Digital businesses have the freedom to grow and to make their mark on the global community from day one. They are also far more at risk than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. After all, those that operate in a mall or on a major street will consistently have footfall traffic. If they are smart, they will diversify, bring in revenue both online and from their store, but they have a very different foundation at the end of the day.
That foundation is one that can still continue in the event of a DoS attack. It is one that can heave a business out from the ashes in the event of a data breach. This isn’t to say that it is impossible for a brick-and-mortar store to be brought down to its knees with a ransomware attack, but it does still exist at least somewhere in the world after the attack is done.
Digital businesses do not have this luxury. A company that exists solely online can vanish without a trace from a hacking attempt. Not only that, but customers have much higher standards for businesses they deal with online. If a digital business allows a hacker to steal their valuable data, customers tend not to be so forgiving as opposed to a mom-and-pop shop that they loved.
It isn’t easy, but it is possible to improve your security. Small and large businesses alike need to start investing in a wide-range, comprehensive approach. Even businesses with fewer than 500 employees need to invest in these tactics, so start today and make 2021 the year you finally work to safeguard your digital business:
Understanding Your Weak Points
A great place to start with improving your digital business’ security is by understanding where the weaknesses are in the first place.
You and Your Staff
The good news is that to eliminate the majority of threats, all you need to do is to train the human element. Most hacking successes don’t occur cold. They are invited in. This means that an employee clicked on a link that they shouldn’t have, or they used the same email and password for every account they have ever owned and had their information stolen from a less secure site and then had that login information used to access yours.
Over 95% of all breaches are due to human error, and they rarely happen due to those working in your IT department, either. It is a mistake to assume that, just because someone isn’t working in your IT or in cybersecurity, that they should not be trained nor brought in on your strategy. You don’t need everyone to have a cyber security degree, but by having one person with that cyber security degree creating training manuals for the rest of your team can help immensely. It will make your professional with that cyber security degree’s job easier and more effective, and it will also reduce your risk substantially.
One of the reasons why it is so important to train your whole staff, not just invest in a new hire with a cyber security degree, or alternatively to sponsor someone to further their credentials, is because of endpoints.
Endpoints can mean many different things. It can be the phones your employees bring in to the office. It can be their personal computer, their smart watch, or any other device that connects to the internet.
These devices are known as endpoints. They are units that connect to your system, either through the Wi-Fi or through your online servers, and they are risks in and of themselves. An employee could log in to a café’s unsecured internet and download a virus. They could click on a link at home and download a virus to their computer.
Normally you wouldn’t bother with these, but as soon as they bring in these devices or otherwise connect to your business, the virus can upload up to your system and wreak havoc. By improving endpoint security and training your employees on how to avoid these risks on their personal time, you can reduce the risks associated with your endpoints at the source.
Weak Log In Credentials
If your employees use the same login credentials everywhere, then sooner rather than later, their information is going to be hacked. That information then can be used to easily log in through their account to access your business that way.
There are several ways to avoid this. One, provide unique and difficult passwords for your employees. These can easily be automatically produced.
The second method is using a two-step verification method, especially for off-site logins. This way, unless a hacker also has access to your employees’ phones, they cannot get in, and you will be notified of the attempt and know to strengthen measures.
A Lack of a Security Structure
A strong security system is a strong, thought out system. That is the real benefit of having a cyber security expert on your hands. Damage can and will be done if an attack happens. Mitigation is the best tool you have, especially if your business isn’t a direct target. Direct targets require very complex, unique defense tools. They are the businesses that hackers want access to for the data they hold or because of the financial gain they can get from you.
That being said, even if you aren’t a direct target, if your business is involved in the government, retail, and technology sectors, know that you are in the industries that are most commonly targeted, even if they don‘t go after you by name.
Cost Vs. Risk
It can seem costly to have a cyber security expert and invest so much in preventative measures, but the costs will always be cheaper than the risk in many cases. Small and medium-sized businesses lose an average of $7.68 million per attack. Large, publicly owned businesses lose around $116 million. The costs of a successful breach aren’t just in the upfront damage, but in the hit to your reputation, as customers leave because they no longer trust you can keep them safe.
