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Small Business Cybersecurity Explained

What is Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity is the process by which individuals and companies protect their digital assets from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, destruction, modification or disruption.

Digital assets may include:

  • Data: personal identity, financial documents, trade secrets, etc.
  • Communications: emails, VoIP calls, social media, websites, etc.
  • Applications: productivity and line of business software, etc.
  • Infrastructure: servers, computers, tablets, phones, networks, etc.

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Click here to learn more on the importance of cybersecurity in business.

Why Cybersecurity is Important for Small Business

Cybersecurity is important for small business because SMBs are especially vulnerable. Cybercriminals view them as easy targets with low or no defenses in place. And they’re often right.

SMBs — perhaps your company — typically lack cybersecurity for a range of reasons like these:

  • “We’re too small to be targeted.”
  • “It’s on our to-do list.”
  • “We don’t have IT staff.”
  • “We can’t afford it.”

If any of these assertions sound familiar, you’re not alone. However, most are rooted in misconceptions about the real risks and costs involved.

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Click here for our in-depth article that provides a deep dive into why cybersecurity is important for small business.
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Common Cybersecurity Threats to Small Business

So, what are the most common cybersecurity threats to small business? There are many approaches hackers can take to intercept your data or disrupt your operations. Familiarize yourself with the following common attack tools or methods, so you recognize them if/when you see them in action against your company.

Ransomware is a type of malware in which the data on a target device is locked via encryption and a ransom payment is demanded before the data is decrypted and access is returned to the victim. Ransomware remains the most common cyber threat to SMBs, with 60 percent of MSPs reporting that their SMB clients have been hit as of third quarter 2020, Datto reveals.

Phishing is a data breach through social engineering. It’s the bad guys fooling your employees into admitting them into your network or otherwise helping them commit cybercrimes against your business. Typically, the hacker disguises its email, phone, or other means of communication to appear as if it’s coming from a legitimate source. Your staff is tricked into divulging important information such as passwords or other sensitive data. Phishing might result in identity theft or financial theft through fake invoices or payroll diversion fraud, among other crimes.

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Click here for the the full list of common cybersecurity threats to small business.

What is a Good Small Business Cybersecurity Plan?

There’s no silver bullet to ensure your business will never be impacted by a security event, but there are strategies and solutions for mitigating your risk. Let’s start with a five-step guide to best practices and then take a look at layering in solutions for basic and advanced cybersecurity.

1. Start with a security assessment.

  • Identify your critical assets. Which data and systems need to be protected? Make sure you think through strategic information, sensitive client information (e.g., intellectual property, financial data, bank and credit card information, etc.) and sensitive information for your own company (e.g., employee personal identifying information, financial data and health information).
  • Run an external vulnerability scan. Once you’ve identified the data and systems you need to protect, it’s time to find your weak spots.
  • Identify and close ports and protocols that shouldn’t be open.
  • Audit web browsing and application control protocols.
  • Review password and security policies.

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Check out the next steps to a good small business cybersecurity plan.

Types of Cybersecurity Solutions for Small Business

There is a range of small business cybersecurity solutions, so which ones should you choose? As noted previously, effective cybersecurity doesn’t come in one box but from layers of solutions that seek to stop attacks along their path.

The following solutions are recommended to support a basic level of cybersecurity. Some of these work at the firewall level and others at endpoints, which are individual devices connected to your network, including desktop computers, laptops and smartphones.

Next-generation Firewalls
A firewall creates a barrier around your network and monitors traffic in and out of that network based on security rules. A firewall alone can’t protect your network, but it’s one very good weapon. That’s especially true if your system is protected by next-generation firewall (NGFW) technology, which does everything a traditional firewall does but boosts protection through heuristics (analysis using rules, estimates and educated guesses for prediction) or artificial intelligence (AI). Next-generation protection also delivers unified threat management (UTM), which includes:

  • Antivirus software
  • Intrusion Detection System and Intrusion Prevention System (IDS/IPS)
  • Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) of Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) traffic
  • Safelisting/blocklisting software

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Click here for a full list of cybersecurity solutions for small business.

Should Small Businesses Manage Cybersecurity In-house or Outsource?

Some SMBs manage their cybersecurity needs in-house. In these cases, they usually are among the few with cybersecurity expertise internally, have underutilized IT personnel they can train up, or don’t realize that outsourced solutions are not just affordable but usually more comprehensive.

What Should Small Businesses Look for in a Managed Security Service Provider?

Managed security services are an attractive option for SMBs, solving many challenges of securing an organization effectively and affordably. That said, not every MSP is created equally. Ensure that you’re selecting the right MSP for your SMB by considering the following questions:

What is the breadth of the MSP’s service?
Many MSPs offer managed firewall services, but stop short of delivering complete protection, which extends to endpoints, for example. Instead, look for an MSP that covers the entire lifecycle of an attack from user training and firewall to endpoint and backup and recovery.

Is the MSP there when you need them?
Hackers don’t work bankers’ hours; they do their misdeeds from all time zones and all hours of the day and night. That means your business network is at risk of data breach 24/7. Seek assurance from your MSP that you’ll be in immediate touch with a team of certified engineers – not just an answering service or non-certified support – whenever you need assistance.

Are the MSP’s engineers certified in the technologies they deploy?
While all MSPs can sell and deploy hardware and software solutions, not all of them are certified by the manufacturers to do so. Certification is often arduous and expensive but ensures that the MSP’s engineers set up the solutions correctly to protect your environment.

Where do the MSP’s engineers go for tech support?
MSP engineers sometimes need help, so where do they turn? Certified MSPs get preferred status and go to the head of the line for support, which is critical to assuring you get both fast and expert assistance.

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