Prevent Data Breaches in Your SME with These 5 Cybersecurity Tips

14

JULY, 2019

These days, knowing how to prevent data breaches has become a fundamental business process– as important as sound financial management, on-target marketing, and good customer service. But as the frequency and sophistication of cyber attacks continue to grow, small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) are finding themselves in the cross hairs.

Why Hackers Like SMEs So Much

Technically, we hear a lot more in the media about those high-profile security breaches happening at large companies, such as the recent data breach at British Airways where the personal information of 500,000 customers was stolen from their website and mobile app. But, the less well-publicized truth is that Irish SMEs are often hurt the most by cybercrime. SMEs operating with limited resources have become the number one target for hackers, according to a recent 4iQ 2019 Identity Breach Report. In fact, cyber criminals have been purposely targeting more SMEs, leading to a whopping 424% increase in new, authentic security breaches since 2017!

Why is this happening?

First, we need to understand why SMEs are such a juicy target. Big enterprises are enticing because of the large treasure trove of sensitive customer data that they are storing, things like credit card details, contact information, and account passwords.

This is despite the fact that enterprise organizations as of late have been pouring tons of money and other resources into cutting edge systems that can detect, contain, and prevent security breaches and have hired extensive IT teams to both manage these systems and offer cybersecurity training to employees.

For SMEs, the threat is of a different nature. While they may have smaller amounts of sensitive, valuable data and other resources that can be compromised, SMEs simultaneously have limited resources to protect themselves against a cyber attack. They also need to overcome a pervasive attitude of apathy towards cybersecurity that can so easily crop up when there are so many other “more pressing” operational issues requiring attention.

But carelessness, system failures, and even unhappy employees are real, every day risks that could cause some serious, often fatal damage to an SME. They just can’t be ignored.

5 Cybersecurity Tips to Prevent and Contain Data Breaches in Your SME

If you own a small or medium-sized enterprise, and you are struggling to protect the business against hackers, there is no reason to remain a sitting duck. There are several cost-effective and relatively painless ways to help prevent data breaches. Here are five such cybersecurity tips to keep in mind:

1. Get educated. If you don’t know what the threats are, then you can’t make the necessary steps to protect your business from them. So, take a little time to learn about the most common (and successful) forms of cybercrime affecting Irish SMEs today. For example, perhaps you may have heard about malware, phishing scams, and ransomware attacks, but what about breaches due to invoice redirection and CEO fraud? Sometimes cyber criminals are actually not even after your data. Instead, they want to exploit your physical or cloud-based computing resources or the digital access you have to bigger enterprises– a form of hacking called resource hijacking.

2. Get the right data protection tools. Protect your internal network with anti-virus and anti-malware software equipped with a good firewall. Make sure there is also encryption on all mobile devices connecting to the business’ network and initiate multi-factor authentication. If your business uses (or is considering using) cloud-based services, then they also need to be vetted for their data security features.

3. Make healthy data security habits. Implement basic security policies and practices that help to keep your system and the data it holds in front of the right pairs of eyes. For example, make an effort to keep your software updated, especially when it comes to security patches. A failure to patch known vulnerabilities creates a virtual open door for hackers. Plus, do not allow unauthorized software to run on your system, and make sure to restrict user privileges. Finally, you’ll want to conduct vulnerability tests and risk assessments once a year in order to uncover the biggest cybersecurity holes.

4. Create a plan of action in case of a data breach. You need to have an action plan in place should a data breach occur. There are two main reasons for this: 1) to contain the damage and prevent more data or resources from being compromised, and 2) to preserve a record of how and where the breach occurred so that the exploited vulnerability can be patched. It also goes without saying that you should be regularly backing up all of your business’ data to a cloud-based system or a remote location so you can limit the interruption and loss and quickly resume operations.

5. Make employee training a priority. You may feel that there’s not enough time to educate your staff about the risks of clicking on unsolicited emails, browsing unknown websites, or even recognizing the warning signs of a data breach. But keep in mind, even the best data security protection will be worthless if an employee carelessly or unknowingly makes a mistake. For this reason it is essential that your business provides basic cybersecurity training for all employees who have access to sensitive data.

In short, to prevent data breaches in your business, you first have to make it a priority. But, it’s a priority that will pay for itself many times over.

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