7 Steps in Building a Robust Cybersecurity Strategy for SMBs
Many small business owners have the misguided belief that cyber criminals only target large enterprises because the payout is massive, up to millions. Unfortunately, the truth is they are more likely to look for small to midsize businesses (SMBs) like yours. That's because SMBs are much more likely to be easy targets.
Large enterprises have the resources to buy top-of-the-line security tools and hire teams of cybersecurity professionals. On the other hand, many SMBs are still in the process of building their cybersecurity infrastructure. If you were a cybercriminal, getting a moderate payout for minimal effort would seem like a better deal than duking it out with an industry giant that has the right tools and personnel.
Thankfully, cybersecurity is not exclusive to large enterprises. There are ways to build a robust cybersecurity strategy for your SMB. To help with that, we had a chat with Dustin McEarchern. He is a Tier IV technician here at Intelligent Technical Solutions (ITS), specializing in cybersecurity. He works with the Security Operations Center (SOC) team and Cybersecurity Committee to address security concerns for our clients.
In this article, we will go over:
- The importance of cybersecurity for your small business and
- The 7 steps to build a cybersecurity strategy for your SMB
The Importance of Cybersecurity for SMBs
As a small business owner, you probably don't have cybersecurity at the top of your list of priorities, and who can blame you? You have a business to run, employees to care for, fires to put out, and customers/clients to accommodate. That’s a lot to ask anyone. Unfortunately, cybercriminals know that, too, and they will attempt to exploit that fact for their gain.
As we mentioned before, SMBs are vulnerable to cyber attacks because cyber threat actors are aware you don’t have the same level of security as companies larger than yours. While it might be true that your data is not as valuable as big enterprises, the fact that it’s easy to penetrate your defenses is attractive enough for cybercriminals to try and extort you. It’s a low-risk, low-effort way to tap into your organization’s hard-earned resources.
While a successful attack is just a source for a quick payout for cybercriminals, its impact on your SMB can be catastrophic. Once you've fallen victim, recovering from the hit to your reputation and revenue will be an uphill battle. So, the best way to combat cyber threats is to prevent such events and put more effort toward cybersecurity from the get-go.
McEarchern backed this by saying, “It’s important for small businesses to have cybersecurity in mind to make sure they’re secure from the outset. Oftentimes, they get off the ground with no security in mind. And then maybe months or years later, they find themselves in tough situations that can cause serious financial losses. And in many cases for small businesses, [it] can cause them to go out of business.”
7 Steps in Building a Robust Cybersecurity Strategy for SMBs
Building a robust cybersecurity strategy for your SMB can be an overwhelming task. It requires you to invest resources, personnel, and time – things that a small business like yours doesn’t have in abundance. To make this daunting task more manageable and achievable, you must take it step by step.
Step 1: Assess Your Assets
The first step in building a robust cybersecurity strategy is assessing your existing assets, and even this is a process.
Identify your most valuable assets. The protection of your most valuable data should be the top priority. Is it intellectual property (IP), customer, or employee data? Or do you possess information that requires special protections, such as Personal Identifiable Information (PII) or Electronic Health Records (EHR)?
Next, know where your data is stored. You need this information because there's a difference between protecting data on-site and safeguarding cloud data.
After that, find out who has access to your data. Only necessary and trusted members should have access to your most important data to lower the possibility of an internal leak or breach.
Finally, evaluate your current protections and find out if they’re adequate. Standard data protection practices like encryption and backups should be present. But it would be better to go beyond the bare minimum.
Step 2: Understand the Threats
Once you’ve gained an understanding of your existing assets, it’s time to understand the threats that could harm them.
There are several cyber threats and attacks that you could fall victim to, from phishing scams to ransomware. Look into the prevalent threats to your industry, the most common targets (e.g., data, people, IP, or infrastructure), and how cybercriminals approach them.
This step leads to an understanding of your vulnerabilities. It keeps you ahead of malicious actors and helps you set up the best defenses.
Step 3: Develop a Framework
Now, this is the part where you plot things out. You have info on important assets, potential threats, and existing vulnerabilities. The next step is to draft policies and procedures to prevent, detect, and respond to cyber threats.
The specifics of your cybersecurity framework should include a cybersecurity policy, incident response plan, and compliance strategies. These documents detail the measures for prevention, preparation, identification, containment, eradication, and recovery from an incident.
A cybersecurity policy outlines measures to protect data and infrastructure. It could include appointing a dedicated IT security team, implementing industry-best security practices, and adapting member behaviors. A lot goes into this document, but you can use the government’s cybersecurity policy as a base for your business.
While your cybersecurity policy details protection strategies, an Incident Response plan outlines the steps to take during and after a suspected or successful incident. It has five phases: Preparation, Identification, Containment, Eradication, and Recovery. All areas must be considered to create an effective plan.
And, of course, compliance strategies are your adherence to industry regulations, whether that be HIPAA, CMMC, NIST, etc. If you’re having a hard time, know that some MSPs can help with regulatory compliance.
Step 4: Bolster Your Defenses
In this step, you begin to put your plan into action. It’s where you invest in and implement the best cybersecurity solutions and strategies for your business. Great practices to implement are firewalls, antivirus software, Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), data encryption, and regular backups.
Of course, there are more security practices to follow, and you can never go overboard. As long as it’s within reasonable capacity, strengthen your infrastructure as much as possible.
Step 5: Improve Cybersecurity Awareness
One of the most alarming cybersecurity statistics recently is that approximately 88% of breaches are caused by human error. That means the biggest vulnerability to your cybersecurity is the person between the screen and the chair. However, they aren’t doing it to hurt your business on purpose. In most cases, it’s because your team lacks security awareness training.
The best remedy for that is to lay the foundation for a culture that values cybersecurity awareness. Provide regular training and encourage employees to practice safe web browsing and account management. Educate your team before pinning any blame on them.
It's best to start now, while your team is still small so that the culture is ingrained within your core members. That way, it will be easier to maintain as you add more people.
Step 6: Update Your Strategies
Building a robust cybersecurity strategy is not a one-and-done process. It's continuous. Your plan should change as your business and technology grows and advances. Constant reviews and updates are necessary to address these shifts in your environment.
Step 7: Consider Outsourcing
As you may already know, creating a robust cybersecurity strategy takes a lot of work, especially if you’re just starting out on it. Understanding threats, drafting plans, implementing solutions, and maintaining them requires tremendous effort.
Thankfully, you don’t need to do it alone. You can always outsource some of that burden to cybersecurity providers like MSPs. They can create an effective cybersecurity program and manage your security as your business grows.
Secure Your SMB with the Help of an MSP
Small businesses need a good cybersecurity strategy just as much as larger enterprises. Without it, you leave yourself vulnerable to attacks and set yourself up for failure. To avoid this, follow these steps to building a robust cybersecurity strategy:
- Assess your assets
- Understand the threats
- Develop a framework
- Bolster your defenses
- Improve cybersecurity awareness
- Update your strategies
- Consider outsourcing
If you need any help, you can always reach out to one of our experts here at ITS. We can start with a free cybersecurity assessment to identify your current security posture. Then, we'll work our way up to a security strategy tailored to your business.
You can also check out more cybersecurity-related content in our Learning Center:
- 3 Types of Cybersecurity Solutions Your Business Must Have [eBook]
- How to Be Proactive (Not Reactive) with Your Cybersecurity
- Outsourced or In-House Cybersecurity: What are the Pros and Cons?