The Essential Cybersecurity Small Businesses Need to Invest In

Deciding which cybersecurity product to invest in isn’t easy, but just because security tools might be difficult for some small businesses to navigate, it doesn’t mean they should be ignored.

December 11th, 2017   |    By: Leonardo Cooper    |    Tags: Technology, Strategy

While it was once an afterthought, cybersecurity should now be a priority for every business. Large businesses are still the preferred target for hackers, but this trend is shifting, as more small businesses are targeted by adversaries each year.


However deciding which cybersecurity product to invest in isn’t easy. For one, the market is rapidly changing and it’s difficult to keep up to date on the best methods. Additionally, there is no all-in-one comprehensive package for a company’s cybersecurity needs. Most times, businesses have to buy each security software individually – including firewall, anti-virus, and spam-filter solutions, among others.

But just because security tools might be difficult for some small businesses to navigate, doesn’t mean they should be ignored.

Here’s three important security solutions every small business needs:

1. Endpoint protection

In a survey of 27 data security experts on the “biggest misconception companies have about account endpoint security and data protection tools,” there was one common response: that because they have a corporate antivirus installed, companies think they are fully protected.

Anti-virus software may have been enough to protect a corporate network some years ago, but in today’s world of increasingly advanced hacking techniques and technology, it counts for little.

IT solutions expert Scott Dujimovich told the survey: “The truth of the matter is that antivirus protection is becoming more and more irrelevant in terms of protecting networks against a breach. By the very nature of their design, antivirus solutions are reactive, and are only a small and supplemental tool in keeping a network secure.”

Essentially, anti-virus systems only detect infections once they are already in the system, and once they are detected, it could already be too late. And even if you can employ anti-virus protection on all devices, this does not mean your network is safe.

A recent study from Damballa, a cybersecurity company, revealed that malware could spend as much as six months on a system before it is identified by anti-virus software.

This security issue is exacerbated by the fact that hackers are more advanced and systematic in their operations than they used to be. They can now detect insecurity with a vulnerability scan, so if your company lags behind – for example, without proper endpoint security – you could be targeted first.

Corporate networks are also bigger and more complex than ever, meaning they are harder to monitor. Businesses now have an infinite number of devices connected to their wireless network. These devices – laptops, phones, etc. – are also increasingly brought in from home, leaving a plethora of unsecured channels through which viruses can enter your network.

So when investing in security, look first for a decent endpoint security system to minimise the possibility of infections entering your network. This is essentially the last barrier of protection before your computer is invaded by a virus and your network is compromised.

Make sure the endpoint security system you opt for is at the most advanced and comprehensive end of the spectrum, encompassing intrusion detection and behaviour-blocking elements that identify and block threatening actions and behaviours, either by end users or intruders. Some good examples include Symantec, Checkpoint and FireEye.

The best service is a two-sided approach, in which security software is installed on a central server or management console, and software is installed on individual devices to prevent attacks that can infect the endpoint. The software then evaluates each endpoint before permitting access – such as the operating system, applications, web browser, etc. – to make sure each device meets security standards before it connects.

2. Data Loss Prevention

Although solid endpoint protection is the best way to shore up your defences, unfortunately, this still does not leave you immune from cyberattacks. If the world’s biggest banks and governments can be hacked, your small business is also probably fair game if somebody wants in. Cyber hacks are also not the only way for data to be stolen; in the case that your hard drive or laptop is stolen, for example, anti-virus software or endpoint security will be very little help.

You should think instead of cybersecurity as a deterrent, such as a bicycle lock (the bigger the lock, the less likely a thief is likely to choose your bike). So to stay safe, buy the biggest lock possible, or pick the strongest cybersecurity system on the market.

But with data, you also have a significant security advantage. Unlike with a bike, you have the luxury of making a copy of the object you do not want to risk losing.

Making a backup is particularly important if you work in a sector where data is essential to operations – such as a bank, or a hospital. In these sectors businesses are more vulnerable to ransomware attacks. When Britain’s National Health Service was the subject of such an attack, 16 hospitals were crippled and patients were turned away as a result. In sectors such as healthcare (the most vulnerable followed by telecoms and transportation), you simply cannot take the risk of losing data as it is pivotal to the everyday operations of your business.

To prevent such an issue ever arising, regularly backup your data. Also, regularly check that these backups work. Despite having data systems in place, 75% of businesses find they are not able to restore all of their lost data, and 23% find they are unable to recover any data at all. The key is to test regularly to ensure your backup system is fully functional, thereby avoiding any potential shocks later down the line.

3. Privileged password management and access control

Every company has some form of digital asset which employees need to work, whether that is domain names, social accounts, servers, or systems. The problem is that all of these assets require a set of private credentials in order to use them, and you have to trust people to use them diligently. Unfortunately, it turns out that people are not as trustworthy as we would like them to be.

In fact, 80% of data breaches do not come from brute force cyber hacking, but rather from the abuse or misuse of privileged credentials. This can be as simple as someone leaving private credentials visible where others can see them, or a hacker successfully impersonating another employee over the telephone and requesting said employee’s username and password.

One of the best solutions to protect data is using a Hardware Secure Vault (HSM) to store data and blockchain technology to control access to this data.

A good vault – or PAM (Privileged Account Management) solution – must do four things:

  1. Store passwords and certificates in a hardware vault, which is the only proper place for this type of information;
  2. Control who has access to that information, and when;
  3. Implement approval workflows with everything being audited;
  4. Allow access to IT resources without disclosing passwords.

With these functions not only do you know that this knowledge is safe and sound, but also who is using it, when they are using it, and how they are using it.

Small companies should have three priorities defined when budgeting for cybersecurity. Instead you need to secure your network with an advanced endpoint system, to safeguard your data by backing up regularly with well-tested backups, and guard private credentials with a security vault.

Remember that just because you are a small business does not mean you are not prone to attacks, so make sure you have your bases covered.

About the Author

Leonardo Cooper

Leonardo Cooper, Founder and CEO of blockchain-based cyber-security solution VaultOne, has over a decade of experience in cyber security.

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