We find ourselves immersed in a digitalized world; daily life, both personal and professional, is permeated and accented by a close reliance on, and intermingling with, digital processes. What once seemed a far-fetched fantasy only decades ago has now become commonplace. And as modern technology continues to penetrate every aspect of our lives, the need for robust cybersecurity measures has become paramount, especially in the realm of business.
Let’s explore the importance of cybersecurity for small businesses and crucial steps that can ensure safety in the face of mounting external threats.
Why cybersecurity matters for small businesses
Nearly every business organization operates in fundamentally the same way, acting as custodian and distributor of sensitive information. Ranging from sensitive customer details to proprietary business strategies, this information holds tremendous value, both for the organization itself and for potential attackers. In the wrong hands, information can be weaponized to terrible effect.
Cybersecurity is the primary bulwark standing between important company information and would-be attackers. It’s an ongoing process of practices and technologies designed to protect computers, digital systems, networks, and data from unauthorized access, disruption, and theft.
It is necessary to develop a company culture which values cybersecurity.
Organizations of all sizes face the constant threat of cyber-attacks and data breaches. Headlines often feature high-profile breaches, but it's crucial to recognize that small businesses are just as vulnerable, if not more so. Small businesses are enticing targets for several reasons:
No matter how small a company may be, data has an intrinsic value that can be exploited by cyber criminals. Customer info, financial records, and proprietary data can all be leveraged, resulting in monetary loss, reputational damage, legal consequences, and operational disruption.
Limited budgets mean less resources dedicated to cybersecurity and a higher degree of exposure to attacks. This susceptibility may be compounded by internal perceptions: smaller operations may assume they are not significant targets, spending less effort in beefing up security protocols.
The larger the operation, the more resources are available to maintain top to bottom control of all processes, completely in-house. For smaller businesses with limited resources, this is not an option, forcing collaboration with larger organizations or third-party vendors. Partnerships introduced outside of the organizational structure can result in further vulnerability.
How, then, can small businesses with minimal resources build necessary security practices? Let’s explore.
Five keys to effective cybersecurity
There is no “one size fits all” approach to cybersecurity; each organization has its own priorities and security emphases. However, provided below are five crucial elements of cybersecurity which can benefit any organization and, with relatively minimal effort, ensure a high level of protection.
Security and Corporate Mission
Before starting on the path, it’s imperative that teams initiate cybersecurity programs aligned with the vision and mission of the company itself. Codifying cybersecurity into corporate policies pushes teams to adopt best practices as a part of their day-to-day work. Furthermore, aligning cybersecurity programs with organizational goals empowers individual employees to further engage, enshrining security awareness as a fundamental aspect of company culture.
The world of technology never remains stagnant; processes and tools are in a constant state of change, and just because cybersecurity protocols worked well yesterday does not mean they will stay effective tomorrow. Cyber professionals need to stay on top of current events, threats, and attack trends around the world, consistently modifying their procedures to accommodate shifting tendencies.
Additionally, normalizing cyber security language better equips employees to identify potential risks.
Training, Training, Training
Employees are both the primary target of bad actors and first line of defense for any company. Cyber training solidifies a culture of cyber-awareness and preps employees to better protect the front line.
Cyber awareness is an ongoing effort, and training keeps employees informed about core security concepts and emerging threats. Training programs such as KnowBe4 provide companies specialized learning modules, tests, and exercises, such as simulated phishing tests, to engage employees with cyber security, gauge their effectiveness, and identify areas for improvement.
Maintaining a regular training regimen, whether utilizing third-party training systems or in-house security expertise, is crucial in fostering a company-wide culture of safety.
Arguably the most important aspect of strong individual cybersecurity are healthy password practices, such as:
- Utilize unique passwords: Long and complex passwords, combining uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters
- Never use the same password twice
- Steer clear of easily guessable passwords: Sequential numbers or letters (e.g., 123456 or ABCXYZ), repetitive characters (e.g., 55555 or PPPPPP), common patterns (e.g., 123ABC or password123), and personal information, such as birthdates or family names
- Muti-factor authentication (MFA): When available, enabling MFA adds additional security by requiring further verification, such as SMS confirmation
- Use a password manager/vault: These are programs which allow you to store and manage passwords, making it easier to maintain unique passwords for different accounts
Software and hardware have flaws, and everyday a new one is found and patched. It’s these flaws that bad actors exploit to gain access to otherwise secure systems. By staying abreast of available patches and system updates, companies can significantly reduce the entry points available for cyber criminals to utilize.
For more cybersecurity tips, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) provides a fantastic resource. Check it out here.
Cybersecurity at WSRB
Here at WSRB, it is our duty, on behalf of our Subscribers and residents of Washington state, to ensure that the data we provide is accurate and secure. We allocate significant resources towards developing a robust culture of cybersecurity, granting those we serve peace of mind.
Our InfoSec team, comprised of Tony Higgins (Information Security Manager), Sarah McMillan (Security Analyst), and Rob Chargualaf (Sr. Security Engineer), bring a combined decade of information security experience. Additionally, partnerships with consultants like Coalfire allow us to constantly improve security in all areas of WSRB.
We're a small business, lacking the resources larger corporations have at their disposal. However, we've successfully prioritized cybersecurity, and you should too.
If you would like to learn more about our approach to cybersecurity, please don’t hesitate to reach out.