Learning how to keep your small business protected from cyber threats is critical in today's work environment. A cybersecurity incident can impact your company in numerous ways, whether you are dealing with the fallout from a data breach, loss of trust with clients, or countless hours of downtime.
Finding ways to keep your small business safe from these evolving cyber threats needs to be a top priority for any business owner.
Here are eight cybersecurity tips and basic security practices to remember for your business.
Cybersecurity Tips to Protect Your Small Business
1) Implement a Cyber Security Awareness Training Program
One way to improve IT security for your small business is to implement a cyber security awareness training program. These programs are specifically designed to educate and train employees on how to avoid making common mistakes that can result in a cybersecurity incident.
A few of the most common training topics include phishing attacks, mobile device security, passwords, and social engineering schemes.
A Managed IT Support Services Provider can provide ongoing training sessions for your employees to help your entire staff stay up to date on these evolving threats. Read our guide on creating a cyber security awareness training program for your business.
2) Enable and Enforce Multi-Factor Authentication
Another key step to improving cyber security for your business is to enable and enforce multi-factor authentication for all of your accounts. Want to know what MFA and 2FA are?
Turning on multi-factor authentication provides each account with an added layer of security by requiring an employee to confirm their identity before they can access their account. Typically, this verification method involves sending a one-time code to an email or mobile device of the user.
Enabling multi-factor authentication together with strong passwords greatly improves the security of your business by making it much more difficult for cybercriminals to hack into these accounts and access sensitive data.
Enforcing MFA ensures compliance and removes the risk of human error whereby one account is missed. It only takes one account to be compromised to expose your business to data breaches.
3) Make Sure Your Systems Are Patched and Up to Date
Many businesses overlook the importance of keeping their computer systems up to date with the latest patches. While most businesses we speak to think it a good idea and want to do it, they struggle with actually putting in place a program to manage and monitor the updates.
Unfortunately, an outdated system is a major security risk that can lead to a wide range of issues. At a very basic level, enabling automatic updates will help keep your systems up to date with the latest patches.
A Managed Service Provider can take this a step further by managing and reporting on the application and compliance of the updates and patching. This is essential for any compliance and board oversight for a company that prioritises managing risk to the business.
We have witnessed over the last few years an ever-increasing cadence of vulnerabilities with software and operating systems (Windows 7, 10 & 11) that exposes some level of remote control or administrative access to business systems and sensitive data. Often patches are rapidly released by the software vendors that require urgent rollout. Relying on an ad-hoc per device update schedule prolongs the risk exposure and without centralised management, it’s impossible to provide assurance to the board or your insurance company that the risk has been mitigated.
Deploying a centralised patch and update management system that has direct reporting to management is a key step in keeping your IT eco-system secure. There are many options available and if you are working with an IT provider ensure you have at least monthly reporting on the key metric. If the data can’t be provided then it’s time to question your IT Support provider
4) Implement an Incident Response Plan (IRP)
Understanding how and to be in a position to rapidly respond to a cybersecurity incident is key for any business. Developing an incident response plan (IRP) can help to limit downtime in the workplace while also preventing your confidential data from falling into the wrong hands.
A Managed Service Provider can work with your business in developing a detailed IRP for a wide range of scenarios.
These plans will discuss the best way to respond to numerous situations while helping your employees avoid common mistakes. An IRP will also need to be revised on a continual basis to ensure they are always up to date.
5) Check Your Backups and Disaster Recovery Plan
One cybersecurity incident can result in significant data loss for your business. The loss of data can even happen due to an employee mistake or an infrastructure failure in the middle of a project.
The best way to prepare for these situations is at a minimum to create data backups. Ideally, your business should have Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plan that is linked to your Incident Response Plan.
While backups are fantastic at keeping copies of your information separate from your live production systems they are often a significant limiting factor to recovery.
Every business has become more reliant on technology, not only the data like files and spreadsheets but the operating environment like critical applications that are foundational to the daily business operations.
Just imagine if your business couldn’t access critical systems such as email or your ERP or accounts or payroll applications. Yes, your data might be securely stored as a backup but how do you access the data?
A disaster recovery plan and Business Continuity system differ from backup, it not only keeps your data secure it also details and provides rapid recovery of the entire IT eco-system so even if IT systems were on-fire or you experienced a substantial ransomware incident your business could be up and running again in hours not weeks. Your business is on Fire, what do you do? Read about how Momentum Support remained fully operational as their offices went up in flames
If you’re still only relying on backups, it’s time to review your business's reliance on technology to understand what impact an IT incident would have on your organisation. If you need some help, engage with a professional Managed Services Provider and explore your options.
6) Ensure All Your Devices Are Encrypted
Encryption plays a vital role in keeping data safe from cyber threats. Double-checking to make sure all of your devices are encrypted is essential to your data security and limiting the chance of a data breach.
Using built-in encryption programs (Bitlocker) or third party providers can help you keep your data secure.
Don’t be that company that has a laptop stolen and because you can’t verify it was encrypted you have to disclose a data breach to the DPO!.
A managed IT service provider can assist in making sure each device is encrypted. Any device you purchase should be encrypted by default as part of a policy. Ask your provider to demonstrate encryption compliance in your business.
7) Get Certified to a Cyber Security Standard (Cyber Essentials)
Choosing to get certified with a cyber security standard is a great way to give your business additional protection. Cyber Essentials is a certification scheme originally formed in the UK in 2014, overseen by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and backed by the UK government. While our own NCSC doesn’t have such a standard, it’s still highly relevant for Irish businesses as a foundational step to help protect the business against a wide range of cyber threats.
To get started, simply complete an online assessment to determine your business's alignment to the standard. The report will identify what is in and out of compliance and help you address the areas of weakness.
Placing the necessary IT security protocols in place will help you to get certified while greatly reducing the chance of a cybersecurity incident.
The Cyber Essentials certification should be a starting point to your formal certification policy, most businesses transition to CE+ and potentially onto IASME and ISAME Gold before embarking on ISO 27001 or similar certifications.
8) Work With a Trusted MSP!
Keeping your small business protected from cybercrime requires investment and continual engagement across the three pillars of People, Technology, and Processes. It's essential to implement a cyber security program that's continually managed and updated.
Often small and mid-sized businesses struggle with the maintenance of such a plan, despite good intentions. Working with a trusted managed service provider will give you access to a team of cybersecurity experts that will help manage and guide you while keeping your business safe.
A managed service provider will help define the cyber security standards and policies, deploy additional layers of security, provide basic training, and continually manage the IT security systems of your business.
Cyber security needs to continually evolve to stay up to date with sophisticated cyber attacks. Every business, whether small, medium, or large, needs to make cyber security a priority.
One of the most important steps is to assess the current risk profile of a business, such as auditing the company against an internationally recognised standard, such as Cyber Essentials.
Learn more about how we can help protect your business and request a short meeting by using the button below!