Unfortunately, many startups don’t start thinking about putting a cybersecurity policy in place until after a breach has occurred. Failing to take the proper precautions can have devastating financial consequences. According to research by cyber-insurance firm Hiscox, the mean cost of a data breach in 2019 was just under $200,000, with small firms usually losing around $9,000 per reported incident. Considering that the Ponemon Institute’s 2020 Data Breach Report found that the average data breach takes about 280 days to identify and contain, having the right policies and controls in place to avoid these incidents is critical.
Why Do Hackers Target Small Businesses and Startups?
Each and every company, regardless of its industry, has weaknesses that hackers exploit for their own gain. Just because a business is small or not in a vertical often associated with valuable data (such as healthcare or financial services) doesn’t mean it won’t make an enticing target for an opportunistic cybercriminal.
In fact, there are a number of reasons why startups and small businesses are sometimes more likely than even big businesses to be targeted.
- Customer Information: Even the smallest startups often store or handle customer data such as financial information, Social Security numbers, and transaction history.
- Proprietary Data: Startups often carry innovative and creative ideas for products and services, as well as internal research data that could be valuable to outside parties.
- Third-Party Vulnerabilities: Hackers also target small businesses and startups because they sometimes do business with larger companies as third-party vendors and can provide entry points into those more valuable networks. Target’s infamous 2013 credit card breach, for instance, happened because of vulnerabilities in a third-party vendor’s system.
- Multiple Interfaces: Another reason for increased attacks is the growing use of Internet of Things (IoT) devices that increase the attack surface of networks. Small businesses are turning to IoT devices more often due to their lower costs and growing capabilities. Unfortunately, hackers often exploit poorly secured devices as a backdoor to access broader, more sensitive networks.
- Lack of Finances: Since small businesses and startups are working on a tight budget, they don’t always place cybersecurity is not at the top of their priorities list and often neglect the latest patches and updates.
Cybersecurity Policy for Small Businesses and Startups
Every company, big or small, should build a cybersecurity policy based on best practices to keep their data and applications secure. A good cybersecurity strategy should place special emphasis on a few key areas:
Prepare a Formal Data Security Plan
You need to decide who in your company needs to have access to which data and develop policies to guard this access. Nobody should have more access than they actually need. If people are bringing their own devices to work, make sure that those devices are using the latest protection. This can include various forms of multi-factor biometric authentication, including fingerprints and facial recognition. Review your plan regularly and update it as more people join the company and new departments emerge. Never let your security plan go stagnant.
Train Your People from the Very Beginning
Make sure that you train your employees right from the start. As soon as you begin data protection, start training your people as well. As new employees come in, conduct a cybersecurity policy workshop to let them know how things are done. Let them come to you for help when they need it. Make sure that you go over the cybersecurity policies with your employees on a regular basis so they always keep it top of mind. Don’t let it be a one-time event.
Make Strategies for Personal Cell Phones and Other Devices
Mobile devices have now become extensions of our hands. There was a time when employees rarely used their phones in the workplace, but those days are long gone thanks to the growing capabilities of smartphone applications. Compromising these devices is often the easiest way to gain access to a company network and wreak all kinds of havoc. Make sure that you include “bring your own device” (BYOD) guidelines in your cybersecurity policy.
Take Extra Care with Your Data
One of the primary security principles is that the fewer digital copies you make of your confidential data, the more secure that data will be. But this can prove to be a challenge in practice. First of all, many employees in various departments need access to the same information. Second, they access the information not only with office workstations, but also with their personal devices. And if they want to send documents to each other or to an outside party, they may use third-party apps that are not secure and don’t use encryptions. Instead of coming up with multiple plans for every contingency, implementing a comprehensive file security platform like Smart Eye Technology can determine ahead of time whether files can be shared beyond the intended recipient or downloaded.
Basic Cybersecurity Policy Template
Any good cybersecurity policy needs to take several specific elements into consideration. While every business is different, there are a few data security best practices that are particularly relevant to small businesses and startups and should be included in every cybersecurity policy.
1. Categorize Your Data
Data should be categorized according to the way it’s used, who has access to it, and where it’s stored. Good categorization makes it easier to manage authorization and determine what security measures are needed for each type of data.
2. Network Security Policies
Cybersecurity policies should detail proper server, firewall, and database configurations, as well as how remote access and the arrangement of IP addresses should be managed. It should also stipulate who has administrative credentials and what process they should follow to make any changes in the network.
3. Scanning for Vulnerabilities
Having any vulnerability in a company’s network infrastructure can cause a number of problems. Hackers are regularly scanning for security and reviewing databases of known vulnerabilities. A good cybersecurity policy should also outline steps for scheduled vulnerability scans that reassess the status of the network.
4. Managing Patches
Security patches and updates are designed to prevent further threats by closing gaps and terminating vulnerabilities. The cybersecurity policy should provide a process describing when and how patches should be implemented in the system. When organizations fail to keep their patches current, they expose themselves to known and easily preventable threats.
5. The Response to Incidents
Organizations need to have a plan for responding to any cybersecurity incident. Whenever a data breach occurs, the company must take immediate action to remediate the situation, assess how badly security was compromised, and then perform a forensic analysis to understand how the attack was executed and how to prevent similar attacks in the future.
6. Monitoring Compliance
Compliance audits are essential for maintaining regulatory standards for the protection of essential data. Organizations that cannot prove their compliance status will quickly lose business because no one will entrust them with sensitive data.
7. Account Monitoring and Control
Another essential element of cybersecurity policy is keeping a record of who is authorized to access data and when they have done so. Only authorized, credentialed users should be able to access sensitive information. A multi-factor authentication system (preferably using secure biometric verification rather than easy-to-forget passwords) should be put in place to provide an additional layer of security. Keeping a record of who has accessed data makes it easier to minimize risk and identify potential threats that could compromise precious data.
Enhance Your Cybersecurity Policy with Biometric Authentication
When it comes to managing access to data, few methods have proven more effective than biometric authentication. Whether it’s fingerprint scans, facial recognition, voice recognition, or behavior recognition, biometric verification technology can be implemented as part of a multi-factor security solution that minimizes risk and ensures privacy. It ensures that data remains confidential, unaltered, and readily available to authorized users.
Smart Eye Technology’s revolutionary biometric authentication platform uses continuous facial recognition to protect your screen from prying eyes and makes it easier than ever to verify identity for electronic signatures. To find out how Smart Eye can enhance your cybersecurity policy, talk to one of our biometrics experts today or sign up for a hands-on trial.