For any size organization, cybersecurity should be a concern in the Digital Age. With each year, cyber incidents have become more common and happen at a larger scale. And when they do occur, they can become a nightmare for an unprepared business.
Small employers are no exception and must take steps to develop strategies to enhance their data security, not only to protect their own employees, but also data from their customers/clients.
Protecting data is critically important for businesses and failing to do so could have serious consequences for the organization. A small employer’s brand could be damaged in the instance that it does not handle data securely, which can be devasting for the future of the business.
By following these seven steps, small business leaders can put in place a supported and executable cybersecurity strategy.
STEP 1: GET LEADERSHIP SUPPORT
To get started with a cybersecurity plan, it is essential to get company leaders and team managers onboard with how serious data security is and why a strategy must be put in place.
Often, cybersecurity IT infrastructure safeguards are going to require additional resources that could be costly but are well worth the investment in the long-run.
It’s also important to ensure that company leaders take cybersecurity seriously and receive extensive training on what to look for, how to be prepared, what to do if a breach occurs, and how to manage their teams on data security.
Besides creating a sound cybersecurity plan, there are a few other benefits a business can gain from having leaders and managers involved:
First, this often leads to better strategic solutions as you get input and ideas from different perspectives. Second, collaboration can result in increased awareness of cybersecurity throughout the organization, decreasing the likelihood of an incident occurring. Third, it could be a tool to better manage costs while implementing and maintaining the plan.
There could even be another outcome that has an impact on the business outside of cybersecurity – improved business efficiency.
As with any company-wide initiative, failing to get leadership buy-in could put even the best cybersecurity plan at risk.
STEP 2: PUT THE RIGHT TEAM IN PLACE
Most small employers do not have an in-house Chief Information Officer or team in place to manage cybersecurity or other compliance-related tasks.
For this reason, its critical for leaders from multiple departments and/or various subject matter experts to be involved in strategy planning – and not just an internal/external IT employee/resource.
If additional help is needed for data security, small business leaders can look to add members to their current team or can explore external solutions that specifically address data and cybersecurity (more on that shortly).
Once the company cybersecurity team is in place, undergoing extensive training should be mandatory for all members. Once the team is fully-prepared, training should be extended to every employee in the company.
STEP 3: SET THE SCOPE OF THE CYBERSECURITY ASSESSMENT
The first project this new team will work on is a cybersecurity/data security risk assessment.
The purpose of the assessment is to identify data that is used and created, know how this data is distributed and maintained, understand the data security hazards that could affect the organization and/or customers, and account for legal/contractual obligations with respect to this information.
Most risk assessments are going to identify two distinct types of cybersecurity threats: Internal and External. While many business leaders believe that external cyber threats are their biggest concern, it is often an internal actor that can have the most risk.
Some examples of internal threats include:
- Human error
- Malicious employees
- Untrained employees
Crafting a cybersecurity policy that understands internal threats and has strategies in place to minimize the risk in this area is essential for employers of all sizes.
Small business leaders also need to identify various external risks that can cause a data breach and how to prevent them from occurring. Some of the most common external threats are:
- IT systems and network threats
- Web application
- Social engineering
- Third-party partners
Another area the assessment should address is physical security. This includes putting safeguards in place that limit who can enter a business’ facility, having video surveillance systems installed, limiting authorization to any areas that contain data or servers, and maintaining access control records for a set amount of time.
STEP 4: WHO CONDUCTS THE ASSESSMENT?
Once the cybersecurity team has developed the risk assessment, leadership must decide who will conduct it – cybersecurity team members or an external organization.
There are numerous data security companies who specialize in cybersecurity prevention that can help small employers conduct the assessment. A benefit to this approach is that not only do they have a vast amount of experience in looking for potential areas of data security vulnerability, but they can offer a different perspective that might be helpful in highlighting areas in need of work.
Partnering with an external cybersecurity company could be especially valuable for a small business that is just starting with their initiatives, but even those with established strategies can benefit.
Continuous monitoring and improvement is of the upmost importance for a modern cybersecurity plan, and these companies can routinely try new ways to identify areas of potential risk.
STEP 5: INVOLVE LEGAL COUNSEL TO OBTAIN ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGE
Throughout the entire process of starting a cybersecurity prevention strategy, business leaders should involve legal counsel wherever possible. Not only will they be able to ensure all related documents meet legal standards, but small employers will also receive the protection of attorney-client privileges.
This will ensure that any details shared between the business and its attorneys remains confidential and helps legal counsel provide the most accurate advice and representation.
Additionally, legal counsel can be extremely important in the event of a data breach as they can assist with incident response and help a small employer as it navigates this delicate process.
It’s important to note that involving legal counsel is best done in the preventative stage of cybersecurity – before an incident ever occurs. It is also recommended that legal counsel be incorporated at a minimum to an Incident Response Team (IRT).
STEP 6: MAKE THE PLAN CONSISTENT WITH SCOPE AND TIMEFRAMES
As the leadership and cybersecurity teams begin their efforts, they must make sure that the overall strategy and plan remain consistent with the scope of the job and desired timeframes for completion.
Creating a new cybersecurity plan from start to finish is a time-consuming task, but one that needs to be kept on schedule and completed within a specified period of time. That’s why leaders need to ensure that the process continuously meets its deadlines and addresses all relevant areas of cybersecurity for the business.
It can be easy for a team to miss timeframes or lose scope of the project, which only puts the company and its customers at risk. By creating and sticking to a plan, business leaders can be better prepared to keep their cybersecurity plan moving forward and on schedule for completion.
STEP 7: DOCUMENT ALL STEPS AND PROCEDURES
The last step for small employers to get started with cybersecurity is to document each step and all procedures that make up the overall plan.
Doing so helps company leaders, cybersecurity team members, and other employees have information to reference should a question or concern arise. This will lead to less confusion in a situation where time is of the essence.
Additionally, having accurate documentation will help when looking to bring in external individuals (legal counsel, data security organizations, etc.) to assist with planning and assessments.
Another reason to document steps and procedures is so you can look at current strategies and identify ways to improve. As mentioned earlier, the best cybersecurity strategy is one that is continuously monitored for ways to make enhancements and further decrease potential risks.
By having clear records that can be easily reviewed, small businesses can be better organized and prepared if a document is needed – especially in an emergency situation.
It is also advised to have a list of external parties that would have to be notified in case of an incident and how to contact them. These can include: insurance carriers, regulators, law enforcement, legal counsel, forensic investigators, crisis communications/PR firms, and/or response vendors.
CYBERSECURITY IS CRITICAL TO THE SUCCESS OF BUSINESSES TODAY
Even small businesses possess and manage data that must be secure at all times. A data breach not only jeopardizes the company, but also the wellbeing of its employees and clients. This can also negatively impact a company’s brand image, no matter how positive they were before an incident.
For these reasons, small business leaders must take all necessary steps to build a sound cybersecurity strategy that is routinely checked and continuously improved as new needs arise.
Small employers shouldn’t hesitate to reach out for assistance should they need help with creating and implementing a cybersecurity strategy.
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