Just being reactive to cyber threats is the last thing a small business should do. It’s akin to trying to plug a hole in a boat after it’s started taking on water.
To keep hackers out, small businesses are better off being proactive by focusing on prevention with their cybersecurity strategy. You want to stop the cyberattack from happening instead of scrambling to recover once hackers have already gotten into your network.
With a proactive approach, you’re not looking to plug the hole — you want to make sure the hole in your cyber defenses never happens. And that means preventing the types of vulnerabilities that a reactive cybersecurity strategy model tends to discover too late: misconfigured firewalls, unpatched applications, weak passwords, giving too many users access to sensitive information, and more.
Why every business has to proactively care about cyber defense
The first thing small businesses need to remember when shoring up cyber defenses is this: Hackers don’t care how small you are. If you handle data, some of it is bound to have value to cyber-criminals.
What cyber-criminals may want from your business:
- Company secrets
- Personnel files with Social Security numbers and bank account numbers
- Medical records
- Confidential data from larger business partners or government contracts
- Customer data, including credit card and identity information
To get at that data, hackers operate individually and in groups. Some groups engage in advanced persistent threats (APT) with the goal of infiltrating networks to steal information.
The second thing is that you must be on the lookout for cyber threats constantly. Cybersecurity isn’t a passive endeavor; it requires effort, especially if you’re taking a proactive approach. Cyber attackers never rest, and threats get more dangerous by the day.
The No. 1 threat to a company of any size currently is ransomware. This type of attack has become more and more sophisticated and perpetrators are getting bolder, demanding ever-higher sums in ransom.
You’re more likely to prevent a ransomware attack with a proactive security strategy that fully addresses the attack surface — from desktops to laptops to open network ports — and defends against all types of threats, including those that haven’t even surfaced yet. This may seem daunting for a small company — and it is — but help is available from managed security services providers (MSSPs) that can manage your cybersecurity on your behalf.
What are the key components of a proactive cybersecurity strategy
Limit Access to Data
Not all users should have access to all data.
Sensitive data such as intellectual property and personnel records should be accessible only to the narrowest sets of users who need it. To ensure proper access levels, implement strict, well-defined authorization and authentication policies. Require strong passwords for all resources and consider implementing multi factor authentication for at least the applications and databases that handle the most sensitive data.
Policies should be in place for all users and devices trying to log in from both within and outside the network.
Implemented Endpoint Protection
Businesses cannot rely solely on firewalls and antivirus tools anymore.
While still necessary, those controls aren’t designed to identify new threats. Proactive endpoint security requires machine learning models trained on files collected from across the cyber landscape to find and block previously unknown threats.
Consider implementing an Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) platform. EDR delivers analytics and event correlations capabilities to identify attacks involving multiple endpoints, as well as forensic capabilities that explain the events leading up to a breach and help prevent future incidents.
However, not every business can afford to have a forensic team in-house, so consider automated EDR solutions that offer awareness of the threat environment. This helps SMBs to understand the context of the attacks on their endpoints, perform root-cause analysis, and initiate specific remedies.
Preventing ransomware attacks requires a multilayered approach that includes:
- Constantly monitoring the network and endpoints
- Identifying potential phishing emails
- Blocking access to malicious URLs and email attachments
- Identifying and preventing zero-day exploits
- Performing tamper-proof file backups that help you get up and running quickly should attackers succeed in delivering a payload
Patch management is also key to blocking ransomware by keeping security tools and applications up to date and free of exploitable vulnerabilities.
Promote User Awareness
No proactive cybersecurity strategy is complete without user awareness.
Cybersecurity training programs that include phishing simulations are key to keeping users aware of cyber risks and the consequences of clicking on malicious URLs and attachments.
Cybersecurity awareness training should be ongoing and interactive, using different methods such as instructional videos and email to keep users on their toes.
How small businesses can implement a proactive cybersecurity strategy
As a small business, you may lack some of the resources to fully implement a proactive cybersecurity strategy. But that doesn’t mean you should settle for subpar security.
You can turn to cyber defense providers specializing in keeping small businesses safe that deliver all the services and expertise required for a proactive approach to cybersecurity. They will keep your ship sailing smoothly for years to come.
Learn about other cybersecurity tips for SMBs.