How to Build a Small Business Cyber Security Strategy

How to Build a Small Business Cyber Security Strategy

Reading Time: 8 minutes(Last Updated On: April 2, 2020)

Something smells phishy…

Or is that spam? Either way, it’s something to avoid – that’s for sure.

Okay, enough puns. In our computer-driven world, cyber threats lurk behind every click we make and every file we take. This is quite a serious subject.

Wondering how you can prepare your small business against cyber attacks? Keep scrolling to find out!

What is small business cyber security?

Also referred to as small business IT security, small business cyber security is the practice of ensuring that a small business’s digital network (and the data within it) is safe from threats in cyberspace.

Feeling a little doubtful that your small business will be the target of a hack-attack? We don’t want to frighten you, but the stats show that in 2018, small organizations were more likely than larger organizations to be targeted with email spam, phishing, and malware.

The reason? Small business network security is often weaker than that of larger companies, typically because of the amount of resources being invested in developing a strong cyber security business plan. It’s high time that small business owners take cyber security concerns more seriously and put more emphasis on protecting their digital networks!

Still not convinced? See what the numbers have to say about the importance of small business network security…

Why do small businesses need to invest in cyber security?

While we certainly hope you don’t fall into these statistics, if you need some proof that a cyber security business plan is completely necessary for the health and stability of your business, here you have it!

Small business IT security stats:

  • In 2018, the Internet Crime Complaint Center received over 20,000 scam complaints with losses reported of over $1.2 billion.
  • Small businesses make up 58% of all cybercrime victims.
  • The average cost of a small business cyber attack is roughly $35k.
  • Nearly 50% of all small businesses experienced a cyber attack in the past 12 months.
  • 60% of small businesses that experience a data breach go out of business within 6 months of the cyber attack.
  • 90% of all cyber attacks are the result of human error within an organization.

Which risks can be avoided with small business network security?

The first thing that probably comes to mind when you think about a small business cyber security breach is the financial damage it can cause. While that’s definitely something to be concerned about, there are other ways that your business can be harmed as a result of a faulty or non-existent cyber security business plan.

Small business IT security is important to protect:

  • Client personal information
  • Client financial information
  • Your business’s bank details
  • Your business plans or designs
  • Other sensitive personal or business-related information

What are the consequences of a small business cyber security failure?

If your small business cyber security plan isn’t effective at warding off hackers, the potential consequences can be devastating. Some of the damages are repairable, others not so much.

1. Damage to your business’s reputation

We’re living in the digital age where businesses are expected to protect their own digital data, as well as that of their clients. Falling victim to a cyber attack can leave a bad mark on your business that’s unlikely to be forgotten, particularly by those clients were may have been impacted.

It takes lots of time to build up a reputation of reliability, and only a short time to ruin it. Bolster your small business IT security to keep your reputation untarnished by the stain of a harmful data breach.

2. Financial damage as a result of theft

Perhaps the most common concern regarding small business cyber security failures is having money stolen. Needless to say, you don’t want that to happen to your business. You work hard for your money. Put some of it towards building up a strong and resilient cyber security business plan so that you can keep the rest of your funds safe from hackers!

3. Interference of normal business operations

You might catch a small business network security breach early enough to stop any real or long-lasting damage from being done. But still, you’ll have to take precious time away from conducting business-as-usual to ‘plug the holes’ that allowed the cyber attack to happen in the first place.

Put a small business cyber security plan into action before the threat hits you, so you don’t end up wasting time later on down the line. It could reduce downtime from data breaches by roughly 20%!

4. Costliness of clearing the threat

Besides the financial damage and the time that you’ll have to invest in preventing a future data breach, there’s the cost involved in clearing an existing threat if a cyber attack is successful. Of course, even if you’ve developed a cyber security business plan, there’s always a chance that your business’s network can be compromised.

In that case, what’s the point of having a small business cyber security plan? Well, consider this: a 2020 Cisco report showed that businesses with higher accountability had breach costs 10% lower than businesses that were less prepared to handle a cyber attack.

Small business cyber security isn’t just about preventing data breaches, it’s about handling them effectively in the event that they occur. If the first domino gets knocked over, you’ll want to be able to stop the chain reaction. Just think about it as part of your business disaster recovery plan.

How to implement a small business cyber security plan

Step-by-step guide for setting up a cyber security strategy:

  1. Assess potential risks
  2. Educate employees
  3. Develop cyber security policies
  4. Back up important data
  5. Keep systems and software up-to-date
  6. Protect your Wi-Fi network
  7. Use antivirus software
  8. Enlist professional help

1. Assess potential risks

Every business will have different cyber vulnerabilities. That’s why it’s key that you take the time to evaluate where your business’s cyber-weaknesses are. Otherwise, it won’t be clear how to best protect your small business from hackers, and you may wind up wasting time, money, and energy on building up a cyber security business plan that doesn’t fit your needs.

Some questions you should ask:

  • What sensitive data do you keep?
  • Where do you store your data?
  • Who can access that data?
  • And so on

2. Educate employees

Your employees have access to your network, and so they need to be trained on how to protect your business against cyber threats. There’s no way around it. They may be nice people and do great work, but if they end up being responsible for your network being breached whether intentionally or not, your business will feel the hurt.

