Thinking that small and micro businesses will not become targets of cyber threats is one of the worst misconceptions in business IT. Just because a business is still struggling to scale or become profitable doesn’t mean it is safe from attacks. In fact, small businesses are the most popular targets of cybercriminals.
An Accenture study found that 43pc of cyber attacks are aimed at small businesses. Unfortunately, according to the same study, only 14pc of SMEs are prepared to address such attacks, which include data breaches, malware penetration, financial theft, identity theft, phishing, and denial of service. On average, these incidents cost businesses £65,000 to £115,000. This figure does not include additional damage including opportunity costs, adverse brand and reputation implications, and the negative impact on customer goodwill. What’s even more alarming is that 60pc of companies that have been attacked go out of business within six months according to a report by Inc. These realities only mean that it’s imperative to invest in competent cybersecurity defense.
Basic antivirus protection is not enough
Most businesses are not prepared for cyber threats usually because their owners or managers lack the competence to foresee and implement measures against these threats. Many tend to believe that basic antivirus protection is enough. But with today’s data-rich business environments, there needs to be more proactive protection and controls. For instance, many businesses store sensitive user information or proprietary data that can be part of their core operations. This requires a competent database security solution undertaken by a security specialist or an internal IT expert. While this is usually within the purview of enterprise IT, it helps if micro and small businesses can also have enterprise-grade security to protect their data.
The need for enterprise-grade security
Enterprise-grade security generally means having more than the basic functions, features, and dependability afforded by standard protection tools. This entails implementing of a sophisticated system that reliably addresses a wide range of threats often not foreseen by inexperienced or neophyte business owners. It’s not just about warding off viruses and other malicious software. There are advanced aspects involved.
However, enterprise-level security is not exclusively for large businesses with more than a hundred employees and multi-location operations. Often, the term is loosely used in marketing to refer to solutions that go beyond basic capabilities but are applicable to businesses of all sizes. Of equal importance is the reliability of the system. It should not only provide advanced features; it should deliver rock-steady security not easily defeated by evolving threats.
How to implement enterprise-level security
There are three primary ways for small and micro businesses to achieve enterprise-grade security:
- Investing in a dedicated IT team
- Hiring freelance security experts
- DIY security implementation
All of which require the use of software tools and strategies that can be regarded as enterprise-grade. In other words, the need for software tools is a constant in all of these approaches. The difference is in the person/team deciding on what software tools and security strategies to use.
A startup company that values cybersecurity wouldn’t hesitate to spend for an in-house IT team. It’s not going to be cheap, but it’s a good bet for an ambitious going-concern business that eyes expansion. For micro-businesses, it may be enough to hire one competent IT person to handle all security concerns since a small business does not have as many potential security issues as those encountered by larger businesses. What’s important is to get the right people to competently examine the security vulnerabilities of a business and introduce the appropriate solutions.
Should you hire a freelancer?
If a business can’t afford to maintain a dedicated IT team, there’s the cheaper option of hiring freelancers. This is going to be a risky alternative, though. It’s important to be extra careful in choosing the people to get. It’s important to have a thorough screening of candidates. Additionally, the business owner/manager should have some background knowledge on how cybersecurity works as freelance IT personnel will not always be available to address problems, especially critical emergencies.
What about handling cybersecurity yourself?
Lastly, it’s also possible for the owner or manager to handle the security needs of the business themselves. It’s not going to be easy, but it is doable. There are learning modules or classes available online that are good enough to educate just about anyone with the nitty-gritty of securing the computers, networks, and online presence of a business. After getting properly acquainted with the important details of cybersecurity, the small business owner can make informed decisions on choosing the right software or security solutions.
Caveat: Not everyone will become competent in cybersecurity after attending classes or completing courses. If you don’t feel confident with what you know, it’s most likely that you don’t know enough so your security decisions will likely be unreliable. In such cases, it would be better to hire real security experts.
To emphasise, two factors are essential in implementing enterprise-grade security: people and software/system. It’s important to have people with security expertise or advanced knowledge to ably examine what a business needs and plan the appropriate strategy to implement (including the software to use). Some firms can provide both security solutions (software and services) and expertise (advice or consultancy, the people factor) for small and micro business security. If you want to avail of these without having a dedicated IT person/team, it’s important to at least learn the basics of cybersecurity.
The insufficiency of free tools
There’s a multitude of free security solutions around. Unfortunately, they are generally inadequate in securing businesses. Almost all of them only provide basic functions since they are mainly designed to serve as teasers or lures to attract those who will be willing to spend for the full, enterprise-grade version. Bear in mind that these free tools are being offered by businesses that definitely seek to make a profit. Why will they offer the entirety of their security technology for free?
Free cyberthreat protection tools built into OSes and systems are good, but they are usually not enough. Viruses and malware, after all, are not the only threats businesses should worry about. There’s also the possibility of ransomware infection, DDoS, zero-day exploits, SQL injection, phishing, and man-in-the-middle attacks. Only full-fledged enterprise solutions provide the tools to competently deal with these evolving threats.
Enterprise-grade security for all
The phrase enterprise-grade security is more of a qualifier than a specific type of software or a set of features and functions. It does not refer to a single software or software suite offered by big-name security firms. It can refer to software and methods used together to enable a high level of security that plugs all vulnerabilities and effectively handles emerging threats. To get enterprise-grade security, you need to know the security weaknesses of your business so you can formulate an apt strategy and use the best software or security services. This means you either have to master cybersecurity yourself or hire an expert to help you choose the right defense system or software solution.