Common Cybersecurity Mistakes to Avoid (and what it could cost you if you don't.)
When the average cyberattack in 2020 costs small businesses $200,000 in damages and recovery, how is it possible that only 14% of companies are prepared to defend against even a minor data breach? Business leaders need to take the potential for attack more seriously and recognize that the number of attacks will continue to increase as long as they do what they've always done.
In 2019, Forbes reported that cybercriminals attacked 28% of small- to medium-sized businesses. In 2020, that number jumped to 43%. Of these organizations who suffer a data breach, some are able to overcome the losses, implement stronger protections, and continue serving their customers. Others aren't so lucky and struggle under the damages inflicted upon them—unfortunately, too many businesses who suffer a breach never fully recover at all.
That's an extraordinary portion of the business community dealing fallout from a cyberattack instead of getting to work. The truth is, only a small minority of small and medium-sized businesses take a proactive approach to cybersecurity, opting instead for an "ignorance is bliss" standpoint. When the average cyber-attack in 2020 costs small businesses $200,000 in damages and recovery, yet only 14% of these companies can defend against even a minor data breach.
Business leaders need to take the potential for attack more seriously and recognize that the number of attacks will continue to increase as long as they remain unprepared. And if you think it won't happen to you, remember this: Hackers are not particular about whom they target– if they discover an opportunity to compromise your data, they will.
Here's a run-down on some of the most common cybersecurity mistakes businesses make and how your company can work to avoid them:
1. Neglecting to Focus on Cybersecurity Issues.
Neglecting to focus and prioritize cybersecurity issues is the most significant mistake a business can make when considering that today's dynamic and enterprising cybercriminal communities are more organized, continually looking for vulnerabilities to exploit.
After a year that saw many organizations suddenly adopt new digital capabilities, maintaining remote teams is here to stay for the foreseeable future. As more employees work remotely away from the security of internal controls and secure networks, the push for more cybersecurity focus has never been more critical.
Once an attacker has gained access to your digital network, it is simply a matter of time before sensitive vendor, employee, and customer data will be isolated, stolen, and used against you. Ask any organization that has fallen victim to a cyber-attack in the past. Some will describe how the effects were insurmountable.
By failing to devote necessary financial resources to essential cybersecurity strategies, you significantly increase the risk of unauthorized attempts to access company data– and further allow a successful breach to your information systems. This can have a devastating impact on your business's reputation, resulting in the erosion of consumer and investor trust.
2. 'One Size Fits All' Mentality
Particularly for smaller businesses operating on thinner margins, targeting investments and detailed budget planning are critical components for balancing security costs with peace of mind.
Just as every business is unique, so too are each business's security needs. From multinational mega corporations and defense contractors to locally owned and operated small businesses, every organization needs a multifaceted cybersecurity plan designed for their specific needs. While larger companies might have broader data frameworks that require a comparatively exhaustive range of cyber strategies, small business security teams should take a different approach.
By identifying your company's individual and specific vulnerabilities, you've taken the first crucial step in developing an effective (and cost-efficient) cybersecurity plan.
3. Overreliance on Assumptions
One of the most common mistakes that businesses make when implementing cybersecurity measures is assuming minimalist strategies, like password protection and VPNs, are enough. While these are effective as pieces of a whole, strong cybersecurity plans are multifaceted and integrate various authentication procedures and strategies.
If one measure fails to prevent a breach in such a multifaceted security plan, another is ready to compensate. Like a web of interwoven fibers, security measures that layer and work together can be much more effective at preventing breaches than any one action can be on its own.
Do you know how to fully patch your Virtual Private Network (VPN) and implement monitoring systems for early detection and alerts on abnormal activity? Have you installed multi-factor authentication for logins and confirmed that each device has been equipped with anti-malware and intrusion prevention software supported by properly configured firewalls.
If the answer is no, you are leaving multiple doors open, inviting bad actors in. Consider hiring a Managed Service Provider (MSP) if you don't have an internal IT team or time to do this on your own.
4. Neglecting Security Training
While cyber-attackers might attempt to access a system by exploiting electronic vulnerabilities, there is just as much opportunity to exploit your company's biological vulnerability. Human errors resulting from complacency, overconfidence, and carelessness are also high-yield areas of focus for cybercriminals.
Phishing scams, a lack of security awareness, and improper data handling procedures work in the attackers' interests, using your company's internal resources to facilitate external breaches. Employees should participate in regular mandatory training to educate them on best practices and identify activities that might threaten to maintain cybersecurity.
More business leaders should view security training as an investment in the company's future by developing its most valuable resources: their employees.
5. Failing to Review and Reassess
Cybersecurity is an operational concern that needs continuous assessment and not addressed once and considered 'solved.' Routine system checks, security testing, patching, and resource reviews should be part of a business's standard operating procedures.
Hardware maintenance is often overlooked but is just as vital to maintaining system security. Developing a regular internal review model can help identify vulnerabilities quickly, allowing businesses to respond to possible security threats before becoming an issue. While this may create additional expenses, the time and financial cost resulting from a breach make it a worthwhile and sound investment.
Progressive leaders keep cybersecurity at the forefront of their organization's priorities. Consulting with industry experts for your security insufficiencies not only makes sense but could save you time, money and resources that could be better used propelling the business company forward.
As cyberthreat landscapes expand and cybercriminals get smarter, cybersecurity will be a pressing concern for small businesses. When even one data breach can result in disastrous financial consequences for your business, maintaining cybersecurity defenses and protecting your customers, vendors, and staff's data privacy should be the top priority.
By developing a multifaceted security approach that educates users, identifies threats, and standardizes data handling procedures, your organization can meet these digital challenges head-on.
Show a commitment to protecting the people you do business with by safeguarding their data. Find out how tailoring a cybersecurity plan to your company's needs ensures that your business is protected and ready to defend itself.