• Imraan Bashir, Author |
3 min read

Every day, our access to online services increases and that's fantastic from a user's perspective. However, as we widen our access, we must be aware that we are also widening our exposure to cyber threats.

Customers' expectations for online services are growing, which can be especially challenging for small businesses that may not have experience doing business virtually. With the added pressure of going to market quickly, small businesses can be even more susceptible to unethical actors looking to take advantage of vulnerabilities online.

While no organization, big or small, is immune to cyberattacks, there are several steps that small businesses in particular can take to increase their resilience in a digital world. Here are four things you can do to help you prepare for your company's cybersecurity journey.

1. Make cybersecurity a business priority. Is the value of cybersecurity understood in your organization? Far too often, cybersecurity is treated as an IT issue when it should be treated more broadly as a strategic business priority. That's because cyber risk is no different than climate change, natural disasters or pandemics when it comes to potential negative disruptions to your business. Although, yes, different in certain practical ways, these disruptions can all ultimately impact your business and should each be addressed with an action plan that's tailored to your company's needs. Cyber breaches can be scary but protecting your business from an attack doesn't have to be.

2. Assess your current state. What are your critical assets and what will it take to protect them? There is no silver bullet that's going to solve all your cybersecurity problems. What you need is the right combination of people, processes and technology. While that may seem overwhelming at first, cybersecurity doesn't necessarily need to be overly expensive or complicated. The key is to find the right size for your business context, and that starts by identifying your critical assets or "crown jewels" and understanding how to protect them against the most common threats. From there, you can address basic hygiene elements, such as patching or updating software to the latest versions, and then build a roadmap that includes the right investments toward those people, processes and technologies.

3. Create a culture of trust. Do your customers feel comfortable sharing their data with you? We've all heard the saying "trust takes years to build, seconds to break and forever to repair." This quote couldn't be truer when it comes to the trust of your customers in the digital world. When a cyber breach happens, your brand's reputation is on the line. Even if it's something as small as your website being defaced, this can change your customers' perception of your business. Getting off to the right start and building trust with your customers by ensuring their security is key. This not only means demonstrating that you have the right proactive controls in place (e.g., two-factor authentication), but also that you have the appropriate mechanisms to promptly detect, respond to and recover from a cyber-attack if such a situation arises (e.g., developing and practicing an incident response plan).

4. Defend as one. It's important to remember that cybersecurity cannot be the responsibility of just one person—it's a team sport. While there are principles that guide us, it's all about basic cyber hygiene and everyone playing their part. Things as simple as educating employees about good password management, encrypting sensitive data and ensuring mobile devices are locked when not in use are all ways we can practice good cyber hygiene. Implementing security in a way that's easy to use and aligned with business outcomes is also crucial. If security is too cumbersome or if it's perceived to be a barrier to getting the job done, users tend to find workarounds. But if you design your security controls with users and business outcomes in mind from the outset, you'll see greater adoption.

One size does not fit all
It's important to remember that there's no copy and paste solution for cybersecurity. Cyber solutions need to be contextualized and tailored appropriately for your business needs. While the tips above can get you started, if you're ready to join the growing number of businesses making cybersecurity a priority, let's talk.

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