The online world has become a much more dangerous place over the past decade. We see new stories about cyber attacks and cyber breaches in the news every week. There was a time where it seemed like cyber attacks were primarily targeted at governments with classified data or large businesses with plenty of resources to steal.
Unfortunately for small business owners, that is no longer the case. Over time, cyber threats have begun to directly affect even the smallest of businesses. To make things worse, the impact of a successful cyber attack on a small business can be devastating. According to the Better Business Bureau’s report on cybersecurity in small businesses, the average cost of a cyber attack on a small business is $80,000. That is a small amount of money for a large corporation like Target or Yahoo!, but it is huge for a small business.
Studies have shown that more than 60% of small businesses that are victims of a cyber attack go out of business within six months. That is a shocking number; it brings home the impact of security risks to business leaders as well as to employees. None of us wants to see our companies go out of business.
What can you do to protect your business from cyber attack?
There are a variety of steps you can take to help improve your security, including training and skill development for your people, changes to key processes that can reduce risk, and implementing technology that will help prevent certain types of attack. But where should you start?
The first step is to take cyber seriously. Make sure that your business leaders and your board of directors understand your risks and are taking practical steps to address them. Awareness also extends to employees, in part because many attacks are targeted against members of your staff. Make sure everyone on your team understands their role in protecting the company and their jobs.
Another important step is to plan for how you will recover from a cyber attack. Many of the small businesses that fail after a cyber attack do so because of secondary costs. Although the direct costs of an attack can be painful, your biggest risk is most likely that it will take too long and cost too much money to recover your systems and data so you can return to business at all. The longer it takes you to resume supporting your members, delivering your services, or selling your products, the greater the likelihood that your company will fail.
How difficult is this?
Spoiler alert! They don’t have to be difficult or costly. Find a partner that can help you. Ask them to work with your board and other leaders to ensure a common understanding of your cyber risks. Provide training and attack simulations to your team. Develop and test a plan for recovering if some of your key data is lost or stolen.
All of this can be done in a matter of weeks, not months or years. When you are finished with these steps, you will have taken an important step forward and can prioritize any additional steps you need to take to further reduce your security risks.