Cybersecurity, Safety Testing and Compliance
In the modern world, it’s nearly impossible to run a business without using the internet — companies rely on the web to order supplies, communicate with their team, interact with customers, run online stores and perform other crucial activities. As your operations shift to online platforms, sensitive company and client information become vulnerable to hackers and other cybersecurity threats. Therefore, protecting your online systems should be a top priority. Implementing cyber safety testing and compliance is key to keeping your data secure. This guide will explore the best practices to keep your business safe from cybersecurity threats.
Why Is Cybersecurity Important for Developing Businesses?
As businesses increase their reliance on the internet, cyberattacks are becoming more frequent and sophisticated. Currently, 2021 is on track for having the highest number of data breaches on record. Although it’s clear that cyber threats are increasing, only 28% of small businesses report planning for cyberattacks. No matter the size of your company, cybersecurity is essential. While it may seem like hackers only target large firms, the lack of planning and resources makes small businesses even more vulnerable. In 2020, 28% of all breaches involved small businesses. It’s essential to invest in cybersecurity to protect your developing business from cyber threats.
What Is Business Continuity Planning?
The smartest business leaders are always making plans to ensure their success. Using business continuity planning (BCP) helps defend your assets against potential cyber attacks and other threats. The process involves developing a prevention and recovery system to protect your data if disaster strikes. The first step of BCP is identifying potential risks and how they could harm your organization. Then, you implement software and procedures to reduce the risks. Going through safety testing is also crucial to ensure your plans work, as it identifies weaknesses before it’s too late. Because threats can damage your reputation and profitability, BCP is essential to protect your business from costly disruptions — just make sure you constantly update your BCP as new risks develop.
What Are Cyber Threats?
A cyber threat is anyone or anything that could potentially access, steal, damage or disrupt sensitive information and data that belongs to your company. These threats exist inside and outside of the organization and understanding them will help you strengthen your cybersecurity. Here are the most common types of cyberattacks:
Malware is the general term for malicious software designed to access, steal or disrupt data from a secure system. It typically appears as a link or email attachment that activates when a user clicks on it. Once it’s installed, malware can disrupt your operating system and steal sensitive information from your database.
Ransomware is a form of malware that cybercriminals use to steal money from their victims. They trick you into downloading software that infects your computer and blocks valuable files until you pay the ransom. If you refuse to pay, you risk permanently losing your data or having your sensitive information sold online.
Viruses are another form of malware that spreads through your computer network and gives cybercriminals access to your data.
Phishing is one method hackers use to trick employees into downloading malware or providing sensitive information. They send realistic emails from a source that seems legitimate, asking for passwords, banking information and other details.
5. Distributed Denial of Service Attacks
A botnet is a collection of malware-infected computers that hackers use to carry out designated denial of service (DDoS) and other cyber attacks. During a DDoS attack, the botnet bombards a targeted website or network with fake traffic to bury legitimate requests or take the platform offline. The victim can’t restore their server or website until they can reroute the traffic elsewhere.
6. Zero-Day Exploits
A zero-day exploit occurs when attackers discover a vulnerable spot in your security software before you can fix it. They may access your system before you even notice the flaw — giving you “zero” time to protect yourself. These attacks are one reason why safety testing is crucial.
How to Protect Your Data
Taking the proper steps to protect your organization is crucial to your success. Consider the following cybersecurity measures:
1. Provide Employee Training
Employees are one of the most common targets of cyberattacks. Hackers disguise themselves as legitimate sources to lure staff members into revealing sensitive information or installing malware. The number one cause of data breaches is people opening and clicking links or attachments in a phishing email. It’s crucial to protect your business from the inside by providing employee training to prevent these mistakes. Create programs that teach your staff to protect vital data and customer information. Establish guidelines for using the internet and creating strong passwords. Be sure to hold them accountable for violating cybersecurity guidelines to prevent future errors, as well.
2. Require Strong Passwords
Strengthen your cybersecurity by requiring your employees to choose unique passwords. Secure passwords should be lengthy and complicated, using a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and special symbols. For especially sensitive accounts, consider updating passwords every three months or implementing multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication requires users to provide their password along with other information, like a fingerprint or temporary code, to access the account.
3. Apply Software Patches and Updates
Installing software and operating system security updates as soon as they become available helps to protect you from vulnerabilities that an attacker might use to compromise your systems. Often, these vulnerabilities can allow an attacker to take complete control of your systems.
4. Back up Your Data to an Off-Site Location
It’s crucial to back up your data to an offsite location or cloud storage system. Set up automatic backups or update them manually at least once weekly. This way, if your network is disrupted by a hacker or destroyed by a natural disaster, you can recover valuable information.
5. Consider Firewall Security
A firewall can be hardware or software that protects your network from suspicious traffic. It creates a barrier that monitors incoming and outgoing data based on your security standards. It also provides another layer of protection against malware, viruses and unauthorized users.
6. Get Data Encryption Software
Data encryption software scrambles your information so only users with the encryption key can read it. It can encrypt data in transit and stored information. If a cybercriminal intercepts your data, they won’t be able to read it.
7. Limit Access to Your Data
Control the number of people who can access your data. Employees should only have access to sensitive information if and when they need it for their job. You should also limit the number of employees who can download software.
