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If you were to ask five random strangers from different walks of life what the biggest threats to the future of small businesses are, you’d likely get similar answers. The possible responses are likely to be rising inflation and possible recession, volatility in the labor market, the speed of technological advancement, supply chain issues and more.
The real question is, what insidious threat far too often gets put on the back burner, passed on to the next operating budget? When sales are on track, inventory is viable, growth is steady, and scaling is starting to take shape, what problem remains to be addressed?
Related: Cybersecurity is no longer an option. Your money is in immediate danger.
Ignoring the warnings is the easy – and short-sighted – path for SMBs
Ignoring the severity of cyber threats is a dangerous gamble. The risk is unmistakable:
- 61% of small businesses experienced a cyber attack in 2021
- Small businesses account for 43% of all data breaches
- More than half of small businesses that fall victim to a cyberattack close within six months
Acknowledging the harsh reality that the majority of people ignore is a crucial starting point. A good understanding of the situation results in knowing what protective measures to take. Create and execute cybersecurity measures should be a high priority for businesses of all sizes, especially SMEs, where the margin of error is razor sharp.
The pressure to allocate resources effectively undermines cybersecurity efforts
There are few endeavors as nerve-wracking, terrifying, and potentially disastrous – yet 100% worth it – as starting and running a small business. I’ve experienced the passion that drives those who are committed to making it through. I’ve felt the fuel burning within team members who are fully committed to taking an idea and nurturing it into a viable, self-sustaining entity.
It’s no secret that the odds are stacked against us. The numbers don’t lie. It is widely reported that, on average, 8 out of 10 small businesses fail within the first year. The odds will get even grim within five years, with nearly half of all new small businesses closing shop.
Why do most small businesses downplay or ignore cybersecurity given the obvious confidence and enthusiasm exuded by the founders? Why is the immense potential for all-too-true disaster lurking around every corner? It’s a matter of resources and a lack of an informed perspective.
Related: 5 ways to protect your business from cyber-attacks
SMB leadership needs to take cybersecurity to the next level
Addressing cybersecurity as a small business is a necessary endeavor that sees greater complexity and effort over time. There are fundamental steps to be taken, which are reinforced with heightened security measures. Given the undeniable threats lurking out there, the stronger a company’s security features, the better.
Here are some crucial steps you should take from the start:
- Internet and firewall security software. It is important to use both antivirus and firewall software as they address different issues. Firewalls prevent outside access to data on a private network; integrating trusted security software, operating systems and web browsers is essential armor for network-connected use of that data.
- Backup of data. If a cyber-attack occurs where company data is hijacked or damaged, a reliable, good quality backup is a lifesaver. Data backups should be updated regularly to ensure fast usage.
- Secure Wi-Fi. A simple, straightforward measure, a secure Wi-Fi setup is a powerful piece of the protective puzzle. It may be necessary to go beyond the basic security provided by your provider.
- Controlled access and authority. The most effective way to prevent potential crises is to implement controlled access to data and limit users’ authority. This action ensures that employees do not accidentally install or use compromised programs, weaken cybersecurity settings, or access data and information beyond their responsibility.
Awareness, education, and formal policies are vital to cybersecurity defense
One of the most critical steps a company can take is training employees in cybersecurity. Without a thorough awareness and understanding of the myriad ways cybercriminals attack, employees are weak links that are inevitably compromised. Basic instruction on the severity of the threat and critical risks to avoid will go a long way in strengthening the power of active cybersecurity defenses.
Equipping your business with established cybersecurity policies and action plans reinforces the basic steps outlined above; these steps create a defensive mindset and readiness that are essential for countering adaptive cybercriminal attacks. The specific plans made vary depending on a company’s size and structure, but may include the following:
- Internal incident response plan
- Action plan for mobile devices
- Crisis response/customer engagement plan
Related: 5 Leadership Strategies to Improve Team Performance and Grow Your Small Business
Survive and secure success as an SME in a challenging economic landscape
Every small business is unique. Every owner, every leadership team and every member of staff – everyone has their own story. It’s hard to say if they’ll all hear it.
When navigating the endless parade of pressing concerns, looming threats and demands on dwindling time resources, the energy and effort required can seem overwhelming. It may seem logical at this point to put cybersecurity measures on the to-do list to tackle the next day, but the reality paints a very different picture.
When running a small business, there are plenty of time and resources to invest in a particular issue. Finding the right level for their business will be a call they need to get right.