Opinions expressed by entrepreneur Contributors are their own.
If you ask five random strangers from different walks of life what the biggest threats to the future of small businesses are, you’ll likely get similar answers. Possible reactions likely include rising inflation and a possible recession, job market volatility, the pace of technological advances, supply chain issues, and more.
The real question is, which insidious threat is all too often sidelined and passed on to the next operating budget? When revenue is on track, inventory is profitable, growth is stable, and scaling is taking shape, what problem remains to be addressed?
Related: Cybersecurity is no longer an option. Your money is in imminent danger.
Ignoring the warnings is the easy – and short-sighted – way for SMBs
Ignoring the seriousness of cyber threats is a dangerous game. The risk is undeniable:
- 61% of small businesses suffered a cyber attack in 2021
- Small businesses are responsible 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 prefer to ignore is a crucial starting point. A true understanding of the situation will lead to knowing what protective measures to take. Creating and implementing cybersecurity measures must be a high priority for organizations of all sizes, especially SMBs, where the margin for error is razor-sharp.
The pressure to allocate resources effectively is undermining cybersecurity efforts
There are few endeavors as nerve-wracking, daunting, and potentially disastrous — yet 100% rewarding — as starting and running a small business. I’ve witnessed the passion that drives those who work to make it happen. I have felt the fuel burning in team members who are fully committed to taking an idea and developing it into a viable, self-sustaining entity.
It’s no secret that the odds are against us. The numbers don’t lie. It is widely reported that an average of 8 out of 10 small businesses fail within the first year. Within five years, the odds will get even worse, with almost half of all new small businesses going out of business.
Given the evident confidence and enthusiasm that founders exude, why do the majority of small businesses trivialize or ignore cybersecurity? Why is the immense potential for all-too-true disaster lurking around every corner? It’s a matter of resources and lack of an informed perspective.
See also: 5 ways to protect your business from cyber attacks
SME leadership needs to increase cybersecurity
Tackling cybersecurity as a small business is a necessary endeavor that grows more complex and demanding over time. Basic steps must be taken, bolstered by increased security measures. With undeniable threats lurking, the stronger an organization’s defenses, the better.
Here are some key actions to take right from the start:
- Internet and firewall security software. It is important that both antivirus and firewall software are running as they address different issues. Firewalls prevent outside access to data on a private network; The integration of trusted security software, operating systems and web browsers is an essential protection for the network-connected use of this data.
- Data backup. When a cyberattack occurs that hijacks or corrupts corporate data, a high-quality, reliable backup is a lifesaver. Backups must be updated regularly to ensure timely use.
- Secure WiFi. A simple, no-fuss measure, a secure Wi-Fi setup is a powerful piece of the protective puzzle. It may be necessary to go beyond the basic security offered by your provider.
- Controlled access and authority. The most effective way to avoid potential crises is to implement controlled access to data and limit user powers. This measure helps prevent employees from accidentally installing or running compromised programs, weakening cybersecurity settings, or accessing data and information that is outside their area of responsibility.
Awareness, education, and formal policies are critical to defending cybersecurity
One of the most important steps a company can take is to educate employees about cybersecurity. Without a thorough awareness and understanding of the myriad attack vectors cybercriminals employ, employees are weak links that will inevitably be compromised. Basic guidance on threat severity and critical risks to avoid go a long way in enhancing the strength of an active cybersecurity defense.
Arming your organization with established cybersecurity policies and action plans reinforces the basic steps outlined above; These steps embed a defensive mindset and preparedness that are essential to fending off adaptive cybercriminal attacks. The specific plans created will vary depending on a company’s size and structure, but may include:
- Internal incident response plan
- Action plan for mobile devices
- Crisis Response/Customer Engagement Plan
Also see: 5 Leadership Strategies to Improve Team Performance and Grow Your Small Business
Ensuring survival and success as an SME in a challenging economic environment
Every small business is unique. Every owner, every leadership team and every employee – everyone has their own story. It’s hard to say if they’re all told.
Navigating the endless parade of urgent concerns, looming threats, and demands on dwindling time resources can seem overwhelming, with the energy and effort required. Putting cybersecurity measures on the to-do list to tackle another day might make sense right now, but the reality paints a very different picture.
If you run a small business, there is ample time and resources available to invest in a specific problem. Finding the right level for their business will be a task that they must do right.