As a startup, there are many things that you should concern yourself with. One thing you don’t want to overlook is cybersecurity. Here’s why.
Imagining a small business that’s in existence today without the use of technology is near impossible. However, this means that they’re also exposed to cyber attacks that could halt their business and cost them a lot of money. While you mainly hear about this happening to big businesses, there are many smaller businesses who’ve also been attacked. They’re vulnerable because they typically use older computer systems that overlook security. As an entrepreneur, you can’t afford to do this. There are some things you simply must know when it comes to cybersecurity today.
There’s no such Thing as Being “Too Small”
Studies have shown that 55% of small to medium size businesses have experienced a cyber attack. This means that any business who uses computing devices, goes online, or has a digital presence (e.g. website, cloud account) is at risk of a cyber attack. These attacks are usually carried out by automated malicious software and scripts that go around looking for vulnerable computers and networks of any size from any type of business. CIO says SMEs are at a higher risk because they have limited experience when it comes to employing cybersecurity.
Cyber attacks to Watch out For
There are several types of cyber attacks you should watch out for, including:
- Data breaches occur when cybercriminals are looking to steal business’ information and gain access to their databases so they can sell personal and financial information on the black market to those who want to commit identity theft and fraud. This is why e-commerce websites, CRM, and those offering online support are prime targets. Many major corporations (e.g. Sony, Dropbox, LinkedIn) have survived these attacks but as a small business, it’s harder. In fact, about 60% of small businesses who fall victim to a data breach close up shop within the first 6 months after this happens.
- Ransomware is a specific type of malware (malicious software) that infects computers and mobile devices. It’ll encrypt the compromised computer’s files so you can’t access them unless you pay the cybercriminal ($500 – $4,000) for a decryption key. Even then, there’s no assurance that you’ll get your files back. While this is expensive, the major impact is felt in how your business is disrupted. Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to make sure this doesn’t happen to you.
- Distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDoS) will render your website and any services you provide inaccessible. Cyber attackers make this happen by sending way too much traffic to your website. Depending on the number of transactions your website performs, a single hour of downtime could cost you anywhere from $20,000 – $100,000 – that’s per hour. As a small business, you must weather the storm and absorb the costs of the downtime that results in lost sales and productivity. Even if your business isn’t directly affected by a DDoS attack, it could be indirectly affected when one of your larger infrastructure providers is attacked.
- People are typically the weakest link in a security chain. In fact, research shows that most security breaches occur due to human error. One of the main ways this happens is with a phishing attack through which cybercriminals trick people into clicking on “bad” links that result in malware being installed on your computer. Of course, this isn’t the only way these threats can permeate your infrastructure. When your employees plug their technology (e.g. phones, notebooks, storage devices) into your network and computers they can introduce threats this way as well. This is why it’s so important to educate your staff about how to be safe and to create security policies that govern how your business’ IT resources are used. You should also encourage your staff to use strong passwords. Once one of them is no longer with your business, make sure you immediately revoke any access they may have had. This is something you should cover your assets with by writing legal documentation concerning your nondisclosure clause so that nothing is leaked.
- Infrastructure access control is also important. You don’t want to unnecessarily hand out this access to anyone. Instead, you must create user roles with corresponding levels of access so you’re in control of who does what on your infrastructure.
Investing in Security
While you may not feel like you’re in a position where you can afford to take on additional expenses right now, investing in securing your business with open source antivirus software is a must. Understanding your risks and having security programs in place will pay for themselves when you avoid cyber attacks in the future.
Your Reputation, Your Life Blood
Today’s access to instantaneous communication means that word spreads faster than a lightning bolt. Since your reputation is your business, you want to do everything within your capacity to protect yourself against a security breach. Tech Stars says this is important for your business to always remember because there are huge repercussions that happen when one of your customers has their identity stolen or becomes a victim of credit fraud. While it’ll affect your reputation, you could also be liable for legal damages (costing you lots of money in terms of fees and penalties) and face charges of negligence. This is why you can’t afford to write off the cost of security as your business grows bigger. Instead, you must see this as an important pillar for your company, hiring people who’ll manage your reputation for you. Doing so will help ensure even greater success for whatever product or service you’re promoting.
Now that you can see and understand the importance of your company to have a plan for cybersecurity, it’s time to make plans to protect your virtual assets. Fortunately, there are a lot of great, inexpensive ways you can do this today. As such, there’s no reason for you to avoid this topic any longer.