8. Employ Secure Networks
Many businesses use Wi-Fi to access the internet. It allows staff to access the network on laptops, tablets and other mobile devices. However, Wi-Fi networks are prone to hacking. To protect your wireless platform, ensure that it’s hidden, encrypted and secure. Use a strong password to limit access to the router.
9. Use Only Trusted Payment Processing Tools
Financial transactions include some of the most sensitive information. You should only use trusted tools and anti-fraud services to process payments. Your payment platform should also be separate from less secure programs. If you lack the resources to comply with payment processing standards, consider outsourcing this responsibility to a reputable vendor like Stripe or Paypal.
10. Invest in Antivirus Software
Invest in antivirus software to protect your online operations. It will defend against malware, viruses and other cyber threats. Set your software to update automatically, so you always have the latest patches and improvements. Run a scan after each update to verify your systems are secure.
11. Create a Mobile Device Security Plan
With businesses relying on more remote workers than ever, protecting mobile devices that hold confidential information has become a priority. Create a mobile device security plan requiring staff to install antivirus protection, encrypt their data and password-protect their laptop, tablet or computer.
What Is Cyber Safety Testing?
Cyber safety testing attempts to breach your security to ensure that it works. It confirms that your organization can withstand cyber attacks and identifies areas that need improvement. While cyber testing is an investment, it can save your business money in the long run. It’s much more affordable than the damages caused by a security breach. Investing in routine testing protects your assets and shows stakeholders that you value the safety of their information.
Safety Testing for Small Businesses
If you’re just getting started, the idea of cybersecurity and safety testing can be overwhelming. We’ve answered the most common questions to help you understand more about how safety testing works:
1. How Often Should I Test My Security?
Most small businesses should test their cybersecurity at least once annually. However, some companies benefit from more frequent checks. You should test your security more often if your business:
- Follows compliance requirements: Check to ensure your business meets compliance standards at least four times per year.
- Switches software often: Test after each change to ensure the new program works.
- Is prone to attacks: Check that you’re still protected at least once per month.
- Outsources cybersecurity: Request the reports to ensure your provider runs frequent tests and resolves any issues.
2. How Do I Test My Cybersecurity?
There are two popular methods to test your cybersecurity — a penetration test and a security assessment. A penetration test is performed by an outside organization and often costs several thousand dollars. A security assessment is typically more cost-effective and appropriate for small businesses. Performing a security assessment involves scanning your organization’s internal and external vulnerabilities. It tests every aspect of your cybersecurity, looking for weak passwords, vulnerable firewall ports or software bugs. The entire process is automated, saving time and money. After the first scan, your cybersecurity team should fix any identified issues. Performing a second scan verifies they made the necessary corrections to secure your business from the outside. Providing training for your employees will help strengthen your internal security. You can also teach them how to recognize scams and security threats like phishing attacks. Phish-testing helps measure the success of their training. You send a fake but realistic phishing email to all your employees and see how they respond. If they’re successful, you can confirm that your training was effective. Otherwise, you should provide more exercises to improve your internal security.
What Is Cybersecurity Compliance?
As the risk and severity of cyberattacks increases, industry and government organizations have developed cybersafety standards to help businesses succeed. These regulations are not intended to restrict companies — they protect them and their clients from data breaches. Cybersecurity compliance standards vary by industry. For example, health care providers must comply with the Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Most data protection laws focus on shielding personal, financial and health-related information, like a client’s:
- Social security number
- Credit or debit card number
- Bank account number
- Credit rating
- Medical history
- Prescription records
- Appointment times
- Insurance information
The Benefits of Cybersecurity Compliance
In some industries, businesses are subjected to excessive cybersecurity rules and regulations. However, maintaining strict compliance reduces the risk of data breaches significantly. The average data breach costs around $8.64 million, which doesn’t count the damage to your reputation, business interruptions or loss of customers. In addition, cybersecurity compliance also builds trust and brand loyalty with your customers. Beyond protecting sensitive data, you can use cybersecurity compliance measures to protect product specifications, trade secrets and other details that give your business a competitive edge. It also helps streamline your operations, so you become more efficient. While it may seem complicated at first, meeting regulatory compliance plays a pivotal role in your success and is worth the investment.
Establishing a Compliance Program
Creating a compliance program will ensure your business meets industry standards and implement the necessary policies and controls. Different compliance frameworks provide varying levels of instruction for designing your compliance program. Some only suggest best practices, recommendations and guidelines, letting you decide how to implement those systems for your organization. Other frameworks are more specific, explaining how to adhere to a particular law or regulation. Here are a few popular frameworks:
- NIST cybersecurity framework: The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology created this framework to help companies understand, manage and reduce cybersecurity threats to protect their data. Businesses use this framework to help them implement general cybersecurity measures.
- PCI DSS framework: The Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council developed a series of security standards for organizations that accept certain payment cards — Visa, American Express, Discover, Mastercard, JCB International and UnionPay. It outlines 12 specific requirements to achieve compliance, helping businesses improve their payment processing systems.
- ISO/IEC 27001 framework: The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) collaborated on this information security framework for businesses that use an information security management system (ISMS). It explains the requirements to implement, maintain, monitor and improve these systems to meet compliance standards.
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