Startup Security: 7 Ways to Protect Your Business against Cyberattacks
Cybersecurity is becoming a day-to-day struggle in businesses. Recent trends and statistics show a sharp rise in cyberattacks and data breaches targeting workplaces.
You are increasingly finding yourself relying on digital tools for daily activities such as work, study, shopping, and more.
As you immerse yourself deeper into the virtual world, cybercriminals are also ramping up efforts to compromise your data. Hackers capitalize on fears and anxieties by using malware, social engineering tactics, and ransomware campaigns to attack computer networks.
Remote work, for instance, has created new ways for cybercriminals to target businesses and start-ups have not been spared. In this article, I will focus on start-up cybersecurity and some proactive steps start-entrepreneurs can take to mitigate the risk of a cyberattack.
Firstly, why do you need to protect your business?
Any business, large or small, that uses technology to store and manage customer information is a potential target. Accounting for 43% of all cyberattacks targeting businesses, SMBs, including start-ups, have always been more vulnerable.
Young start-ups in the first 18 months of operation are at a particularly higher risk of attack. Fintech start-ups, in particular, are highly vulnerable to financial data leaks. Hence, ensure you learn other ways to be safe from employee negligence.
Why do cybercriminals target start-ups?
The scarcity of resources is one of the biggest reasons why start-ups fall victim to cybercrime. Most start-ups lack the financial capability to build a well-developed cybersecurity infrastructure. Some of them don’t have any form of data security at all.
In their early days, the vast majority of start-ups don’t even have a dedicated IT team and when they do, training and budget are often insufficient. This leaves employees susceptible to phishing attacks and may unwittingly help in attacks.
Some start-up entrepreneurs believe that hackers only target large organizations with mountains of customer data to steal. That’s not always the case. Cybercriminals are increasingly using automated scripts that indiscriminately seek out thousands of computer systems’ devices at a time, scanning for vulnerabilities.
Hence, weak system security — or lack of it — makes start-ups comparatively easy to cyberattack, giving hackers readily available entry points to access and steal sensitive data.
3 Threats Facing Start-Ups
For cybercriminals, start-ups are a treasure trove of valuable data despite their size. These criminals often have access to highly confidential information on people and businesses. This includes social security numbers, credit card information, intellectual property, and financial information.
All this information is digitized, making start-ups a lucrative target for the digital intrusion. Here are top cybersecurity threats you should look out for.
- Ransomware. Ransomware is a form of malware that encrypts your system data making your work files inaccessible until a ransom is paid. Cybercriminals may threaten to destroy or expose your data on hacker forums if you fail to pay for the decryption key. According to Forbes, there will be a 300% increase in ransomware attacks in 2020. Most of these will be targeting small businesses.
- Phishing. This is a social engineering tactic that uses fake digital messages such as email or text messages to trick potential victims. The victim ends up sharing sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, or whatever it is the attacker is looking for. Phishing is the most common form of cyberattacks targeting small businesses, accounting for 91 percent of all attacks.
COVID-19-themed phishing is currently gaining traction among cybercriminals.
- Data leaks. A data leak is an unauthorized transmission of confidential data from within an organization to an external environment. Data leaks can be intentional or unintentional. The information exposed through a data leak may include contact info, user credentials and payment card information. Phone numbers and email addresses are not excluded too.
Cyberattacks and data breaches come at a heavy cost. The financial blowback of a cybersecurity breach can be devastating. On average, a single data breach will set back a small business around $200,000.
That’s more than what a typical start-up can recover, not to mention the reputational damage that may follow a data breach. Therefore, it’s imperative for entrepreneurs to take precautions and avoid such an outcome.
How to Protect Your Start-Up Against Cyber Threats
Pandemics escalate the risk of cyberattacks. How? The crisis makes lives more digital, which means more hacking opportunities for cybercrooks.
Any business that uses online services or is connected to the internet is vulnerable to cyberattacks.
As a start-up, it’s up to you to protect your start-up from these threats. Here are some precautions you can take to mitigate the risk of a cyberattack or data breach.
1. Carry Out Risk Assessment
Risk assessment is one of the most important aspects of cybersecurity. The risk assessment process is a comprehensive audit that will help you identify threats and threat actors. This will also help you calculate the probability that these risks will lead to loss or exposure.
Hence, assessing risks and vulnerabilities will help you recognize information assets that a data breach could affect. When assessing such, look at the different aspects of your system including hardware, laptops, customer data, and intellectual property.
2. Come Up with a Security Budget
For most start-up entrepreneurs, security comes as an afterthought. Cybersecurity may not even cross your mind until there’s a breach. Well, that should not be the case.
You should always strive to make cybersecurity a priority from the get-go. Start by creating a cybersecurity budget for your start-up. How much customer information do you have in your possession and how do you monetize this data?
Use this as a guide to calculate how much you can afford to lose in a data breach.
3. Educate your staff
Hackers will use all kinds of tactics to steal sensitive information from your organization. Social engineering attacks such as phishing and spear-phishing may capitalize on your employees’ lack of awareness on matters cybersecurity.
No matter how good your cybersecurity system is, you’ll be at risk if your employees are not trained. Train your employees on cybersecurity best practices such as using strong unique passwords and how to differentiate spoofed or malicious emails from properly written emails.
4. Limit Access to Company Data
Often, young start-ups have to share sensitive credentials with third-party vendors and other entities in their early days of operation. There’s no problem with that.
However, issues may arise when young start-ups fail to revoke these privileges when these relationships come to an end. When you are no longer together, third parties may not protect your company data with the same level of urgency.
Negligent employees and third parties may put your company data at risk. Limiting access to company data when possible can reduce the risk of an attack.
5. Keep Your Software Up to Date
Cyberthreats are constantly evolving with security software always playing catch up. Making sure that you are using the latest software is essential to your start-up’s digital safety and cybersecurity.
Old, outdated security software is more vulnerable to cyberattacks. Software patches come with the latest security definitions and ensure that your system is protected from the latest threats. Always check your systems regularly to make sure that you are running the latest software version.
Make sure that your antivirus software updates and download recommended updates as soon as you receive the alert.
6. Use Antivirus
Deploy an antimalware solution to prevent and remove malicious programs. This includes viruses, worms, ransomware, adware, bloatware, etc. from your IT system.
You should also consider installing a virtual private network (VPN) for an extra layer of protection against online threats.
A VPN creates a private network from a public internet connection ensuring online privacy and anonymity. Installing a VPN router can help you secure the network with a VPN to prevent DDoS attacks, spying, malware attacks, and other online threats.
7. Stay on Top of the Latest Hacking Trends
Cybersecurity threats are constantly evolving, building upon previous iterations to come up with ways to go through security systems undetected.
Keeping on top of the latest changes can help you stay protected. However, keeping with the latest hacking trends is not easy.
It’s good to listen to figures and organizations that have made a name for themselves in the industry. This will also help you to stay current with the latest trends in cybersecurity.
Follow respected tech news sources on social media to stay in the know. Staying on top of the latest hacking trends will also help you keep your business ahead.
Cyberattacks and data breaches have been on the rise all over the world, and unforeseen events only exacerbate the risk.
SMBs, including start-ups, are more vulnerable. Unlike their larger counterparts, start-ups don’t have the resources to develop robust cybersecurity infrastructure.
Many don’t even have a functioning security system. As a result, start-ups are comparatively easy to attack. That’s why you really need to take swift cybersecurity measures to protect their ventures.