Any reputable manager, CEO, CFO, and particularly CSO (Chief Security Officer) in the business world knows through and through that cybersecurity is key for SMEs. An SME (Small-to-Medium-Enterprise), of course, is an integral and essential part of any nation’s economy. SMEs are vital for the economy, much more so than large corporations because they drive innovation, progress, and change on a more granular level. These are the foot soldiers of the industry, so to speak. As such, SMEs are more vulnerable to threats than large corporations who reside behind thick walls with seemingly limitless resources and all kinds of legal protection. Therefore, for any modern business to survive and not compromise its integrity or customer relationships, cybersecurity awareness and best practices must be adhered to. This is why SMEs and cybersecurity professionals must work together tightly and in a pedantic fashion to best defend themselves from increasingly sophisticated threats in cyberspace, and protect all important and highly sensitive information belonging to both the company itself and its customers.
On the other hand, what if a business is so small like a single-person enterprise, or an enterprise employing a handful of people, that it does not have the resources to employ a third-party professional cybersecurity solution such as an MSSP, SIEM, etc.? A typical security breach may cost these kinds of companies millions of dollars, a figure most will find difficult if not impossible to recover from. What can be done, then? If you run or are employed at such a company, fear not, as several steps can be taken to optimize defenses without the need for a costly outlay. Thankfully, the cybersecurity sector has advanced so much that there are easily available solutions out there that will not hurt the bank but will make day and night changes in a SMEs cybersecurity (and even privacy) posture. In a time like today, when cybercrime is costing USD 6 trillion a year and data breaches and social engineering are everywhere, defense-first and from-the-ground-up security are paramount in a raw, existential sense, particularly for those on the frontlines, like SMEs.
What is Cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity refers to both the research field and the IT market sector that is focused on the protection of digital assets and data relating to computer systems and data storage. Anything from an antivirus program, a VPN, or a firewall to understanding how not to get caught up in phishing scams constitutes cybersecurity. Protecting a server also falls under the former. Furthermore, understanding what a virus is and how you get it, as well as downloading and using the software to resolve security risks is cybersecurity.
It is a quickly expanding field that is more in demand than ever. Think of cybersecurity as the sealant for any leaks affecting a boat out on a deep lake. If that boat is not airtight, it will start leaking water and eventually capsize and sink to the bottom, taking its passengers with it. In much the same way, security needs to be airtight because problems can get through unbelievably small and unsuspecting entry points. Remember, cybercriminals like to make a quick buck most simply and efficiently possible. This means looking for both obvious and hidden entry points, and it means staying invisible while the deeds are done.
SME Cybersecurity Best Practices
As far as cybersecurity SMEs go, first of all, it is key to list some of the threats that heavily affect SMEs. Some of these are; phishing, ransomware, malware strains, cyber-attacks such as MiTM and DDoS, software vulnerabilities and zero-day exploits, and last but certainly not least, human error. That list is a lot to go through, but there are a lot of items to list precisely because the digital world is innately so vulnerable. For instance, ransomware, which is a catastrophically destructive and practically evil type of cyber attack, takes data on a system ransom and does not discriminate. Ransomware attacks have even crippled hospitals and caused injury and death.
Ransomware is a common issue for SMEs that get caught up in it either as collateral damage or as a result of a targeted attack. If you, as an SME, hold intellectual property (IP) or financial data of some sort, be very aware. Secondly, socially engineered scams like email phishing and spear-phishing are both a security problem and a human error problem. It is enough for an employee to have their device unsecured for that to cause a problem. For instance, if a company communicates via Slack business messaging, a vulnerability there could impact the whole business. Worse yet, an employee that has trusted a fraudulent email and has been lured into entering their credentials into a fraudulent website could likewise compromise the organization, and also themselves, in the process.
Sometimes, it is the simplest of things. Passwords, for instance, are a critical but often overlooked aspect of cybersecurity. Surprisingly, many companies do not practice proper password safety to this day. Perhaps more alarming than that is that most companies do not care for dedicated cybersecurity training, and these same companies are then surprised when hit by a sophisticated cyber-attack or when they learn they do not have a backup of their data.
The same goes for the lack of multi-factor authentication in SMEs and a generally lackluster approach to security awareness.
In conclusion, SMEs need to understand that they are always vulnerable and always a target, no matter if targeted directly or as collateral. There is both more potential for human error as well as a greater risk of irreparable loss when it comes to SMEs, too. All of these facts mean that there is all the more reason to be extremely cautious about cybersecurity. It also means that at least some form of investment should immediately be directed towards cybersecurity, if this has not been done already. Once that is handled, SMEs can breathe a new sigh of relief and get on with what is most important, the business at hand.