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Finding the right cybersecurity approach for your small business

Almost every small business owner and manager would agree that cybersecurity is necessary to protect their company in today’s environment. The number and type of cyberattacks continue to increase, leaving many exposed to ever-evolving, complicated threats. Unfortunately, small businesses have become a favorite target of cyber criminals because of their limited resources available to implement needed safeguards.

Much of the cybersecurity industry has been encouraging small businesses to address the issue by purchasing tools and technologies designed to address specific threats. However, business leaders are often disappointed by the results. The reality is that tools and technologies are insufficient on their own. Cybersecurity is only effective when there is a combination of the right strategy (following industry-recognized frameworks), effective processes, and proper technical configurations. In other words, small businesses cannot just focus on one aspect of the cybersecurity success formula while neglecting the others. Simply implementing multi-factor authentication and anti-virus are insufficient to keep up with the threats.

Small business cybersecurity challenge

There are numerous challenges small businesses face when tackling cybersecurity issues, including:

  • Lack of support — Professional-level support is often reserved for larger organizations with more robust budgets. Implementing an enterprise-level cybersecurity program is expensive. It’s an effort that requires a well-balanced, connected, and skilled team within and outside the company. Even if budget isn’t an issue, the time and staff needed to support efforts may likely be unavailable when needed.
  • Technology is enough — As mentioned above, the belief that technology tools alone can solve the problem creates a false sense of security. However, without a seasoned professional to evaluate the situation and understand your goals and risks, the technology can only be so effective. The myth that technology can solely address cybersecurity gaps needs to be dispelled.
  • Compliance requirements — Businesses may have specific compliance requirements (customer, government, and regulatory) that need to be met to maintain customers or bid on new projects. These can include SOC 2 audits, PCI-DSS, HIPAA, CMMC, ISO 27001, and more. Maintaining compliance is a challenge that will be more difficult to overcome as complexities increase.

Formalizing your cybersecurity

Deciding to formalize your cybersecurity program is an important first step. However, there are various methods for doing this, each with its benefits and drawbacks.

  • Do it yourself (DIY) — This method is less than ideal. But for many startups and emerging companies with minimal budgets, it is one that comes to mind first. It can be incredibly challenging without in-house security professionals with the detailed knowledge necessary to make a meaningful impact on data protection. Unfortunately, this method can lead to countless hours trying to manage trust compliance.
  • Hire internal cybersecurity staff — Relying on in-house information security professionals is usually the next step for slightly larger companies. This solution can provide an additional level of on-demand support. Unfortunately, finding and retaining this professional can be difficult, and the costs can be extremely high, which makes it an unlikely approach for most small businesses. Concurrently, the business will still need outside consultants to perform more specialized tasks, such as risk assessments, penetration testing or other activities requiring third-party attestation.
  • Managed service providers (MSP) — Retaining an MSP is another method companies often pursue. Unfortunately, this model tends to be centered on selling hardware and software solutions and augmenting with requisite monitoring. With tools and technologies being the primary focus, this approach can lead to an incomplete solution that only appears to be effective. Additionally, relying on a single provider for IT operations and cybersecurity eliminates the opportunity to have a checks and balances system.
  • Virtual chief information security officer (vCISO) — This method can help tremendously with cybersecurity strategy and direction, compliance, governance, and big-picture items. However, many of these professionals function in a leadership capacity. Most are less technically oriented and only focus on high-level strategy and compliance steps. Typically, they do not execute daily tasks necessary to be successful, so additional resources will be required to implement the controls for an effective cybersecurity program.

Navigating the path to cybersecurity

The most effective security for small businesses uses all four methods while leveraging the best of each without being fully reliant on any single vendor. Taking on more work internally may save on costs, but team members will require professional guidance to accelerate the process. Ultimately, expert support combined with a few managed services, proper configuration of technologies you already have, and ongoing cybersecurity awareness will offer the best results.

The goal is peace of mind with no cyberattacks, no data loss, and no downtime so you can focus on growth and success. The first step to protecting your business is committing to a formal cyber risk management program that functions seamlessly as part of your company’s operations.

This article was originally published in the Phoenix Business Journal.

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