When launching a startup, people often think big – they think of important business goals and steps they’re going to take to chase their dreams, while potential issues and threats may come up later. Unfortunately, most small business owners start thinking about cybersecurity only after they’ve already experienced a security issue or after they’ve become cyberattack victims. Thus, we came up with a list of the most common cybersecurity threats any small to the medium business may face on their journey and some advice on how to prevent and tackle them successfully.
Most Common Cyber Risks Facing Startups
Cybercriminals like to target startups since they often don’t invest as much into cybersecurity as big companies. It is also easier to identify the right persons for email targeting in a smaller company. In most phishing attacks, hackers impersonate a person of thrust, for example, a vendor or a customer, and lure them into entrusting them with valuable company data that they subsequently use to harm the company. One of the most popular phishing attacks was the one in 2014 when a US drug company Upsher-Smith Laboratories lost staggering sums of money in the course of a few weeks. Cybercriminals posed as the company’s CEO and sent fraudulent emails asking for money transfers. Since employees didn’t suspect anything, they transferred over 50 million dollars before the whole operation was put to an end.
Data leakage can take down any business, but small to medium businesses tend to be incredibly convenient targets. However, there isn’t always a malicious intent behind a data breach; it could result from negligence or as a consequence of a stolen or lost device. Either way, it could pose a severe threat to both the company’s security and the security of its employees. Alongside numerous financial and legal issues, a data breach can drastically affect a company’s reputation because people don’t like to associate themselves with businesses that have been known for data leakage, and they tend to trust them less in the future. For instance, Ponemon Institute research suggests that 65 percent of people who experienced a data breach lost trust in organizations involved in a leak.
Among various cybercrimes preying upon internet users every minute, some of them are often targeted at businesses. One of those is ransomware – a type of malware designed to take your company’s data hostage, and demand outrageously high ransom figures in exchange. Ransomware can encrypt your valuable data and make it inaccessible, or hackers can threaten you with exposing sensitive data online or selling it to your rivals. Either way, the consequences can be severe, and unfortunately, in many known cases, companies didn’t manage to gain access to their data even after paying the ransom.
When starting a new business, most people don’t think of investing in a cybersecurity strategy as their top priority investment since their resources tend to be quite limited. Therefore, according to AT&T’s survey, only 53 percent of businesses with less than fifty employees place cybersecurity as their top priority. Most small companies initially don’t have adequate legal support, which means they tend to struggle if they suddenly face fraud attempts or similar legal issues.
Best Ways to secure your Startup
A Virtual Private Network can effectively strengthen your security. The best option for businesses tends to be VPN routers, meaning that you can install your VPN app on the router in your office, and all devices connected to it will automatically have an encrypted connection. What an encrypted connection does, is it ciphers all data in traffic and routes it through a private tunnel within a regular public network to make it unreadable to any outside party. This way, all valuable data shared inside the company will stay protected. Also, a VPN will grant you more privacy since it changes the real IP address for a virtual one and hides your actual location. The ExpressVPN app is highly rated and is available for multiple devices, so it’s definitely worth a try.
IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach 2021 Report published that the global average cost of a data breach is 4.24 million dollars. That being said, the first step in creating a solid cybersecurity framework for any startup should be estimating the potential risk your company may face and the damage it could bring to your business. Hence, you should identify the assets that a possible attack would affect and the security threats that your company could encounter. Furthermore, it’s crucial to determine the potential impact on the overall business and prepare an adequate strategy since 60 percent of all small businesses tend to shut down six months after the cyberattack.
Considering that companies have a considerable number of accounts to take care of, they’re at more significant risk of getting their accounts compromised and their credentials stolen. Thus, adopting multi-factor authentication is an excellent way of shielding your accounts. An MFA layers multiple protective mechanisms over your accounts and makes it harder for anyone to obtain your sensitive company data. It most frequently uses a standard password in combination with a biometric factor like a fingerprint or a face scan and a one-time passcode received in an SMS message. Companies can also have a staff meeting before implementing an MFA to give their employees an option to choose the authentication method that suits them best.
According to various cybersecurity reports, 52 percent of business leaders don’t know what to do in case of a cyberattack, and 45 percent of employees don’t receive any cybersecurity training. Even though investing in the right technology, and putting together a proactive security strategy and policies tend to be excellent focal points, they can all go down the drain if not carried out properly. Thus, educating employees about the importance of cybersecurity and crucial steps to protect themselves and the company’s data should be the first move before spending resources on expensive tools and programs you think may help secure your business online. Also, good cybersecurity training should include everyone in your organization, not only leaders and the IT department. It should always include subsequent simulated attacks and drills that’ll put your protective mechanisms to the actual test. Furthermore, every training should be designed with your business in mind, meaning that it has to focus on certain holes in your security framework that need to be taken care of.
Considering that encryption tends to be the gold standard in data protection, ciphering valuable data that could endanger your startup could be crucial. Those companies who store their valuable data on devices should embrace drive encryption. For example, Windows has a BitLocker tool that encrypts the whole drive, including your data and system files, while Mac users have an Apple FileVault feature that provides them with the same option. Except for built-in encryption programs, many third-party encryption tools like VeraCrypt and AxCrypt offer other benefits like an in-built password manager and sharing of encrypted files, which can be essential for your business.
Alongside encrypting online traffic and ciphering data stored on company devices, any small business communicating with business partners and clients through email should consider using an encrypted email service. Encrypted email providers like ProtonMail use end-to-end encryption to protect your sensitive data, meaning that it gets ciphered on the sender’s part before the transfer, and only the intended recipient has the security key to decipher it. Thus, anyone who tries to intercept your important business emails will find only an unusable pile of mixed symbols.
Public WiFi can be a true wolf in sheep’s clothing since hackers commonly set up genuine-looking public networks designed to harvest users’ data. Hence, try to restrain from connecting to unsecured networks, especially with your business accounts, because this way, you can put your whole company in danger and unintentionally cause a data breach. However, if you genuinely have to use public WiFi, connect only to password-protected networks, and turn on a VPN to encrypt your connection.
Since cyber threats are becoming more diverse and vicious, internet users often forget that plain old malware can also use absolute havoc on their systems. Thus, when choosing the right antimalware for your company’s devices, make sure to select the one with automated and frequent updates since simply installing software on a device won’t do much. Regular updates can get rid of bugs, fix holes in the codebase and add new features that’ll help to protect your system.
Even though starting with your own business can be exhilarating and motivating, it can bring you quite a few headaches too. If you want to adequately protect your small business, make sure to research everything thoroughly and decide the key points of your cybersecurity strategy. From there, you can slowly expand your security framework and add new features as you go. Also, make sure to ask for expert advice if you get stuck and don’t know what to do next.