Cybersecurity has become such an important topic that it was a key platform issue in the recent U.S. election. During his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump characterized the scope of the nation’s security problem as enormous. While it is likely to be several months before we know specifics about the Trump administration’s position on cybersecurity, President-elect Trump has called for a thorough national security review with the goal of making all government systems as secure as technology will allow.
Mr. Trump is not the only presidential figure to view cybersecurity as an important federal priority. In February of 2016, President Obama launched a Cybersecurity National Action Plan. Several initiatives were laid out in the plan, such as investments in national security infrastructure, expansion of the national cybersecurity workforce, and increased levels of general IT security across the country.
Small Businesses More Vulnerable Than Governments and Enterprises
While large-scale or high-profile hacks are the incidents that grab the headlines, small businesses should not underestimate their own cybersecurity risk. Due to the lack of resources available to them, small businesses are more vulnerable to cyberattacks than large organizations like enterprises and governments.
In a recent article, Tech Republic noted that a single hack can cost a small business anywhere from $82,200 to $265,000. A financial loss of this magnitude hurts small businesses or could even cause unrecoverable damage. A large enterprise, organization, or government will have more resources to protect themselves with advanced planning and preparation. If a data breach does occur, they tend to recover financially if their plans worked without a hitch.
In the same article, Tech Republic dubbed 2016 the year that hacking went mainstream. From massive DDoS attacks using IoT botnets, to allegations of hacking in the presidential campaign, hacking was on the rise in 2016. It was not just the big guys who faced cyberattacks last year -- one out of five small businesses experienced some form of data loss in 2016.
If 2016 is any sort of indicator, then 2017 may see a torrent of even bigger, newer, and more sophisticated attacks. The best thing that any organization can do to defend against cyberattacks is to anticipate and prepare with a cybersecurity action plan.
Start With a Security Review
In an October campaign speech, the president-elect stated that he would order a thorough review of the nation’s weaknesses and defenses. A security review is a great place to start when creating your company’s cybersecurity action plan.
A security assessment will give you a clear view of your current weaknesses, potential points of entry for hackers, and the strength of your current security measures.
Here are 5 steps to get you started on your security review. These steps are based on the National Institute of Standards Preliminary Cybersecurity Framework.
1. Identify Assets
You need to know exactly what you have that is worth protecting. This identification step should include transmitted and stored data, networks, all endpoint devices, machines, users, and systems. Once all assets have been identified, you should perform vulnerability and risk testing to find every weak area in your security for the assets you have identified.
Once you understand what you need to protect, you can take immediate steps to secure those items. This step can involve a variety of measures, including implementing authentication and applying patches and updates to all equipment and software. Some assets may require upgraded technology to achieve the necessary security standard.
After you have put security measures in place, the next step is to implement the technology to monitor your environment for threats, such as firewall intrusion, distributed denial of service (DDoS), and ransomware attacks.
There is a saying in the cybersecurity community: “It is not a matter of whether your business will experience a cyberattack. It is a matter of when.” No matter how good your cybersecurity plan is, you may still experience a threat or a breach. Therefore, it is crucial for your organization or a designated third party to decide how to respond to each type of threat. For example, your security tools may handle a threat automatically in one instance, but require a technician’s response in a different type of situation.
If your company does experience a breach, you will want to have a recovery plan in place. The plan should spell out what actions should be taken, what tools should be used, and which person or partner will be responsible for recovering data, systems, and applications.
Upgrade Technology for Maximum Security
In the same campaign speech, the president-elect suggested that he would upgrade the Federal Government’s technology for maximum security. Upgrading technology is an essential part of a good cybersecurity plan. As technology changes, new kinds of security measures and technologies will continue to be a necessary part of your defense strategy.
Take, for example, the security risks of the relatively new Internet of Things, which we detailed in one of our recent articles [hyperlink to IoT security article, when published]. This is a new kind of cybersecurity risk that did not exist a few years ago. Organizations using IoT need to find a means to address this emerging threat.
Cloud Services: An Affordable, Secure Technology Upgrade
A lack of resources is one of the main reasons that small and medium-sized businesses are not able to defend themselves from cyberattacks. This is where cloud services enter the picture. Cloud providers can offer SMBs the cybersecurity they need at a cost they can afford. They provide only the services the SMB needs through a subscription model, which can be entered as an operating expense. If the business expands, it is easy to scale cloud services to accommodate the growing demand.
If these same businesses purchased all the hardware and software they needed for security, they may have to buy more capacity as a capital expense (CapEx). In addition, they may need to hire more staff to manage their new technology and provide security.
A cloud provider already has the technical staff and technology, which the SMB can share through cloud services. For example, Oxford Networks can provide round-the-clock security monitoring and cloud-based backup and recovery.
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