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Small businesses are the lifeblood of American prosperity. Almost half of all workers in the country work for a business with fewer than 500 employees – and that doesn’t even account for the some 27 million small business owners who are their own sole employee.
Unfortunately, because small businesses are the drivers of our economy, they are also a ripe target for cyberattacks. The FBI recently reported that the majority of cybercrime victims are small businesses.
We get it – you’re focused on customer acquisition, shipping, marketing, and getting the job done. But security needs to play a role in your operation. If you and your employees adopt a handful of behaviors, you can vastly improve your cyber defenses and keep your company rolling.
To learn new behaviors, though, you will first need to “unlearn” some misconceptions. Here are the top eight small business cybersecurity misconceptions…and how your outfit can overcome them.
Misconception 1: We Are Not a Target for Cybercriminals
It’s a common misconception among small business owners to believe that they are not a target for cybercriminals. Shouldn’t the hackers be focused on the Fortune 500 and not little ol’ me? In reality, every business, regardless of its size, the type of data it handles, or the industry it operates in, is susceptible to cyberattacks. Above everything else, cybercriminals are opportunistic, and they often see small and medium-sized businesses as prime targets due to a perception that they will have weaker cybersecurity defenses. Small businesses can fall victim to a range of cyber threats, including ransomware and impersonation scams.
Attackers look to exploit vulnerabilities, seeking financial gain or access to your sensitive information. To protect your small business, regularly conduct security audits to identify vulnerabilities, encourage employees to use strong, unique passwords, learn to identify phishing attempts, and keep your software up to date. Because any business can be a target, cybersecurity should be a priority for all businesses, regardless of size.
Misconception 2: Cybersecurity is a Technology Issue
It’s a widespread belief that cybersecurity is a tech issue for the geeks to worry about. In fact, most cyberattacks occur through social engineering, where a criminal infiltrates a system through your people and processes. This could involve an employee unwittingly clicking a link in a phishing email, or a vendor being impersonated and sending you a fake invoice. Very few attacks involve the brute-force cracking of an account (assuming the password is strong and unique, that is). Cybersecurity encompasses not just technology, but also the people and processes within an organization. Human error and negligence pose significant threats. Employees who click on malicious links, use weak passwords, or inadvertently share sensitive information can compromise the security of your entire business. Prioritize building a culture of awareness and responsibility among your staff.
Comprehensive training programs help, and you should implement clear cybersecurity policies and guidelines. Reward and recognize employees who demonstrate good cybersecurity habits. Make security a collective responsibility and a fundamental part of the organizational culture – then your defenses become stronger and your people are a force multiplier for technology-based security measures like antivirus software. Physical security is also paramount – don’t strangers in the front door, escort visitors, use cameras, separate areas with network equipment behind locked doors, and always use shred sensitive documents!
Misconception 3: Cybersecurity Requires a Huge Financial Investment
If you start thinking of cybersecurity as a set of behaviors, you will begin to see that protecting yourself won’t blow a hole in your balance sheet. Undoubtedly, security for your organization will probably cost money, but the investment is worth it. One of the most prevalent misconceptions is that cybersecurity necessitates a financial commitment that’s beyond the reach of small and medium-sized businesses. You don’t have to break the bank, and numerous cost-effective solutions are tailored to suit companies in your position. Many cloud-based services offer robust security features, such as data encryption and access controls, often at a fraction of the cost of maintaining an in-house infrastructure.
Also, consider outsourcing aspects of your needs to reputable vendors – then you tap into specialized cybersecurity expertise without incurring the total expense of an in-house security team. To make the most of your cybersecurity budget, conduct a risk assessment. You’ll identify your most critical vulnerabilities and then can prioritize spending on the areas that need the most attention. When choosing vendors or solutions, opt for reputable providers with a track record of delivering reliable security. Measuring and articulating the return on investment (ROI) for cybersecurity investments is illuminating. Consider the potential cost of a security breach. Weigh it against the expense of implementing security measures. Small businesses can significantly enhance their protection without draining their financial resources by adopting a strategic and measured approach to cybersecurity spending.
Misconception 4: Cybersecurity is a One-Time Project
A common misconception is that cybersecurity is a one-time project that can be completed and then forgotten, just like you might hire a locksmith for your office’s front door before your grand opening. In reality, security is an ongoing and dynamic process that demands continual monitoring, adaptation, and enhancement. Cyber threats are ever evolving, and new vulnerabilities are discovered regularly. Similarly, solutions, regulations, and industry standards change to address emerging risks and challenges.
