According to Accenture's Cost of Cybercrime Study, 43% of cyber attacks are aimed at small to mid-size businesses, but only 14% are prepared to defend themselves.

Compliance Best Practices for Small to Mid-Size Business Cybersecurity

According to Accenture's Cost of Cybercrime Study, 43% of cyber attacks are aimed at small businesses, but only 14% are prepared to defend themselves.

However, with the average cost of a data breach in 2021 averaging $4.24 million, a 17-year high, the tide is turning. Data security is finally becoming more of a priority for businesses that collect and share data.

Let's be honest, what business doesn't?

That means adherence to cybersecurity best practices is essential for any business. For small businesses often in the position of being responsible for their own data security, this can be a challenge.

These small businesses lack the resources to devote to data security and may not have the expertise or awareness of cyber threats. In fact, some companies ignore their vulnerabilities altogether, concluding no one would want their data. The Cost of Cybercrime study already tells us those small businesses couldn't be more wrong.

Increased Scrutiny

Businesses today... all businesses, are under constant scrutiny from regulators and the public for how they handle (and protect) data. No longer can a business disregard the threat and mistakenly think they're not a target.

Did you know: WhatsApp lost tens of millions of users because of its data-sharing policy, illustrating how consumers see their privacy as a vital right.

One of the biggest challenges facing businesses in the fight against cyber attacks is data security requirements. Data security requirements refer to the standards and regulations that govern how organizations keep business data secure, private, and safe from breaches or unauthorized access. Often applied to consumer data, this also includes employee data, protected health information (PHI), financial records, and more.

Data security requirements are essential to ensure that the data within the business is safe and not subject to unauthorized access or destruction. Proper data security and compliance practices can help protect the business's reputation, confidential information, and intellectual property.

But there are a number of steps that businesses can take in order to protect their data, including implementing strong security measures, conducting regular audits, and maintaining strict compliance requirements.

Understanding compliance best practices helps make the process easier; let's look at some of the compliance seals that might apply to you.

For Small and Med-sized Businesses (SMB)

Understanding GDPR Compliance for SMB

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new EU data protection law that came into force on May 25, 2018. This law replaces the 1995 EU Data Protection Directive and strengthens EU data protection rules. Among other things, the GDPR requires businesses to take steps to protect the privacy rights of their customers and employees. These rights include the right to access personal data, the right to rectify inaccurate personal data, the right to be forgotten, and the right to object to the processing of their personal data.

Understanding HIPAA Compliance for SMB

If your company does business within the healthcare industry, you must follow specific requirements to be compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The HIPAA Act determines how organizations can store, share, manage, and record PHI. If you are a company providing treatment, payment, or healthcare operations, you are considered a Covered Entity (CE). If you are a company providing a third-party service and use PHI to do business with a CE, you are considered a Business Associate (BA). Under HIPAA, both CE and BA organizations must be compliant with the law.

Understanding PCI Compliance for SMB

The Payment Card Industry (PCI) requirements are a set of security standards requiring companies accepting credit and debit cards to store, process and securely transmit cardholder data. The requirements were a response to frequent cardholder data breaches, such as stealing credit card data.

Understanding CMMC Compliance SMB Defense Contractors

Defense contractors are required to implement all 110 cybersecurity controls outlined in the These requirements are in the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) and the new Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC), both requirements of any defense contract.

If adherence to CMMC, NIST, PCI, HIPAA, GDPR, or any other compliance regulations is a requirement for your business, here are some best practices you can use to meet the standards.

Establish Data Security Policies and Procedures

To establish a firm data security policy, start by understanding your current cybersecurity position. Ask the following questions to help you review where you are in terms of data compliance:

  • What types of information/data do we need to protect?
  • Where do you store, use, and dispose of data?
  • What protection do you have for your data?
  • Do you know the regulations, laws, and compliance requirements to follow?
  • Do you know the areas most at risk in your data infrastructure?
  • Do you have a response strategy in case of a breach?
  • Do you have data recovery or backup measures in place?
  • Do you have security procedures for your staff members?