How to Improve the Security of Your Digital Business
Improving your security will require a multi-pronged approach, ideally led by a cyber security expert.
Hire a Cyber Security Expert
The best way to start to improve your digital business is to bring on a cyber security expert. You don’t need someone with years of experience, either, unless you are a large corporation or a prime target for hacking (for example, you manage and process sensitive information like medical data for patients). In which case, you don’t just need one cyber security expert; you need a whole team who works alongside your IT department.
For smaller businesses, it is good enough to start with either a new graduate or someone with just a few years of experience. Most hacking breaches are not aggressive. Think of them more like land mines spread throughout the internet, waiting for a business to unwittingly step on them. Someone with a cyber security degree will have expert knowledge of machine learning, AI, secure software design, networking data mining, penetration, testing, and so much more. In short, they can use what they have learned from their world-class cyber security degree to improve your security measures from the get-go.
If you have been breached, then you do not have that time, so you will instead need to look to outsourcing for damage control. Once the damage has been contained, bring in that cyber security degree graduate to start boosting your business.
What to Look For
Your cyber security expert does not need to be an IT expert, but they do need to know the basics, both to perform security checks and improvements and, more importantly, to direct your IT experts on what they need to have done. Being the best at coding and having an eye for cyber security protocols and strategies are two very different things.
A good way to ensure that the candidate you are looking at will be ready to tackle the tasks ahead is by checking their certifications. A cyber security degree holder should be prepared and have earned certifications like:
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CIEH)
- Certified Network Defender (CIND)
- CISCO CCNA
- CCNP Security
With these certifications, you can be assured that they are ready to handle the job of improving your business’ cyber security.
You don’t have to hire someone. You can instead sponsor a loyal employee. You could even take on a cyber security degree on your own. As these degrees are 100% online and do not have mandatory login times, you can tackle them even while dealing with everything involved with being a business owner or manager.
The benefits of earning a cyber security degree are massive, especially if you don’t own the business you work for. The job market is massive, cyber security specialists are in high demand, and their pay is great. You can truly transform your career, regardless of whether you leave the company you currently work for or use your talents to help progress at your current workplace. If you are not already proficient in coding, you can still do this just by taking a short, 6-month graduate program.
Train and Update the Rest of Your Employees
Have you cyber security expert train and create updates on the latest phishing scams (and other cybercrime trends) so that they can protect themselves both at work and at home. You could alternatively do this through a third-party business and require your employees to continually update their credentials in this field to work at your business.
Use All Security Features
If there are security features available in your business’s systems and tools, but they are not activated, then only you are at fault. Take, for example, cloud computing. The cloud provider does take on a bulk of the security responsibility, but they can only do so much if you don’t do your part and make your data secure from your site. The easiest and first thing you should do? Create user access and limit data that every employee can access.
Backup Essential Information
Aim to try to backup essential information offline, and ideally in more than one secure location. You should have the bare-bones structure of your business for your records, especially if you manage your own servers and don’t use the cloud to run your business.
Keep System Updated
The reason why apps are updated so regularly is for security purposes. If you have old, unused applications and other tools on your system, you need to uninstall these immediately. Old apps contain many exploited loopholes. As they are no longer being updated or have not been updated by you in a long time, they can be easily breached with more direct hacking attempts.
This is also why you need to keep all your in-use apps updated and why automated updates should be enabled as standard.
Purge Outdated Information
If you don’t need the information, don’t keep it. Keeping a hoard of personal data and other bits of information (especially about your customers) that does not work to improve their experience or the quality of service is a risk. By regularly removing old information that you don’t need, you can make your business less of a target.
Have Your Security Expert Audit Regularly
You should either have your cyber security expert or alternatively; an outsourced agency to perform a regular audit on your overall system to ensure that the latest security practices and recommendations are in place. This can be once a year, biannually, or even once a quarter.
Your business is at risk. It will always be at risk so long as you have data worth stealing and are lucrative to attack. Cyberattacks will only become more brazen and efficient in the never-ending war of attack vs. defense. Cyber criminals rarely get caught as well, meaning you must do all you can to protect your business in 2021 and beyond.