For instance, what worked to protect against cyber threats a year ago may no longer be effective today. This constantly shifting landscape underscores the need for businesses to view cybersecurity as a continuous effort — and why you always need to download the latest software updates. Establish a routine of security audits, reviews, and testing. Regular data backups and disaster recovery planning are crucial to ensure business continuity in case of a breach – think in terms of “when,” not “if.” Staying informed about industry developments, such as new regulations or emerging threats, will help you make informed security decisions.
Misconception 5: Cybersecurity is Only the IT Department’s Responsibility
The problem with this misconception is that cybersecurity is actually a collective responsibility that extends to every member of an organization. Different roles and functions can contribute to cybersecurity, and they can also inadvertently compromise it. Management, for example, typically sets the tone for security culture by establishing policies and allocating resources. The finance department can allocate budget for security measures, while sales teams need to respect customer data. And anyone on staff can impact security through actions like using weak passwords.
To foster a culture of shared responsibility and accountability for cybersecurity, establish clear roles and expectations for all employees. Robust cybersecurity policies and procedures need to be communicated and consistently enforced. Regular cybersecurity training and awareness programs should be made available to all staff, not just the IT team. Encourage open communication channels for reporting potential threats or incidents because it creates collective vigilance.
Misconception 6: Cybersecurity Insurance Will Cover all the Losses from a Cyberattack
Let’s dispel the misconception that cybersecurity insurance acts as an impenetrable shield against all the losses that would result from a cyberattack. In reality, the extent of coverage greatly depends on the specific policy and the nature of the claim. Cybersecurity insurance typically covers some losses, such as direct costs like data recovery and notification expenses, and possibly legal defense costs. However, it may not cover costs like business interruption, reputational damage, or the full scope of legal liability.
Terms, conditions, and exclusions of cybersecurity insurance policies can vary significantly between providers, so any buyer needs to read the policy closely! Conduct a comprehensive review of available policies and select one that aligns with your needs and risk profile. We recommend working closely with a dedicated insurance professional who specializes in cybersecurity, because the topic is undeniably complex.
Misconception 7: Cybersecurity Compliance Equals Cybersecurity Protection
Don’t fall for the myth that cybersecurity compliance translates to protection automatically. Adhering to standards or regulations is a vital step, but that alone doesn’t guarantee immunity from cyber threats. Compliance requirements often establish minimum baselines, and these standards may not evolve quickly enough to keep pace with the ever-changing threat landscape. Moreover, compliance requirements can vary significantly across jurisdictions and industries, leading to gaps in security measures.
Implementing security controls, conducting regular risk assessments, and staying informed about emerging threats are crucial steps. Importantly, fostering a culture of security awareness boosts your protection. Don’t think of compliance as the endpoint but as a step toward a wide-ranging and continuous security journey. Be honest and realistic about the threats your company faces and adapt the baselines for compliance to go above and beyond for your specific environment.
Misconception 8: Cybersecurity can be Achieved by Technology Alone
Similar to Misconception 2, it isn’t wise to believe security can be attained solely through technology. Technology is undoubtedly a crucial component, but it represents one of the three essential pillars of effective cybersecurity. The other two are people and processes. People play a critical role through awareness training and responsible online behavior. Well-defined processes, such as incident response plans and business continuity strategies, are indispensable in mitigating and recovering from cyber incidents.
To achieve a balanced and integrated approach to cybersecurity, align these three pillars with their business goals and objectives. Clear communication of cybersecurity expectations and responsibilities throughout the organization is essential, as is regular evaluation of the three pillars. By recognizing that these pillars are interconnected and equally important, your small business can be both proactive and adaptive.
Your Small Business Deserves Protection
Dispelling these eight cybersecurity misconceptions is a pivotal first step toward forging a resilient cyber defense. Your small business, just like your larger counterparts, is a prime target for cybercrime. In turn, this means that cybersecurity is everyone’s responsibility. It’s not about the scale of your business, but the effectiveness of your cybersecurity measures that matters. Embrace a holistic approach that encompasses technology, people, and processes. Stay proactive and adaptive. Then you can rest assured as you navigate the digital world and protect the data under your control. Stay safe online and get down to business!