Let’s face it, most people don’t care about cybersecurity in their business. Don’t get me wrong, they care, but they just don’t have the time to devote to learning more to make informed decisions regarding it and their business. So they put it off.
I don’t blame them. And what they put off they don’t understand. And you don’t know what you don’t know. In a way, ignorance is bliss.
Cybersecurity is a critical topic though. It shouldn’t be ignored. And what you don’t know…can actually hurt you.
So, I’m going to cut through a lot of the confusion and break down actionable steps you can take in your business today, to help ensure you are as safe as possible.
I’ve compiled common weak points that small and mid-sized businesses suffer from, that either unknowingly create headaches and/or weaknesses that put the organization at risk.
This is far from exhaustive, but it should be a good start for anybody to safeguard their business against cyber threats. It’s also a great double-check to make sure you’re on track.
Here are 9 common cybersecurity challenges that many small and mid-sized businesses face:
Keeping software up to date can be a hassle. Trust us, we know. Just because we are an IT company doesn’t mean that we don’t relate. We just understand it needs to be done and make it our job to help do so for our clients.
Why is it so important? Because running outdated software is risky. Updates come in two forms, either to create a better product (by adding features or streamlining functionality) or to patch security flaws that have been discovered – and new ones are found frequently.
Not keeping those security patches up to date leaves a known backdoor to your business. Keeping up to date is an easy way to shut down any exploits that are out there.
One of the easiest ways to strengthen your defenses is by not using weak credentials. A weak password is about as good as no password. You’re up against people who crack passwords, so using something basic like “123456” or “password” doesn’t even slow them down.
It’s crucial to create strong, unique passwords for all accounts and devices. Make your password 10-25 characters long, and utilize a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. The most important thing is to use a different password for every account you have. That way even if one is breached, the criminals don’t get access to all of your accounts.
The best way to create and store complex passwords like this is with a Password Manager. They also help manage passwords for your entire team, so you have full control over account access even when people are away on vacation, have moved on to other employment, or you encounter any of those scenarios where you know you need better control over your access.
This is one of the most common misunderstandings. Wi-Fi access isn’t all the same. You should have secure Wi-Fi throughout your office, meaning that it is password protected and WPA2 or WPA3 encrypted. For sensitive tasks, consider using a virtual private network (VPN) to protect data transmission.
By all means, if you have a guest network, have it segregated and not connected to your main network where all your data and applications lie. Do these two things and it will dramatically enhance your network security.
Need your Wi-Fi to be faster? We’ve got a free guide on that.
Lack of Employee Training
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link they say. I’d argue the same thing about your security.
Your employees are essential to your cybersecurity defense. They are on the front lines daily doing the work, so they are the ones in the trenches getting the most phishing attacks and malware thrown at them. Without proper training, they can unknowingly fall for phishing scams or inadvertently expose sensitive information.
The best way to strengthen your team is to educate them on the threats and risks involved. This training should be regular, to keep things consistently fresh and in front of mind. They should be taught security best practices, such as identifying phishing emails, staying away from suspicious websites, and using secure file-sharing methods.
No Data Backups
People have known to back up their data since the invention of computers. Sadly, most people don’t take this very seriously and don’t have a good (or any) backup solution in place. Data loss can occur due to hardware failures, ransomware attacks, or other unforeseen incidents.
This is why the concept of backup has expanded into Backup and Disaster Recovery. It’s not just about having backup in place and checking it off the list. It’s about backing your data up properly.
Follow the 3-2-1 rule – maintaining three copies of your data on two different types of media, with one copy stored offsite – to help ensure data resilience. Regularly test backups to confirm their viability and that you can restore them if needed. You’d be scared to know the stats of how many backups are not reliable enough to restore completely – or restore at all.
No Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
Welcome to the modern age of computing, where simply having a user ID and a strong password isn’t enough to keep you safe. You need an extra layer of defense, which is MFA. MFA is an additional layer of security by requiring an additional authentication beyond the user and password information. This single additional step makes it exponentially harder for attackers to breach accounts.
We recommend using authenticator apps, rather than email or SMS messages, because it is the safest way to obtain additional login codes while keeping the process convenient. Really, there isn’t a reason to not use MFA. The risk-to-convenience ratio is extremely in favor of MFA.
Disregarding Mobile Security
Often when thinking about cyber security, businesses will only think of their office computers. They fail to realize how much connectivity they have with their phone.
Mobile devices play a significant role in business operations, but as such they also pose security risks. Any device that connects to company data must be protected.
To protect your mobile devices properly, ensure that all devices have strong passcodes or biometric locks enabled. Follow the same advice above regarding keeping the software up to date. As many phone manufacturers have limited security support for their devices, make sure to retire them promptly so that you always have the latest security patches.
Consider using mobile device management (MDM) solutions such as Microsoft Intune to enforce security policies and manage devices effectively. This also handles tricky situations like managing an employee’s personal device that is used for work.
I’m sure you have the software that you have chosen as the best tools for your business. Is that all that is being used? The use of applications that are not approved, or even specifically disapproved, is called Shadow IT. The name “shadow” is because it’s hard to track what you are not aware of, and this rogue software use seems to stay stealthy by keeping to the shadows.
Why is Shadow IT such a problem? Well, because it adds risk to your network that you don’t know is there. It’s hard to know if an app needs to be updated if you don’t know it’s there. Or if a third-party service gets breached but you don’t even know your company is utilizing their services.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t let employees pick their own software if it helps them get their job done. It does mean you should have a standard policy of what is allowed and how to get apps added to that approved status. Establish those policies and frequently audit what is being used.
Incident Response Plan
You can secure yourself to prevent disasters, but you can’t avoid them. No security system is bulletproof, and if you’re being told that then you need to listen to somebody else. Eventually, the inevitable will happen. You will be breached, or you will have a disaster, or the sky will fall.
Part of preparing is making a plan. Having an incident response plan in place helps your team detect, respond to, and recover from incidents effectively. Your team should know how to respond to situations. Who to report to. How to report it. How important it is. Just having the basics outlined saves so much time in getting any breach controlled and starts the steps to recovery that much quicker. Not to mention it releases a ton of pressure so that you don’t panic when it happens.
Those are your 9 most common cybersecurity points to check and take action on. If you are having trouble or have some questions, or even want to take it to the next level – we’re here to help!
Let us assist you in identifying and addressing potential vulnerabilities. Our goal is to help you establish a robust security posture for your business. Book an appointment on our live calendar for a no-strings-attached discovery meeting. We’ll get a sense of where you are and what the best next steps for you should be.