Cyber Security and Data Privacy for Small Businesses

Cyber security and data privacy has been a hot topic for businesses in recent years. This is due to a new-found emphasis being placed on the importance of cybersecurity and keeping your data safe. In this blog, we provide the common vulnerabilities small businesses face when concerned with cyber threats, the cost of ignoring cyber security, and cost-effective solutions you can implement to protect you and your business.

Cyber Security and Data Privacy for Small Businesses

Cyber security and data privacy has been a hot topic for businesses in recent years. This is due to a new-found emphasis being placed on the importance of cybersecurity and keeping your data safe. While there are many ways small to medium-sized businesses can implement cybersecurity in their day-to-day business lives, many struggle to find a starting point. Business owners tend to feel overwhelmed when confronted with this topic, leading to cybersecurity often being left on the back burner. In this blog, we provide the common vulnerabilities small businesses face when concerned with cyber threats, the cost of ignoring cyber security, and cost-effective solutions you can implement to protect you and your business.

Vulnerabilities that small businesses face concerning cyber threats:

  • Assumptions: Many small businesses are likely to lack cyber security, making them an easy target for cyber attacks. This is due to the widely held belief that cyber attacks only affect large corporations and organisations. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Because of the recent increase in cyber security investment by large businesses, cyber criminals are now targeting small businesses. This is due to the minimal effort of work needed for a large gain.
  • Limited resources: Whether it’s a lack of knowledge, time, or money, many small businesses have a limited number of resources they need to allocate within their business. And usually, the cyber security and data privacy segment of their business is left abandoned. However, there are many cheap but effective ways small businesses can protect themselves. Things such as awareness, Microsoft defender (and other built-in Microsoft security features), updating software, conducting regular security audits, are just some of the ways you can keep your business protected.
  • Insider threats: 43% of cyber security breaches are insider threats, whether intentional or not. Insider attacks can come from anywhere and are one of the most serious threats to your company's data. They could be the result of an employee unintentionally clicking on a harmful website or being tricked by a phishing email. This is why it is important that you and your staff are on the same page when it comes to safeguarding sensitive business data. Advocating for awareness and having conversations regarding this matter is a simple way to ensure your employees are always on the lookout for cyber threats.

The costs of ignoring cyber security:

Financial losses:

Losing thousands of pounds as a small business could be detrimental to the growth of your business. Imagine losing hundreds of thousands of pounds. You may no longer be able to invest in your business to help it grow, pay for basic business expenses like payroll, rent, and utilities, and you may face closure. In fact, 4 in 10 small businesses had to face business closure because of a cyber attack.

Here are some of the main ways businesses face financial losses:

  • Stealing sensitive banking information – During a cyber attack your sensitive banking information can be stolen. As a result, this can lead to unauthorised financial transactions.
  • Ransomware payments – Ransomware is a type of malware that is used to encrypt a victim’s data to deny them active of important files and data. To unlock access to your data, the cyber criminals will demand for a ransom that needs to be paid. Paying this can lead to significant financial losses and damage your reputation.
  • Legal financial issues: You may feel that your business is safe from financial losses when all the cyber criminals took was sensitive customer data. However, data breaches of this kind can result in you facing lawsuits due to failure of protecting customers sensitive data.

Ruins your business image:

First impressions matter. And if people have never heard of your brand or businesses before their initial image is completely negative. They now start to associate your business with a lack of cyber security and data privacy. This helps shape their perception in a negative way. It can also result in a loss of confidence and loss of trust with existing customers and may lose your customers to your competitors.

Aftermath:

The aftermath of a cyber attack is devastating. It’s incredibly hard to recover, and you’ve not got this terrible experience attached to your name. You went from a business a handful of people know, to a business that many people know, all for the wrong reasons. There will also be a sense of loss in employee morale. When you face financial loss, there’s an uncertainty within your team on whether they will lose their jobs. For some employees they will feel as if there’s only a matter of time before they lose their jobs. This could result in a loss of productivity, motivation, and employees looking for jobs elsewhere, losing your best talent.

Remote working – Cyber security while working from home:

  • VPN: A Virtual Private Network (VPN) can help encrypt your IP address, shielding you from hackers who are on the same network as you. This is a perfect solution for those who tend to work in local cafes or remote workspaces.
  • Email security: Investing in a secure email platform is an excellent tool for preventing data loss. According to research, the most common cause of data leaks when working from home is sending emails to the wrong person.
  • Action Fraud: Action Fraud is the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting facility, where you can report fraud and discuss what happened.
  • Education: Teach your users to spot and eliminate potential cyber security and data privacy threats like suspicious emails, avenues for phishing attacks, poor encryptions, suspicious links, social networking dangers and compromised physical security.
  • Disaster recovery: You can never be too prepared, no matter how strong your backup strategy is. There are always unforeseen circumstances that can occur at any time. A disaster recovery plan will provide you with an additional layer of security while allowing you to get your business back up and running in no time. These plans are intended to provide insurance for your company while allowing you to focus on your company and its goals.

Cost-effective cyber security solutions tailored for small businesses:

Employee training:

95% of cyber security breaches are caused by human error. This means that 95% of cyber-attacks could've been avoided. Don't be a part of the 95% and ensure that you and your team are aware of the various types of cyber attacks and the multiple signs of these attacks. Investing in employee training is an investment you seriously won’t regret.

Two-factor authentication:

A quick and easy security measure that adds a second layer of protection in addition to your password is by implementing two-factor authentication (2FA). 2FA is implemented to protect both a user’s credentials as well as the resources that they can access. 2FA makes it harder for attackers to gain access to a person’s devices or online accounts because even if they know your password, they still have to pass the authentication check.

Phone security:

Many business owners have their business on their phones. Having apps such as Teams, OneDrive, and Outlook at your fingertips makes doing business so much easier. The convenience it provides, as well as the ability to access your business information from anywhere, can significantly increase your efficiency and productivity. However, having this information on your phone provides another entry point for cyber criminals to obtain your sensitive data. Microsoft 365 users can take full advantage of Microsoft 365 features such as Microsoft Intune which allows you to manage and secure your mobile devices. Implement security features to protect your company's data on both company-owned and employee-owned devices.

Anti-virus:

With an anti-virus software, you’re able to help keep your sensitive data protected, defend your business against cyber security threats, as well as help preventing you from facing financial losses. You’re also safeguarding your business from evolving cyber threats, providing you with a future-proof solution. An anti-virus software uses various techniques to detect, prevent, and remove threats such as malware from your devices. Here are the couple of methods an anti-virus identifies and prevents threats from entering your business:

  • Signature-based detection – Antivirus software keeps an extensive database of known malware signatures. Signature-based detection identifies viruses by comparing files and programmes installed on the device to a database and looking for matches.
  • Behaviour-based detection – Behaviour-based detections scans software and programmes and looks to detect any suspicious behaviour. When a software exhibits suspicious behaviour, the anti-virus takes action to mitigate the threat.
  • Heuristic-based detection – Similar to signature-based detection, heuristic-based detection, scans files and programmes that enter the device. However, rather than looking for specific malware signatures, heuristic-detection involved looking for similar patterns commonly found in malware.
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