It is safe to say that we are well entrenched in the digital age. As the digital age continues to progress, cybersecurity has become increasingly important for businesses of all sizes. In particular, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are particularly vulnerable to cyber-attacks. It is easy for leaders of SMBs to discount the possibility of cyber-attacks as something that only happens to the big guys. Unfortunately, those leaders couldn’t be more wrong. SMBs are often viewed as easier targets because of their inherently smaller (if not nonexistent) cybersecurity budgets. As such, it is essential that SMBs take the necessary steps to protect their data, systems, and networks from potential threats. One of the most important steps that SMBs can take to improve their cyber security is to practice cyber hygiene. In this blog, we will discuss what cyber hygiene is, why it is essential for SMBs, and how to improve cyber hygiene for your business.
What is Cyber Hygiene?
In the realm of cyber security, cyber hygiene refers to the collective practices and protocols put in place to safeguard your systems, networks, and data from cyber threats. These practices include but are not limited to regular software updates, data backup, and strict password policies. It's important to note that while cyber hygiene is not the ultimate solution to all security issues, it remains a critical set of best practices that help minimize the risk of a data breach or cyber-attack. The Center for Internet Security (CIS) maintains a comprehensive list of controls that businesses can use to secure their IT infrastructure, called the CIS Critical Security Controls. These controls are structured into Implementation Groups (IG), with Implementation Group 1 (IG1) being the base level of controls that businesses should aim to implement as a foundation of their cyber hygiene practices.
Why Cyber Hygiene Is Essential for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses
As previously mentioned, cyber hygiene is essential for SMBs due to the increased risk of cyber-attacks. SMBs often lack the resources and personnel to properly secure their systems and networks from potential threats, making it more likely that their data and networks will be compromised. Therefore, it is essential for SMBs to take the necessary steps to secure their systems, networks, and data from potential cyber threats.
Furthermore, SMBs are often targeted by cyber criminals due to their lack of resources and personnel. Cyber criminals are aware that SMBs often lack the resources and personnel to properly secure their networks and data, making them an attractive target. Further exacerbating matters is the fact that cyber criminals are amazingly adept at research. Once they understand a security flaw that has been successfully exploited, they will attempt to utilize that same flaw elsewhere. Cyber criminals understand that the likelihood of an SMB researching potential threats is low and addressing those threats lower still. Basic cyber hygiene does not preclude these potential dangers, but it does reduce SMBs risk of becoming a target for cyber criminals.
The Benefits of Cyber Hygiene
There are many benefits to implementing cyber hygiene for SMBs. For example, by taking the necessary steps to secure their systems, networks, and data, SMBs can reduce their risk of becoming a target for cyber criminals looking for low lying fruit. Harder targets for cyber criminals aren't as enticing. Furthermore, by regularly backing up their data and implementing strong passwords and other security measures, SMBs can increase their ability to detect and respond to potential cyber threats.
Additionally, cyber hygiene can help to reduce the cost of remediation in the event of a data breach or cyber attack. By taking the necessary steps to secure their systems, networks, and data, SMBs can reduce the amount of time and money required to remediate any potential damage from a cyber attack.
Cyber Hygiene and Cyber Risk
It is important to note that cyber hygiene is not a solution to all security issues. While cyber hygiene is essential for SMBs, it is important to also consider other factors that can increase the risk of a data breach or cyber attack. These factors include the lack of personnel, inadequate security measures, and a lack of knowledge or understanding of cyber security.
Therefore, SMBs need to recognize the factors that can increase their risk and take the necessary steps to reduce those risks. This can be done by finding outside vendors that can provide virtual or fractional Chief Information Security Officers (vCISO) and cybersecurity-managed service providers at a fraction of what an in-house cybersecurity program may cost.
Creating a Cyber Hygiene Checklist
One of the best ways to ensure that your SMB is taking the necessary steps to improve its cyber hygiene is to create a checklist of tasks that should be completed regularly. This checklist should include tasks such as regularly backing up data, implementing strong passwords, and updating software. Additionally, the checklist should include tasks such as monitoring for suspicious activity, performing regular security scans, and responding to security alerts. CIS Critical Security Controls IG1 is a good primer for this type of checklist. It may be more inclusive than your SMB’s IT infrastructure, but it is better to pare down to your needs than to miss potential cybersecurity gaps.
Improving Cybersecurity with Cyber Hygiene
In addition to creating a cyber hygiene checklist, there are a number of other steps that SMBs can take to improve their cybersecurity. These steps include implementing two-factor authentication, encrypting data, and using firewalls and other security measures. Additionally, SMBs should consider using a virtual private network (VPN) to secure their networks and data from potential threats. This list is not meant to be exhaustive. Instead, it is here to provide direction and insight into possible cybersecurity solutions.
Cyber Hygiene Best Practices
When it comes to cyber hygiene, there are a number of best practices that SMBs should follow in order to reduce their risk of becoming a target for cyber criminals. These best practices include regularly backing up data, implementing strong passwords and two-factor authentication, and using firewalls and other security measures. Additionally, SMBs should regularly monitor their networks and systems for suspicious activity, perform regular security scans, and respond to security alerts. CIS Critical Security Controls IG1 does an excellent job of highlighting best practices for SMBs. Additionally, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has several publications related to cybersecurity that can provide direction.
Cyber Hygiene Training and Education
In addition to implementing cyber hygiene best practices, it is also important for SMBs to ensure that their personnel are properly trained and educated on cyber security. This includes providing training on how to identify potential threats, how to respond to security alerts, and how to properly implement security measures. Furthermore, SMBs should ensure that their personnel are regularly updating their knowledge and understanding of cyber security. A consistent flaw seen across businesses large and small is the single introduction to cybersecurity awareness training at initial onboarding and never refreshing that knowledge. