Small businesses have a lot on their agenda, but cybersecurity is rarely one of the priorities. Breaking new ground and expanding business is the number one requirement for a small business. However, a reliable and robust cybersecurity strategy is a must for a business of any size.
The ongoing pandemic has made the ‘work from home’ model the new normal. Businesses, big and small, are now working with employees, clients, and others, remotely over the internet. Simply put, corporate data, resources, and confidential or sensitive information is no longer confined within office walls.
As businesses increasingly rely on a remote workforce, securing data and protecting networks has become one of the urgent activities which small businesses routinely postpone. And then there’s Cloud Computing which is practical and time-saving, but businesses and their data are increasingly getting exposed to the internet. As such, it is critical for businesses, especially the small ones, to get extremely serious about formulating and deploying a robust cybersecurity strategy.
Contrary to popular misconception, small businesses have always been a potential target of cyberattacks. According to the Ponemon Institute’s “2018 State of Cybersecurity in Small & Medium Size Businesses” report, 67%of small businesses indicated they had been the target of a cyberattack in the last year. Additionally, nearly two-thirds of the victims mentioned the severe financial consequences of data breaches.
Understanding Risks and Taking Preemptive Corrective Measures Key To Robust Cybersecurity Strategy:
While the risks of exposure and data breaches are highly obvious, small businesses need to understand the basics and align their approach towards cybersecurity accordingly. Some of the most common attack vectors include phishing, ransomware, malicious advertising, clickjacking, drive-by-downloads, exploitable software vulnerabilities, and many more. While the list may seem daunting, some of the most elementary policies and protocols to secure a small business from cyber threats are as follows:
Have A Zero Trust Security:
Digital threats are often invisible. They move silently and remain undetectable until it’s very late. The most concerning aspect is these threats can make their way through any of the channels, which are usually considered trustworthy. Hence in the new digital world, the Zero Trust Security framework is critical.
The Zero Trust Security framework offers a stringent model that protects all the resources and data by treating all requests for data access as suspicious. Several businesses, big and small, and operating through the web, have already shifted to the Zero Trust Security model in order to promote complete authorization. Zero Trust has provided a streamlined structure that doesn’t allow any unauthorized access and requests. All the requests for data or access to the network are completely verified, analyzed, and secured, before being granted.
Deploy A Software-Defined Perimeter:
Small businesses too need to secure their perimeters, be it physical or virtual. The task is rather complex in the digital world as an attacker never just walks or breaks in. Hence deploying multi-faceted security systems to protect digital assets is a must.
Businesses must conduct a thorough audit of their firewall, endpoint, and Wi-Fi network security. Firewalls are still one of the most effective techniques. However, Wi-Fi networks have proven to be particularly notorious and weak.
Deploying a secure router does help, but companies also need secure keys that require a password to join. Furthermore, every device that joins or has ever joined company-owned devices or employee or guest personal devices, is also a potential weak point or security vulnerability.
A well-defined Cybersecurity Strategy involves laying down specific rules for joining company networks. Some of the most common ones are as follows:
- Limit access and use of business devices to authorized individuals only.
- Establish unique user accounts for each employee, irrespective of position.
- Mandate the use of strong passwords
- Mandate locking devices with passwords
- Only grant Administrative access in rare cases and when absolutely necessary
- Routinely evaluate access levels and revoke rights after completion of tasks
Zero Trust Network Access:
Despite the use of strong passwords and individual accounts, employees can make mistakes, and end up compromising security. Hence, apart from educating employees, it has been critical to have a Zero Trust Network Access model. The concept has evolved due to the increasing use of cloud-based assets.
Zero Trust concepts shift the focus from the protection of networks to the protection of actual resources. Simply put, a network or its physical location is no longer considered to be the primary component of security protocols.
Zero Trust Network Access Models has the following fundamentals:
- There are no distinctions between “inside” and “outside” the network perimeters. Network locality can’t be the only factor in determining the trust of the user requesting access.
- Threats can exist on a network at all times. Moreover, they can easily be internal or external.
- Every user, device, network, and data, is to be thoroughly checked, validated, and authenticated before granting access to any resource.
- Zero Trust Policies should be dynamic in nature. They should take into account multiple sources or origins of data. Continuous monitoring of data and its flow is needed to gain insights regarding any new potential vulnerabilities.
Remote Workforce Security
As mentioned earlier, work from home or remote working employees is the new normal. It is not a temporary thing and is here to stay. Hence, businesses must deploy their cybersecurity strategy taking into consideration long-term reliance on a remote workforce. Simply put, methodologies to secure remote access for employees need a permanent residence in the cybersecurity manual.
Virtual networking and remote network access to the workforce has become a necessity. Incidentally, these practices have made businesses more efficient and productive. As per a webinar snap poll by Gartner, close to 91 percent of attending HR executives implemented work from home in their companies.
However, with the rise in remote working, networks, and data have become ever more vulnerable to cyber breaches, threats, and attacks. This is simply because cybercriminals have several new opportunities and potential vulnerabilities to breach and steal valuable data without ever setting a foot inside company networks.
Small businesses are as vulnerable as the corporate giants when it comes to cyber threats. Attackers have been known to sniff out vulnerabilities in any network through bots and crawlers. Hence, small businesses need to have a cybersecurity strategy that has clear guidelines to protect, data, users, and networks from threats and breaches.
Some of the most common techniques in a reliable cybersecurity strategy include strong data encryption, strict user authentication, clear and strongly enforced remote working policies, dedicated work devices, VPNs, etc. While small businesses might not have a large budget for cybersecurity, companies such as Instasafe can certainly help, assist, and guide businesses in protecting their valuable digital assets.