It is unimaginable for any business today to function without using any form of technology. But along with technology comes the risk of your equipment being exposed to cyber-attacks and your information being compromised. These attacks can be prevented by startups, whether big or small, by having a security-first mentality. Businesses that understand these threats can avoid these cyber-attacks which can otherwise disrupt their operations and cause mistrust among customers and clients. However, startups often utilize their resources in other business areas such as sales and operations that mostly overlook the security part of your business. This is why, it is important for startups to know the importance of cyber security for their business.
Here are 10 things business startups and entrepreneurs need to know about cyber security.
- People are often the Weakest Link
Even trustworthy employees cannot guarantee protection of your network. Often, it only takes a lapse in judgement to give away network access to a hacker. Cyber criminals use phishing attack to trick honest employees into clicking malicious links and give away their sensitive information. In some instances, employees unknowingly compromise business data by connecting their compromised devices to the organization’s network.
The only way to avoid this is by training and educating your employees. Teach them how to identify and avoid the threats to decrease the chances of human error. Also devise information security policy that guides how the staff should be using their IT equipment.
- Access Control Matters
You need to know who has access to your infrastructure. As a business startup, when you initially launch, you may have handed out critical information to third-party vendors or other stakeholders. You may still have given access of your servers to an ex-employee who has already left the job a month ago. It is important that when your relationships change with any entity, you revoke the access privilege granted to them.
Most software tools now allow businesses to set up user access with different control levels for different users. Even for those who have access to highly sensitive content, encourage them to use strong passwords. Also, to ensure legal obligations, make your stakeholders sign non-disclosure agreements when involving them in any business matters.
- Invest in Security Software
Most startups are low on budget and may be hesitant to take on any added expense. However, investment in cybersecurity is one investment you should not ignore. In fact, even with the low budget you can still invest in cost-effective antivirus, firewall and encryption utilities. Additionally, with security-as-a-service as a new thing, now you don’t need to make heavy investments in security applications for your network’s protection. Rather, you can subscribe to web applications that fulfill all your basic security needs. You can pay a monthly nominal fee instead of purchasing the complete software.
- Small and Large Businesses are Equal for Cybercriminals
It is normal to believe that hackers only target big businesses and high-profile startups. However, according to a study by Ponemon institute, about 55 percent of small and medium businesses have experienced cyber-attacks in some form. Regardless of the size of your business, most cyberattacks are now caused by malicious scripts and software programs. Moreover, if you are a small business, you are more likely to be a target due to your lack of experience and limited knowledge of cyber security. Therefore, any business that has a digital presence is vulnerable to threats.
- Data Breaches
Hackers can compromise your data in several ways. But the top concern is a data breach. A data breach occurs when an attacker gains access to your database and steals your sensitive data. He then sells your personal or financial information in the black market which can be used for online fraud and identity thefts. Main targets of such attacks are ecommerce or online support websites that store customer information such as credit card data. Small startups can definitely not afford to lose their customer’s trust as they don’t have all the resources to resurface after a stained reputation.
- Malware and Ransomware
Ransomware is a specific malware which infects a system by encrypting the important files in it and then asking the owner to pay a ransom amount in exchange of being able to access their encrypted files. It is considered as one of the top threats for startups today. Cybercriminals demand handsome amounts of money in exchange of decrypting the owner’s files and usually ask for payment in cryptocurrencies due to the nature of anonymity in the payment method. This not only causes businesses to suffer from financial losses but also results in business disruption for an indefinite time period.
- Distributed Denial-of-Service Attack
These kinds of attacks make your website inaccessible by others by purposely increasing traffic on your network. For a one- or two-hour website downtime, a business can suffer huge financial losses.
- Compliance to Security Standards
Security standards such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and ISO 27001 serve to provide security guidelines for businesses to keep them safe from information security troubles. It is advisable to comply with these regulations early on in your business to not only gain recognition among your clients but also ensure that your safety practices are in place. You will also avoid spending countless money and time on mitigating risks and responding to threats faced later. Furthermore, startups that are ISO certified have better chances of working with large companies and government departments, due to security compliance often being a prerequisite.
- Web Security Management
If you are a startup that actively depends on a website to run its operations, such as an ecommerce store or an online healthcare startup, make sure to secure your website by getting SSL certificates installed. This protects your website from hacking attempts being successful and keeps customer data secure.
- Limit Your Digital Footprints
As startups use a number of business and mobile applications for effective management of their businesses, each person or business entity may have multiple accounts ranging from emails, social media, and software applications. This can lead users to use the same password for multiple accounts, either with the fear or forgetting different passwords or out of laziness. To limit your digital footprints, don’t share accounts, use multifactor authentication where available, keep different passwords for all accounts and close all unused accounts.
For business startups, cyber security is a phenomenon which does not directly affect their goals. Nevertheless, its importance cannot be ignored and is very necessary in today’s ever evolving digital world.
David Smith is a cryptographer with 12 years of experience in both the public and private sectors. He is currently working on his second startup (currently in stealth mode) that will track and interpret the use of contactless payments. His expertise includes system design and implementation with contact and contactless smart cards, smart card personalization, mobile payments, and general knowledge and experience with APAC market trends and consumer preferences. David occasionally consults with smart card companies at websites like Cardzgroup.comShare