In the midst of SMBs’ swift growth, there has been a notable rise in the occurrence of cyber-related incidents. Data from a study conducted by the Ponemon Institute unveiled that during the year 2019, around two-thirds of small and medium-sized businesses encountered instances of cyber breaches. This alarming trend underscores the criticality of fortified cyber security measures.
In light of these concerns, this article focuses on the top 10 cyber security mistakes that growing SMBs frequently commit. By identifying and addressing these pitfalls, SMBs can effectively safeguard their sensitive data, bolster customer trust, and ensure the enduring prosperity of their ventures.
Growing SMBs Make These 10 Cyber Security Mistakes
1. Lack of Employee Training and Cyber Security Awareness
One of the most prevalent mistakes growing SMBs make is underestimating the importance of cyber security education for their employees. As developers require technical expertise, essential soft skills such as critical thinking and attention to detail are crucial.
Picture a worker getting an unexpected email that seems to be from a valid sender. However, this message is, in reality, a phishing endeavor designed to abscond with confidential details.
Without adequate guidance, this staff member could inadvertently activate a malevolent hyperlink, potentially compromising security.
Surprisingly, 91% of all cyber attacks start with a phishing email, highlighting the critical need for cyber security education.
Regular, up-to-date training sessions ensure that employees remain informed about the latest risks and how to counter them effectively.
2. Weak Password Practices
Using weak passwords is a common mistake that leaves SMBs vulnerable. Imagine an employee setting their password as “123456” or “password.” This simplicity makes it easy for attackers to crack and gain unauthorized access.
The 10th edition of the Verizon Data Breach revealed that 81% of hacking-related breaches are due to weak or stolen passwords. Encouraging employees to use complex, strong passwords, including a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols, can significantly enhance security.
Here’s a short video on how to master password etiquette in under 60 seconds!
3. Inadequate Software Patching
Failing to keep software up to date is a mistake that can leave SMBs exposed to cyber security threats. Picture a situation where a company uses outdated operating systems or applications. These older versions often have known vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit for financial gain.
In 2017, the “WannaCry” ransomware eruption occurred aimed at systems lacking necessary updates. This event impacted a substantial number of computers, exceeding 200,000 units. The act of not prioritizing updates creates an environment that facilitates unauthorized access by malicious parties to breach networks and access sensitive information.
Companies that consistently apply software updates and security patches significantly reduce their risk of falling victim to breaches.
4. Absence of Data Backup and Recovery Plans
Failure to establish robust data backup strategies can lead to disastrous consequences. Imagine a business hit by a cyber security incident that encrypts its data, rendering it inaccessible. Without backups, the company might face a dire choice: lose data or fall victim to a ransomware attack.
Implementing effective backup and recovery plans can mitigate the impact of cyber security incidents. Regularly backing up data to secure offsite locations ensures a clean version can be restored even if the primary data is compromised. This approach acts as a safety net, reducing the leverage attackers have during ransomware incidents and aligning with the importance of ISO 27001 standards for data security.
5. Poor Access Control Measures
Neglecting to manage user access can lead to unauthorized data exposure. If a company allows all employees to have unrestricted access to sensitive financial records. An intern who accidentally stumbles upon this data could unknowingly cause significant harm.
Following the principle of least privilege ensures that users have only the access necessary for their roles and mobile devices. Just as a hotel key card grants limited access, this approach minimizes potential damage if an account is compromised.
6. Outgrowing Your Current IT Company/Department
As your small to medium-sized business grows, your information technology requirements can surpass the capabilities of your existing IT department or service provider. This situation can result in cyber risks like operational inefficiencies, instances of system downtime, and susceptibility to security risks.
Consider a scenario where a business encounters swift expansion yet relies on a compact internal IT team for support. As the company’s technology demands increase, the team struggles to keep up, resulting in delayed support and potential system failures. Integrating more developers into your security hardening processes becomes crucial in such a scenario, as it ensures that cloud security considerations are built into the development and deployment of new systems and applications, reducing the risk of vulnerabilities and data breaches.
7. Skipping Regular Security Audits
Regular security audits are vital for assessing and enhancing a company’s defenses. Think of a retail store’s audit discovering unlocked doors, inviting theft. Similarly, an audit might uncover outdated software or improper access controls that cyber security criminals and other malicious actors could exploit.
Implementing a consistent security audit schedule, as well as adopting other training and awareness solutions, ensures ongoing protection. Just as regular health check-ups prevent health issues, routine audits prevent cyber security issues.
8. Not Having an Incident Response Plan
The absence of an incident response or Written Information Security Plan (WISP) can magnify damage during a cyber security incident or attacks. Picture a ship without lifeboats; businesses struggle to navigate breaches effectively without a plan.
Crafting and testing an incident response plan is essential. Like fire drills, practicing responses prepares employees for actual incidents.
9. Maintaining Proper Data Compliance
Ensuring data compliance is essential to protect customer privacy and avoid legal repercussions. Consider a healthcare clinic that mishandles patient data, leading to breaches of medical records. Not only does this erode trust, but it can also result in hefty fines under regulations like GDPR or HIPAA.
Furthermore, complying with data regulations isn’t just about avoiding penalties, but respecting customers’ rights.
For SMBs, adopting strict data compliance measures involves implementing encryption, secure data storage, and regular audits. This protects sensitive information and showcases a commitment to ethical business practices. By prioritizing data compliance, SMBs can build trust, avoid legal trouble, and safeguard their long-term success.
10. Blind Trust in Third-Party Vendors
Blindly trusting third-party vendors can lead to cyber threats and vulnerabilities. Just as reading product reviews informs wise purchases, scrutinizing vendors’ cyber security ensures a safe partnership. A real-world example is the 2013 Target breach, where hackers gained unauthorized access to customer data through a third-party HVAC vendor for financial gain. Proper assessment could have averted this.
Similar to employee background checks, comprehensive assessments verify vendors’ security measures.
Take the Road to Safeguarding your Small Business!
Safeguarding your growing SMB against cyber attackers and threats is paramount. You can fortify your business’s digital defenses by addressing the highlighted pitfalls and taking proactive steps like employee training, data protection, and diligent vendor assessments.
In an interconnected world, these actions protect sensitive data and secure your customers’ trust, ensuring your enterprise’s long-term success and sustainability. To take immediate action and fortify your business against cyber threats, don’t hesitate to reach out to Nerds Support, your trusted cyber security partner and services provider. Our team of managed IT services experts is here to provide you with top-notch guidance, tailored solutions, and the peace of mind you need to ensure the success of your growing SMB with a thorough Security Assessment. Contact us today and start your cyber security journey!