Experts predict that by 2025, cybercrime will be costing the world more than $10.5 trillion annually. That’s a lot of money by anyone’s standards, and it’s not just a problem for large enterprises. Companies of every shape and size are at risk, and entrepreneurs can’t afford to look the other way or assume they’re too insignificant to become targets for cybercrime.
But the data shows that small businesses aren’t prepared. Though 88% of small business leaders told the U.S. Small Business Administration that they felt at risk, they felt equally confused by how to protect their data, employees, clients, and reputation.
If you count yourself among the founders and CEOs trying to thwart cybercrime at its roots, you have options. As a nod to Data Privacy Day on Jan. 28, why not institute one or more of the following security practices that can help you feel more secure about the information flowing in and out of your system?
1. Adopt a zero-trust framework buoyed by AI and machine learning.
Have you set up your IT security in a sort of “castle and moat” style? That is, you make sure that you verify the identity of everyone who tries to get into your system, but once they’re in, you give them full access to roam freely? This is a common approach to security that could leave you wide open to a cyberattack.
The problem is that many cybercrimes are “inside jobs.” All a criminal has to do is make it into your internal system. One breach, and suddenly all your connected systems are wide open to risk.
Embracing the idea of a zero-trust framework can close many of the gaps that could be leaving your team and its data at risk. In an article for CISO Mag, Vats Srivatsan, president and chief operating officer of ColorTokens, explains the power of zero-trust policies. He writes, “By definition, they enable organizations to block out new threat vectors and unknown interactions instantly instead of allowing time for such interactions to happen.”
How can you initiate zero-trust thinking into your workflows? Give users only the access they need. Many employees have more access than they require. Though this might seem like it would slow down productivity, you can regain efficiency by marrying zero-trust systems with AI and machine learning. That way, the system will create what Srivatsan calls “narrowly defined trust zones” that still allow for effective, speedy operations.
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2. Move to two-factor authentication.
Two-factor authentication can seem like an annoying extra step, but it’s worth it for the added security. Having two “gates” is far superior to having just one. Think back to the castle analogy: Isn’t a castle with a double wall more protected than a castle with just one?
You will probably need to educate your team members on why they can no longer rely on their passwords alone for protection. Passwords are hardly secure. Sophisticated hackers can get through password gates quickly, and once they’re in, they can wreak havoc.
Setting up two-factor authentication on all your systems may take a little time. You may also need to work with your software provider to see whether two-factor authentication is available. If it is not, you aren’t out of luck. An article from The Verge talks about the possibility of using authenticator apps as a two-factor authentication solution.
3. Train your staff on cybersecurity basics.
The average worker at your company may not know much about cybersecurity. Yes, employees have likely heard about sophisticated, well-known phishing or ransomware attacks that have made headlines around the web. Yet even a small-scale breach can be difficult for a small company to overcome.
Rather than just telling your team members what to do, such as with two-factor authentication, train them on the “why” behind the implementation as well. Giving them a more thorough understanding of real-world cybersecurity threats that they encounter on a daily basis moves them over to your side of the table. They begin to think like owners, and that means starting to recognize risky behaviors when they see them—including in their own departments.
Does it take effort, time, and financial resources to train everyone to have a working knowledge of cybersecurity? Absolutely. Yet it can provide a large security blanket. To make the process easier on you and your budget, you may want to stagger training across verticals. For instance, your remote marketing and sales team members may be at the most risk of data breaches because they log on from so many locations. Accordingly, training them in small bursts might be a good place to start.
Just make sure you don’t use scare tactics to try to keep your teams compliant. Fear can be a motivator, but it doesn’t need to guide your cybersecurity training. Workers should leave meetings and sessions feeling empowered, not terrified that they’ll bring down your brand.
You may not have a huge company (yet!). But that doesn’t mean you can’t put up huge obstacles for anyone with cybercrime in mind.