Security Risk Management For Enhanced Cybersecurity In SMBs

Risk is inherent to all businesses, whether large or small. Unfortunately, there seems to be a greater focus on high-impact criminal activities within large corporations. Since the media focus on large businesses, it is easy to think that your small business is not at risk. However, small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are at a higher risk since they do not have the resources to handle data breaches. More importantly, 60% of SMBs go out of business after a cybersecurity breach.

The 2018 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report found that 58% of cyberattacks target small to medium-sized enterprises. Ultimately, SMEs or SMBs are more accessible for penetration than large corporations. If you were running a million-dollar enterprise with data from millions of consumers around the world, then you will take all measures to protect yourself. SMBs, on the other hand, do not recognize the power of cybersecurity and risk management practices, which makes them easy targets.

Why Are SMBs At Risk?

Your SMB is an attractive target because it faces the same threat landscape as larger organizations but has fewer resources to handle an attack. The absence of an in-house expert team to deal with cyber-attacks leaves your small business vulnerable to hacking, social attacks, phishing, and malware. In 2015, statistics showed that SMB owners handled cybersecurity matters 83% of the time.

Many SMBs also lack comprehensive risk management and cybersecurity strategies. As businesses grow, they remain completely unaware of their vulnerabilities. The increase of IoT devices only increases their weak points, and rather than invest in comprehensive systems; small businesses take a haphazard approach. Statistics show that only 29% of small firms with fewer than 50 employees understood their cybersecurity measures, and even fewer had written policies.  

Also, SMBs do not communicate their cybersecurity strategy with their employees. According to Verizon’s report, human errors are responsible for a fifth of breaches. Employee engagement and training are crucial in securing your company’s networks and systems. Criminals infiltrate networks by sending phishing emails to unsuspecting workers or through unsecured devices and weak passwords. Unfortunately, since you may be oblivious to the risk of cyber breaches, your employees will carry on the same attitude.

What Is the Impact Of A Cybersecurity Breach On SMBs?

More than half of cybersecurity attacks cost businesses at least $500,000. This cost is enough to put your SME out of business. This cost includes out-of-pocket expenses, loss of revenue, and customers. With some SMBs experiencing more than 8 hours of downtime after a breach, your business should start working on a risk management protocol immediately.

Regulatory compliance is also another issue that your SMB needs to handle. With the increasing number and sophistication of cyberattacks, your business may be required to comply with regulations, especially for the protection of personally identifiable information (PII).

Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance, for instance, is necessary if you process credit card transactions. Ensuring your IT team receives PCI developer training can be extremely useful in these cases. Non-compliance and a consequent breach could cost you up to $4 million. First, you will have to pay the merchant fines, which goes as high as $500,000. Your business will also bear the costs of forensic investigation, QSA assessment, card re-issuance penalties, breach notification costs, technology repairs, legal fees, among others.

If you are operating in the European Union, you are also expected to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Lack of compliance could result in fines of up to 20 million euros or 4% of your company’s global turnover. Imagine if your business cannot handle a million-dollar, fine, imagine 20 million euros.

How Can You Protect Your SMB?

You can protect your SMB through risk management, which is the process of managing risks that are associated with the use of information technology. Risk management includes identifying, assessing, and treating risks to an acceptable risk level for the organization. 

Assess and Identify Assets

The first step in securing your data is by identifying your assets. You should assess all your assets to find out those that have the most significant risk if their confidentiality, integrity, and availability was compromised. For example, sensitive data such as PII is highly confidential, but compromising the availability of your networks could lead to the loss of customers.

Identify Your Vulnerabilities.

Your assessment should also include all the vulnerabilities within your networks and systems. What weaknesses in your organizations make it easier for penetrators? Once you know your risks, you should decide what to do about them. Will you fix them entirely, or should you mitigate the risk? Should you transfer the risk to a third party, or should you avoid the risk altogether?

Identify Controls

The purpose of controls is to protect your assets by either mitigating the risk or fixing it. For example, if your company faces a breach risk from terminated employees, you should have automatic systems in place that immediately block out users after termination. It would help if you considered including the following controls.  

  • Encrypting data

When you encrypt data, you protect it from unauthorized access since users require encryption keys to read it. Encrypting data will protect your business’s data as it moves between clients, networks, and servers.

  • Setting Up Authentication Protocols

After encrypting data, the next step is protecting access to encryption keys. Authentication comes in different forms. For example, for clients, authentication includes passwords and username combinations for access. On the other hand, server authentication will consist of the use of certificates to identify third parties. Authentication protocols protect your business by ensuring that users are who they claim to be through their ability to use the right encryption keys.

  • Authorization control

The Verizon report showed that more than 25% of network attacks came from people within the organization. With this in mind, your next step should be to control authorization. It is essential to restrict access to specific company resources. Only certain groups should be granted admin privileges to minimize the risk. Restricting access will protect your most important data and systems.

  • Prevention and Detection

Preventing and detecting attacks is essential in risk management. Setting up controls will help you avoid the hefty costs that come after a data breach. Since risk management is a continuous process, you should always observe your systems for unusual activity that may indicate attacks. Reduced speeds across your networks, strange login times, new users and devices within your network, or changes in security logs are signs of a security breach.

The Verizon report pointed out that 68% of breaches took more than a month to discover. For this reason, you should have the best practices in place to identify violations when they happen. Swift detection will help risk management by lowering the costs of lost data or business.

Closing The Gaps In Cybersecurity

Risk management is an essential part of your cybersecurity. By identifying your most crucial assets, assessing your vulnerabilities, setting up controls, and having prevention and detection protocols in place, you can protect your SMB from security breaches.

Adam Hansen

Adam is a part time journalist, entrepreneur, investor and father.