Small businesses are swiftly becoming cybercriminals’ top targets. Not only are small businesses typically more flush with cash than the average individual, but they tend to be riddled with cyber-insecurities that make infiltration and theft exceptionally easy. In fact, considering that half of American small businesses have suffered a data breach or theft within the past year, it is safe to say that there is an ongoing cyberwar that small businesses must cultivate proper defenses to survive.
Fortunately, most small businesses have instituted strong cybersecurity measures – but unfortunately, cybersecurity often doesn’t come cheap. Small business leaders looking to balance cash flow, build wealth, or otherwise cut costs might well be wondering: Is it possible to maintain an inexpensive cyber-defense?
In a word: Yes. Not only is it possible to reduce the costs of cybersecurity, but the truth is businesses don’t even need deep pockets to put up an effective defense. Yet, so many organizations believe that cybersecurity is so complex that even the basics are bound to drain their IT budgets. In fact, one of the best ways to be cybersecure is totally free of charge, and there are several other ways to maintain and improve their digital defenses without breaking the bank.
Ways to Reduce Cybersecurity Costs
If the following solutions to establishing a cheap strategy doesn’t convince business leaders to invest in cybersecurity, perhaps the millions of dollars lost to cybercrime (and the millions more lost to consumer fear and disgust) every year will.
First, determine the effectiveness of your current efforts. It’s possible that the misconception surrounding the expense of cybersecurity is due to too many businesses being wasteful in their efforts. You should perform a security audit to determine what systems (if any) are effective. Then, you can immediately eliminate or manipulate broken systems and recommit that money to solutions that actually provide protection.
Use free resources to learn about efficient security options. There are plenty of free, online resources that endeavor to teach every organization about cybersecurity. You can use these to gain a better understanding of cybersecurity basics. Plus, you might have access to some simple cybersecurity tools through existing services you subscribe to. For example, many internet providers offer bundles with antivirus software and encrypted email services.
Train your staff to practice secure behavior. Even the most expensive cybersecurity system in the world amounts to nothing when it is used by a lazy, uneducated employee. If your workers don’t exhibit strong security hygiene – which is to say if they don’t generate strong passwords, recognize phishing scams and corrupt links, back up their data, update programs, avoid risky networks, and display other fundamentally secure behaviors – they need to learn why such behavior is vital and how to practice the right habits.
Create an incident response plan. In the event an employee does click on a malicious link or otherwise invites a cyber attack, they should have immediate access to instructions to minimize the damage. These instructions are typically confined to an incident response plan (IRP) which outlines appropriate steps dependent on the situation. The right response depends entirely on your business, which means it takes time to develop. However, every minute you lack an IRP is a minute you could suffer a devastating cyber attack.
Protect all users and all devices. To cut costs, some businesses encourage BYOD, but in truth, this makes cybersecurity a bigger headache. Personal devices are more difficult to secure, and mobile employees are more likely to expose business data with unsafe security hygiene at home. Your BYOD policy should mandate specific security procedures, such as installed firewalls, antivirus software, and VPNs, before employees are permitted to use their personal devices for work.
Finally, trust the cloud. It might feel like a smart decision to purchase hardware like servers and switches; after all, you can physically control access to such hardware, thereby enhancing security. However, maintaining on-site hardware is notoriously expensive, requiring copious amounts of energy, bandwidth, and physical labor. Instead, you should invest in a secure cloud solution to store data and applications.
Cybersecurity is an arms race, but for small businesses, the defenses necessary to stay safe are relatively minimal. When the payoff isn’t billions of dollars or government secrets, cybercriminals are dissuaded by minimal security precautions, meaning it doesn’t cost much for a business to stay safe.