Train your employees to recognize suspicious emails, to use strong passwords on all of their work-related devices, to not log in to the business network from unsecured locations, and so on. If properly prepared, your employees can act as your first line of defense against cyber attacks.

3. Develop cyber security policies

The exact policies you put into place can vary, but generally, you’ll want to:

  • Limit access and use of business devices to authorized individuals only
  • Establish unique user accounts for each of your employees
  • Require the use of strong passwords
  • Have employees lock their computers (!)
  • Grant administrative access only when absolutely necessary

4. Back up important data

On a normal basis, your business’s important data should be backed up to an external location (or to the cloud, as it’s called). That includes financial data, HR files, spreadsheets & databases, designs, plans, blueprints, and so on. If done on a regular schedule, backing up your files can prove to be extremely useful when if you find yourself recovering from a data breach.

Cyber Security Business Plan

5. Keep systems and software up-to-date

This may seem pretty basic, but instead of clicking ‘dismiss’ on that software update like you’ve been doing for the past few months, take the time to let your system update. Those updates might seem like an inconvenience in terms of time, but they serve to patch those holes that hackers can potentially slip through to get into your network.

The five minutes you spend letting your software update itself will seem like nothing when compared to the days or weeks it can take to recover from a cyber security breach.

6. Protect your Wi-Fi network

If left unprotected, your Wi-Fi network can act as a doorway that gives hackers direct access to your business’s data. Considering how easy it is to secure your Wi-Fi network, and the potential damage that can result from leaving it unsecured, there’s truly no reason your wireless internet shouldn’t already be protected. Make sure that your Wi-Fi is password-protected, encrypted, and undiscoverable to third parties.

7. Use antivirus software

Software is something of an arms race. Hackers try to develop better ways to infiltrate networks, and the ‘good guys’ try to builder stronger walls of defense to keep networks safe.

While they may not be flawless, antivirus software can be a huge help in keeping your small business cyber security plan strong. The best antivirus software will not only detect threats, but actively eliminate them and keep all of your devices unharmed. 

8. Enlist professional help

If you’re not the most tech-savvy person, there’s no need to worry. There are plenty of cyber security consultants whose services you can incorporate into your small business IT security plan.

It should go without saying that you should do your due diligence when hiring a small business cyber security consultant. You’ll usually be better off hiring someone from a firm rather than an individual, as it could be harder to confirm the reliability of a freelancing consultant. That being said, a professional cyber security consultant from a firm could cost a pretty penny. Luckily, there are solutions for that as well.

How to finance a small business security plan

Developing and deploying a strong and effective cyber security business plan can be expensive depending on how resilient you want your defenses to be. That shouldn’t stop you though, as having weak small business network security can turn out to be expensive as well.

What’s the solution?

Alternative business loans. Technology has opened doors to new ways for small businesses to obtain financing quicker and easier than ever before. Take Become, for example. With dozens of top lenders in one online lending marketplace, Become empowers small business owners with the means of matching with the optimal lender that fits their specific needs.

See which types of business funding solutions are best for small business cyber security plans:

1. Unsecured business loan

If your business doesn’t hold many valuable assets – or if you prefer to keep them out of harm’s way – then an unsecured business loan may be the right financing option for you. They don’t require any collateral, which means that the risk is lower for the borrower but higher for the lender.

For that reason, unsecured business loans typically have higher interest rates than other types of business loans. But when the alternative is having a business with a vulnerable digital network, paying interest on a loan is worth the investment.

2. Business line of credit

Not sure exactly how you want to design your small business cyber security plan and what costs will come along the way? Then having a flexible form of business financing will be necessary – in which case a business line of credit is the solution you’ll want to consider.

Not only can the funds be used to pay for virtually any business-related expense, but they can be used on an as-needed basis (meaning you only pay interest on what you use). This is a great safety-net to have for your business’s finances in general, not only with specific regards to small business cyber security.

3. Asset-based business loans

Does your business have valuable assets that you’re comfortable using as security for a loan? Then you’ll want to have a look at the asset-based business loans. Since providing collateral reduces the risk on the part of the lender, the interest rates with asset-based loans are typically lower than other forms of business financing.

As attractive as the rates and terms may be, you’ll still need to carefully consider how affordable the loan is for your business. You can use the DSCR formula to help you make that determination.

4. Business equipment loans

In some cases, you may want (or need) to update your business’s hardware in order to ensure your small business network security. When that’s the situation, business equipment loans are the way to go.

One of the best parts of business equipment loans is that the equipment being bought acts as its own collateral. That means these business loans can help you purchase new computers – or other equipment – without putting your other valuable assets at risk.

Logging out

Preparing your business for a cyber attack is not something to take lightly. The impact that a data breach can have on your business is a serious matter and requires careful thought to counteract.

Use the information provided here to give your small business cyber security plan a once-over. Of course, you should also bookmark this page for future reference so that you can continue improving your small business IT security as time goes on.

The influence that digital technology has on our world is always growing, and with that influence come threats. Get your small business ready to fight back today!

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only, should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter and should not be relied upon as such. The author accepts no responsibility for any consequences whatsoever arising from the use of such information.