April 18th, 2017 | By: Adam Levy | Tags: Leadership
Cybersecurity has become a priority for policymakers at every level of government and a major point of emphasis for businesses in nearly every sector. Not surprisingly, some think it will be the biggest issue companies will face in 2017.
While major security breaches at large corporations like Yahoo receive the most attention, small business owners should be just as concerned with implementing appropriate cybersecurity measures as their more established counterparts.
Young businesses have a lot at stake — you’re just starting to build trust with new customers and establish relationships in your network — and the financial costs and damage to your reputation caused by a data breach can often turn into a setback that’s impossible to overcome.
With that in mind, taking the right security precautions in your business’s early stages is critical to ensuring long-term success. Cybersecurity isn’t just something extra you can plan for later.
Fortunately, there are relatively simple steps you as an entrepreneur can take now to improve your startup business’ Cybersecurity that won’t interfere with your efforts to build your brand and gain customers.
If you rely on an on-premise network, your first step should be getting a security audit from a trusted company. It’s absolutely essential that you know what your vulnerabilities are before they’re targeted.
Don’t be content to leave security monitoring up to internal staff. Your team will have their hands full ensuring that operating systems and applications are configured securely, monitoring your defense systems, and keeping up with patches. The perspective of an expert outside your organization will often reveal issues that have been overlooked — and when it comes to cybersecurity, no weakness can go unnoticed. Furthermore, having an outside company take responsibility for a network security audit is a good way for you to mitigate your company’s liability.
When deciding on which auditing team to hire, pay attention to past work experience. Experience implementing security technology and working on real-world projects is necessary to acquire the level of expertise needed to spot subtle vulnerabilities that might be exploited by increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks.
A security audit can be a complex undertaking, and any statement of work you receive from a prospective auditor should clearly outline the steps the auditor plans to take, as well as the reasoning behind those steps. The company should be comfortable explaining the process and its rationale in plain English. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if it’s needed.
As a business leader, it’s up to you to make security a priority for the rest of your company. This means taking the time to make sure that everyone on your team is doing the little things — such as updating passwords, for instance — on a regular basis.
Smart leadership from you and all company leaders is essential to securing any digital company (and speaking realistically, nearly every company is digital these days). This means you need to make a concerted effort to understand the security landscape and equip yourself with the knowledge required to make swift and effective decisions that protect your business.
It’s necessary for leaders to have a plan in place if a breach does happen, and that plan should include a protocol for disclosing the nature and scope of a breach to customers and stakeholders. We’ve seen time and again that companies that fail to alert customers when their information systems have been compromised pay a hefty price, and that’s not something to admire. You should communicate this plan, too, to your leaders and all other team members to ensure there are no staff-related bottlenecks in the event of a breach.
Like any company policy, solid cybersecurity practices start at the top. Ongoing communication from company leadership about the importance of proper security protocol is your best defense against hackers and cybercriminals.
It’s up to you to ensure the rest of your team receives proper security training. This applies doubly if you’re in a regulated field like finance or health. A lack of awareness among employees is a top cause of human error, which in turn is the No. 1 cause of the most devastating security breaches. Your staff should be a barrier to attackers, not a weakness that can be exploited.
Your network faces a large and constantly evolving adversary in hackers. This isn’t just a problem for your IT department — it’s a problem for your whole business. That’s why it’s critical that your staff members remain up-to-date on the latest phishing and social engineering threats and that your entire team is well-versed in security best practices.
Many companies gloss over the importance of security in a brief onboarding session or provide some training for new hires, then don’t mention it again. Instead, you should give your employees access to ongoing training conducted by experts in the field and make that training mandatory. Rules are useless if they’re not enforced, so demonstrate that security is a priority by penalizing those who don’t take it seriously.
A failure to properly equip your team with the knowledge and tools to defend your network is a failure to lead.
Ensuring your network is protected requires constant vigilance and a willingness to demonstrate to the rest of your team just how serious the issue is. Start by getting a security audit by a reputable firm, then make sure your entire company knows exactly where things stand. As a leader, you must consistently communicate that security is more than just a box to check off, which means publicizing your priorities to the rest of your company and insisting on ongoing training for your team.
As we move forward in the digital age, cybersecurity should be a core business objective, no matter how large or small your business is — and being proactive can only protect you. If you’re just starting a company, you have a great opportunity to embed security in the fabric of your culture and begin building an effective long-term defense against a major threat that’s not going away any time soon.
Adam Levy is the founder of Magnet Solutions Group, an IT company that helps businesses implement secure, agile, and scalable technology solutions. Adam and his team are passionate about continually learning how new technologies and software can be successfully implemented to work in the real world for their clients. He tweets regularly on business technology at @Adam__Levy.