is necessary to protect connected systems from hacking attacks.

You have the option to either hire employees who already have the adequate cybersecurity training, or you can invest a bit into getting your key IT employees to go through cybersecurity training programs specifically designed to protect businesses. We found the CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CSA+) Certification and the SECFND program from CISCO on to be quite appropriate courses to teach about ensuring cybersecurity in a corporate environment.

In fact, even business leaders and owners should consider taking a course on cybersecurity to better educate themselves against the dangers of cybercrime, as well as learning about the methods of defending the online assets of business against it. That being said, you may need a technical background in order to understand the more complex concepts of advanced cybersecurity training.

Maximizing Password Safety

Passwords are by themselves, a dated security system, but they are still the primary form of protection against unauthorized access. Make sure that your company is doing all it can to enhance the protection passwords provide by turning the following into mandatory security policies:

  • All employees must change their passwords every 2 – 3 months
  • The passwords should not be coherent words found in the dictionary
  • Each password should consist of special characters, upper case & lower-case alphabets, as well as random numbers

Invest in Antimalware

When it comes to industrial grade cybersecurity, it isn’t the same as downloading and installing a popular antivirus software onto your computer.You can even compare antivirus like Norton vs avast on various sites. They are much more complex and run across multiple connected machines simultaneously.

MNCs like Goldman Sachs uses a separate and secured online environment, hosted on the cloud and accessible from any device in the world. Such dedicated systems restrict the usage of the internet severely, but they are highly successful in maintaining a secure environment within the company.

Even when an employee attempts to open a malicious email unknowingly, it will either prevent the phishing link from appearing or won’t allow the link to be followed.

Multifactor Identification and Authentication Should be Mandatory

By now, a regular password + OTP (one-time password) should become the standard for accessing company systems. It’s quite similar to when someone uses a credit/debit card for a transaction online and receives an OTP to confirm the transaction. The chances of the hacker possessing the employee’s password and the phone itself simultaneously are quite slim.

Back Up Your Data

If you have been breached and the hackers are threatening to delete all the data unless you pay up, a backup could be the difference between paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in ransom money, and simply ignoring their messages.

On the other hand, if they have managed to hack into sensitive data, the protocol should be to immediately and automatically delete all data, before they can have total access to it. It will minimize the damages, but you won’t actually be losing anything if you already have it backed up on the cloud.

The fight against cybercrime is an ongoing one, with no end in sight. The hackers are getting better at what they do, but thankfully white hat hackers with professional cybersecurity training are keeping things in check. In the meantime, your best bet at ensuring security is to close as many gaps as you possibly can in the cybersecurity department and keep it that way through regular checks and updates.



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