Having a clear vision of what you need to protect as well as your data compliance position tells you whether you comply with industry standards like the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

The knowledge allows you to set new security policy and procedure objectives like achieving business compliance alignment with government policies, like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

Once your policies and procedures are in place, create a permissions policy where senior management determines role structures and sets which employees have access to certain information. This means assigning the proper permission requirements like biometrics, passwords, and ID cards.

Don't forget to classify your data depending on its value and importance. Data protected by federal and state legislation like HIPAA should be kept highly confidential.

Ensure everyone in the organization is aware of these policies and procedures and put control measures with action plans in place. Document all your data compliance protocols and use a compliance checklist to ensure your small business is fully compliant.

Evaluate Processes For Compliance

Usually, evaluating data compliance within processes requires set metrics that support your compliance objectives. These metrics include factors like:

  • The number of times you update or review your compliance procedures and policies
  • The effectiveness of your compliance training as determined by qualitative and quantitative feedback
  • Incident categories include emerging risk areas and the effectiveness of mitigation strategies.

Create metrics that meet your data compliance needs and track them using your data sources. Over time, you will have outcomes to compare, audit, and evaluate. Ensure every assessment you perform is included in the risk assessment plan in the early stages and is regularly done thereafter.

If you determine any of your processes are at risk, make changes that strengthen your data security. This could mean simply updating your security processes and procedures. It could also be as severe as installing an entirely new security infrastructure, based on the type of risk you find.

If your policies and procedures are new, train your employees on compliance. Additionally, communicate the state of your compliance initiatives to every staff member in the organization after every evaluation. This ensures every person knows their responsibility in ensuring total organizational data compliance.

Train Employees On Compliance

88% of the data breaches occur due to human error, so you must train your employees on data compliance policies and procedures. Human intelligence is non-negotiable for increased data compliance and protection for your small business.

Ensure your training emphasizes the best daily practices that keep data organized and safe, like using passwords, multi-factor authentication, and firewalls. Encourage every staff member to install firewalls, whether they work in-office or remotely.

Provide the proper protection software for both office and home networks and set automatic security updates for all mobile devices. Teach your employees how to identify any irregularities in the data systems, like how to identify phishing emails.

This helps them fully understand the policies and their role in protecting the company and consumer data against a breach. After training, make your employees accountable by ensuring they sign a document stating any actions taken if they fail to follow the data compliance policies and procedures are justified.

Stay On Top Of Compliance Updates

Defend your data network by ensuring your systems are continuously updated and maintained. Constantly monitor industry trends for regulatory changes to identify new data compliance regulation changes.

Consider implementing technological tools to automate the monitoring process such as an RSS feed reader that will automatically scan and identify any updates needed for your business process.

Also, following the regulatory agencies on social media and adding notifications will keep you informed of any updates to data compliance requirements. Subscribe to leading newsletters and blogs in the data compliance industry or join a professional association.

Another option to consider is to build relationships with data compliance regulators who inform you of any updates you need to make beforehand.

Create An Incident Response Plan

If a data breach occurs, you need a plan to mitigate its effects or protect your entire company data from loss or public exposure. In your response plan, identify how you'll respond to a breach, who to contact, and steps to take during and after.

Detail how to identify the breach, contain the breach, assess the damage, and put a response team in charge of protecting the rest of your company data. Include a review section in the plan to ensure you implement updates that protect your small business from similar attacks in the future.

Also, test your plan before you fully document and share it with every employee in your organization and ensure these tests continue regularly.

Get The Ball Rolling

Your company becomes compliant when you manage, store, and transmit data following the standards described in specific compliance regulations, some of which we've outlined above.

The sad truth is that no business is safe from cybersecurity threats. When nearly 9 of 10 data breaches occur result from human error, every employee is responsible for ensuring data compliance for ultimate cybersecurity in an organization.

But this starts with creating a small business culture that puts data compliance at the forefront of security infrastructures. So, take a page from these compliance best practices and get the ball rolling.

Find out how to start your journey to data security. Contact us and have your questions answered.

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