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If you were to ask five random strangers from different walks of life what the biggest threats to the future of small businesses are, you’d probably get similar answers. The potential answers are likely to include rising inflation and possible recession, labor market volatility, the speed of technological advances, supply chain issues and more.
The real question is, what insidious threat is all too often shunted to the back burner, passed on to the next operating budget? What problem is there left to tackle when revenues are on the right track, inventory is viable, growth is stable and scale-up is starting to take shape?
Related: Cybersecurity is no longer an option. Your money is in immediate danger.
Ignoring the warnings is the easy – and short-term – path for small and medium-sized businesses
Ignoring the seriousness of cyber threats is a dangerous game. The risk is undeniable:
- 61% of small businesses were exposed to a cyber attack in 2021
- Small businesses account for 43% of all data breaches
- More than half of small businesses that are exposed to a cyber attack close within six months
Acknowledging the harsh reality the majority of individuals choose to ignore is a crucial starting point. A true understanding of the situation results in knowing what protective measures must be taken. Creating and implementing cybersecurity measures must be a high priority for businesses of all sizes, especially SMBs, where the margin for error is razor thin.
Pressure to allocate resources effectively undermines cybersecurity efforts
There are few endeavors as nerve-wracking, terrifying, and potentially disastrous—yet 100% worth it—as starting and running a small business. I have experienced the passion that drives those who are dedicated to seeing it through. I have felt the fuel burning in team members who are fully committed to taking an idea and nurturing it into a viable, self-sustaining entity.
It’s no secret that the odds are stacked against us. The numbers don’t lie. It is widely reported that an average of 8 out of 10 small businesses fail within the first year. The odds get even grimmer within five years, with nearly half of all new small businesses closing up shop.
Given the obvious confidence and enthusiasm the founders exude, why do the majority of small businesses downplay or ignore cybersecurity? Why does the enormous potential for all-too-real disaster lurk around every corner? It is a matter of resources and a lack of an informed perspective.
Related: 5 Ways to Protect Your Business from Cyber Attacks
SMB management must elevate cyber security
Addressing cybersecurity as a small business is a necessary undertaking that sees greater complexity and effort over time. There are basic measures that must be taken, which are reinforced with increased security measures. Given the undeniable threats that lurk, the stronger a company’s protection features, the better.
Here are some important steps to take from the start:
- Internet and firewall security software. It is important to have both antivirus and firewall software running, as they solve different problems. Firewalls prevent external access to data on a private network; integration of reliable security software, operating systems and browsers is essential armor for networked use of this data.
- Data backup. In the event of a cyberattack involving the hijacking or corruption of corporate data, a reliable, high-quality backup will be a lifesaver. Backups of data must be updated regularly to ensure prompt use.
- Secure Wi-Fi. A simple and straightforward measure, a secure Wi-Fi setup is a powerful piece of the protective puzzle. It may be necessary to go beyond the basic security offered by your provider.
- Controlled access and authority. The most effective way to avoid potential crises is to implement controlled access to data and limit user authority. This action helps ensure that employees do not inadvertently install or use compromised programs, weaken cybersecurity settings, or access data and information beyond their responsibility.
Awareness, education, and formal policy are critical to cybersecurity defenses
One of the most critical steps a business can take is employee cybersecurity training. Without a thorough awareness and understanding of the myriad ways in which cybercriminals attack, employees are weak links that will inevitably be compromised. Basic instructions about the severity of the threat and critical risks to avoid will go a long way in strengthening the strength of active cybersecurity defenses.
Equipping your company with established cybersecurity policies and action plans reinforces the basic steps outlined above; these steps build on a defensive mindset and preparedness critical to countering adaptive cybercriminal attacks. The specific plans created will vary according to the size and structure of a business, but may include the following:
- Internal response plan for incidents
- Action plan for mobile devices
- Crisis response/client engagement plan
Related: 5 Leadership Strategies to Improve Team Performance and Grow Your Small Business
Ensure survival and success as an SME in a challenging economic landscape
Every small business is unique. Each owner, each management team and each employee – all have their own story. It is difficult to say whether they are all told.
When navigating the endless parade of pressing concerns, looming threats, and demands on dwindling time resources, the energy and effort required can seem overwhelming. Lumping cybersecurity measures into the to-do list to tackle another day may seem sensible in the moment, but reality paints a much different picture.
When running a small business, there are appropriate levels of time and resources to invest in any given problem. Finding the right level for their business will be a call they have to get right.