The internet is a double-edged sword for small companies. On one hand, it presents tons of opportunities for small companies to increase their reach, grow their customer base, and significantly boost their revenues. However, it also presents a huge security risk in the form of cyberattacks.
Companies on the internet are susceptible to a myriad of cyberattacks, such as data breaches, brute-force, malware attacks, phishing, denial of service attacks, social engineering, and ransomware attacks, among others.
According to Check Point Research(CPR), global cyberattacks increased by 38 percent in 2022 compared to 2021, and with the maturity of AI technology, cyber-attacks are likely to increase.
IBM, in their cost of data breach report for 2023, notes that the global average cost of a data breach in 2023 was USD 4.45 million, which is a 15% increase over 3 years. Verizon also reports that 43 percent of all data breaches involve small businesses.
Cyberattacks are increasing by the day, and the cost of falling victim to these attacks is getting higher. In fact, the financial impact of a cyber attack might be too costly for a small company to recover from.
It is even worse for small companies because they are the prime targets in cyber attacks as they have limited resources and expertise to properly invest in cyber attacks. Therefore, cyber attackers perceive small companies as easy targets.
To understand the impact of cyberattacks on small companies, the National Cybersecurity Institute reports that 60 percent of small to medium-sized businesses go out of business after falling victim to a cyberattack.
These statistics paint a grim picture for small companies. Does this mean that small companies should stay away from the Internet? Certainly not. There are cybersecurity practices that small companies can implement to prevent being victims of cyber attacks. But first, let us look at some of the challenges faced by small companies with a limited cybersecurity budget
Challenges Faced By Small Companies With a Limited Cybersecurity Budget
Some of the challenges that are faced by small companies that cannot set aside a substantial cyber security budget include:
Lack of In House Cybersecurity Team
Many small companies do not have in-house cybersecurity experts such as information security analysts, systems architects, incident forensics analysts, and penetration testers, among others. Maintaining an in-house cybersecurity team is costly and may not be a sensible investment for small companies.
This, in turn, means that small companies do not have access to in-house cybersecurity expertise to design and implement secure systems. Additionally, they likely have no experts to look for vulnerabilities in existing systems and to contain or fend off attacks whenever they occur.
Reactive Response to Cyber Attacks
A good cybersecurity strategy involves a proactive approach to identifying vulnerabilities and potential attacks even before they are executed by malicious actors. To do this requires a lot of investment in research and threat hunting.
However, since such is often out of reach for small companies, a lot take a reactive approach to cybersecurity. This means that small companies cannot anticipate and avoid cyberattacks. Instead, they respond to cyberattacks after it has already happened.
Complexity of Threat Landscape
Cyberattacks are constantly evolving. For instance, Ransomware-as-a-service did not exist a few years ago. Right now, you can rent a ransomware and deploy it without having to know how to write a ransomware yourself. The continuous evolution of the threat landscape can be overwhelming for small companies to keep up with.
Small companies often have to rely on third-party applications since they cannot develop their own in-house software. As much as this might be cost-effective, it could introduce potential security risks to the company. At times third-party software has vulnerabilities that can be exploited to the detriment of the companies using the software.
Social Engineering is an attack technique where malicious actors manipulate individuals into divulging confidential information or performing actions that may compromise their security. Due to a lack of, or insufficient cybersecurity training among the staff in small companies, they may easily fall victim to social engineering.
Small companies are easy targets for social engineering because of insufficient training, limited security measures, and the fact that they nurture a small and trusting community of staff members.
In fact, research by Barracuda found that an average employee of a small business with less than 100 employees will experience 350 percent more social engineering attacks than an employee of a larger enterprise.
Some of the best practices that small companies can implement to improve their security posture and ward off potential attacks include:
Employee Education and Training
The World Economic Forum notes that 95 percent of cybersecurity issues can be traced back to human error. Employees are your first line of defense in case of a cyberattack, and they can be the weakest link if they are not properly trained.
Mistakes made by employees, such as improper handling of passwords or sharing sensitive information, can leave a company exposed to cyberattacks.
Therefore, it is important that small companies continually invest in cybersecurity training for their staff. Train your employees on the different types of cyberattacks and how they are executed. Teach them how to recognize attacks such as phishing scams and social engineering and also how data can be gathered and exploited online.
Additionally, educate your employees on how to detect suspicious emails and websites and how to identify that a device has been infected by malicious software. It is also important to train them how basic password good practices, using multifactor authentication, how to handle sensitive data, and how to protect themselves online.
You should also train them on what to do when they suspect an attack is about to happen or has happened. Such training will tremendously improve the security posture of your company.
