For companies that don’t have a large budget to spend on information security, here are six ways to improve cybersecurity without breaking the bank.
Cyber theft is the fastest growing crime in the U.S., according to CSO Online. Companies must take matters into their own hands to guard their customers’ data, but cyber protection isn’t cheap—in fact, cybersecurity spending is expected to exceed $1 trillion in the U.S. between 2017 and 2021.
In 2016 alone, organizations worldwide spent over $81 billion on information security, per Gartner. And in less than a decade, the total cost of cybersecurity damages is expected to double from $3 trillion in 2015 to $6 trillion in 2021, per CSO Online.
There’s no denying that cybersecurity is expensive—but what’s worse is that small to medium-sized businesses make up 62 percent of cyber attack victims, and the average cost of a small-business data breach is at least $20,000.
For companies that don’t have a large budget to spend on information security, here are six ways to improve cybersecurity without breaking the bank:
1. Educate staff and customers.
Your employees and customers interact with sensitive data each day and are on the front lines of defending your company’s cyber health. Because they’re frequently exposed to threats, it’s important to train them to detect fraudulent messages and suspicious activity. Help them understand what’s at risk—both for the company and individuals—and the vital role they play in preventing cybersecurity incidents.
One of the easiest traps to fall into is a phishing email—a fraudulent message that poses as another company or individual and tricks you into sending personal information or downloading content that can infect your account or computer.
These spam emails have become increasingly harder to detect, as 97 percent of people worldwide cannot properly identify a phishing email, per Intel Security.
Training your staff and customers to identify the most common phishing clues—like misspelled words and links or receiving files they didn’t request—will help them recognize a phony message and avoid a costly mistake.2. Enable multi-factor authentication.
A single password was once enough to keep an unwanted visitor out of your online accounts—but as cyber attacks have evolved, passwords have not. The majority of online users have weak passwords, duplicate them across several different accounts and don’t update them regularly. Each of these practices and the cunning advancements in hacking has resulted in a large number of successful cyber attacks. In fact, 81 percent of hacking-related security breaches were a result of weak and/or stolen passwords, according to Verizon.
So what’s the solution? Creating strong passwords—that include multiple characters, numbers, and symbols—is a start, but you can do more. To more fully protect your online accounts, you should enable multi-factor authentication—an added layer of security that requires you to verify your identity more than once before accessing an account.
There are different authentication methods available, with two of the most common being SMS authentication (supply a one-time passcode received on your mobile device) and knowledge-based authentication (correctly answer a set of questions based on information found in public databases).
By requiring staff and employees to enable multi-factor authentication on their accounts, you can heighten security and have more control over who can access your company’s private data.
3. Create a guest Wi-Fi network.
While many public places, like coffee shops or malls, provide their customers with free guest Wi-Fi, many companies rely on only a single network. According to the Huffington Post, it takes less than two seconds for a Wi-Fi attack to infect an open network, and if an outsider logs onto your company’s primary network with a bug or virus, the whole network could be compromised.
When it comes to protecting sensitive company data, the more barriers you can place between that data and the outside world, the better. Creating a guest Wi-Fi network isolates your core network from outside users—so your business’ data and files are only accessible through the separate, primary Wi-Fi connection. Internet-connected devices, such as smart TVs and thermostats, can also be targets for cybercriminals, so it’s important to place them on a secondary Wi-Fi network as well.4. Evaluate current software programs.
Companies rely on a variety of different software programs—for documents, customer relationship management, billing and more—so it’s important to evaluate the security features of your existing software. If you transition to a cloud-based platform, make sure it comes with certain data protection features like file encryption and comprehensive audit trails.
5. Outline a data storage policy.
The less data you maintain, the less you have to worry about it being compromised. Determine what types of data your company needs to store, whether for compliance purposes or record-keeping and what information can be safely removed. By understanding the security risks associated with keeping certain kinds of data, you can establish a policy that clearly defines how that data is handled, stored and disposed of.
It’s also important to consider what your software vendors’ storage policies are. Are they holding on to sensitive data that’s unnecessary for them to keep? Ask if they are willing and able to digitally shred your private data to protect you from unforeseen risks outside of your company walls.6. Develop a cyber incident response plan.
According to Stay Safe Online, companies should develop a comprehensive cybersecurity plan that focuses on three main areas: prevention, resolution, and restitution. The items listed above fall under prevention, but in the event that a cybersecurity issue does occur, companies need to have an incident response plan in place.
An incident response plan will prepare you for the stressful, fast-paced decision process that occurs when dealing with a cybersecurity problem. With a step-by-step plan, which includes identifying the issue, contacting the appropriate authorities (whether internal or external) and alerting the account holders at risk, you will be able to minimize the damage done both to your company’s data and reputation. How your company handles an incident could be a determining factor in your customers’ loyalty and trust—something that should never be taken lightly.
With a step-by-step plan, which includes identifying the issue, contacting the appropriate authorities (whether internal or external) and alerting the account holders at risk, you will be able to minimize the damage done both to your company’s data and reputation. How your company handles an incident could be a determining factor in your customers’ loyalty and trust—something that should never be taken lightly.
As companies consider ways to protect their data and their customers’ best interests, many are turning to expensive cybersecurity protection plans. While these may be a good choice for some, there are ways companies can improve their cybersecurity efforts without breaking the bank. By actively participating in the health of your company’s cyber security, you will display a level of understanding to your staff and customers and be better equipped to face cyber security issues head-on.