Formulate Security Policies and Procedures
Security policies and procedures are very important to any company that cares about their cybersecurity. Policies and procedures ensure that cybersecurity measures are clearly defined, standardized, and applied across the company. This is beneficial in minimizing potential vulnerabilities in an organization.
Security policies and procedures also ensure employees are informed on cybersecurity best practices and what they should do to protect sensitive information and avoid attacks.
It also fosters accountability and a security-conscious culture among employees as there are clearly laid out policies on what is expected of each employee as far as cybersecurity is concerned.
Install Antivirus and Firewalls
Installing an antivirus and firewall is a crucial step in securing your company’s systems and networks. Antivirus software is used to detect and neutralize malicious software such as ransomware, trojan horses, worms, spyware, and keyloggers, among others.
Antivirus can help you become more proactive in your cybersecurity strategy as it can be scheduled to perform scans to detect and neutralize malicious software in networks and systems before they can be executed.
A firewall on the other is crucial as it monitors incoming and outgoing traffic in a network and controls the traffic that has access to a company’s internal network. This means that a firewall can effectively block malicious traffic from accessing a company’s network and thus keep off potential attacks.
Get Your Software From Reputable Vendors
The software used in a company can have vulnerabilities or backdoors that can be exploited by attackers. This is often the case when getting software from unreliable vendors in an effort to cut costs. To better secure your company, it is important that you only source your software from trusted vendors who have been in the market for some time.
This will be beneficial to you in the long run, as software is usually thoroughly tested to ensure no vulnerabilities exist, and updates and patches are regularly released to improve the software.
Additionally, ensure the third-party companies that have access to your systems are using reliable software and have solid security policies to avoid a situation where you are attacked because of vulnerabilities existing in a partnering company.
Regularly Update Your Devices and Software
This might sound like an obvious thing, but it is not. Recently, Kaspersky commissioned a study on how people handled software updates. It was established that almost half of the organizations surveyed used some form of outdated software. Additionally, 48 percent of the employees surveyed revealed that they’ve worked with employees who refuse to use new or updated versions of devices.
Not many people regularly update their devices. This is something that attackers are aware of and exploit. For instance, the WannaCry worm, which wreaked havoc in May 2017, affected computers that had not installed a security released by Microsoft in March of that same year.
Software companies regularly test their software for vulnerabilities and release updates to improve the software and address any vulnerabilities that may be found. Therefore as a small company, you should make sure that all your devices and software are updated as soon as updates are available.
Additionally, all patches should be installed as soon as they are released to avoid falling victim to malicious attacks.
Automate Your Cybersecurity and Use AI
IBM, in their 2023 Cost of a Data Breach Report notes that the average savings for organizations that use security AI and automation extensively is USD 1.76 million compared to organizations that don’t. Therefore, as a small company, you stand to save a lot by utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) and automation in your cybersecurity strategy.
There are a lot of automation tools that leverage artificial intelligence and software solutions to fully automate cybersecurity tasks such as threat investigation, endpoint protection, managing permission, threat hunting, and incident response.
All these can be deployed to manage the cybersecurity of a company without the need for intervention from human experts. This can result in better security for small companies as software tools are very accurate. Additionally, it can help companies save costs as they don’t require to have a lot of in-house cybersecurity experts.
Backup Critical Data
A good cybersecurity strategy incorporates measures that can be taken in case an attack happens. A good way to ensure you do not lose critical information that can cripple your business is by encrypting and regularly backing up important information, preferably in a separate location.
This ensures that in case of an attack, critical information such as user credentials cannot be accessed due to encryption. In the event that ransomware is deployed and a company can no longer access its data, backups can be used for data recovery.
Provide Separate Work Devices
A lot of small companies have adopted the work-from-home model that promotes remote work. As much as this is beneficial as it helps the company minimize operational costs, it also presents a security risk.
In a study done by Alliance Virtual Offices, it was found that working from home increases cyberattack frequency by 238%. Since remote workers have access to the company’s systems, the fact that they work from home may mean that their devices are accessible to a number of people. This, in turn, means that passwords can be shared, and work credentials may leak in one way or another.
To avoid all this, provide your employees with separate work devices. These devices are to be configured with antivirus, firewalls, and VPNs to ensure they do not create a security risk.
Employees should also be instructed not to use their work devices for nonwork-related tasks such as accessing social media sites, gambling, gaming, downloading personal files, and many more. These devices can also be configured to prevent access to known dangerous sites.
Cybersecurity is a very important thing in any organization, regardless of its size. A limited budget does not mean that small companies should throw caution to the wind and not pay attention to how secure they are online.
Since small companies also handle critical information, it is important that they take measures to secure their data and protect their customers. In case you have a small company and you are not sure how to go about securing your systems, consider implementing the best practices shared in the article.
You may also explore some AI-Powered Cybersecurity platforms to protect your organization.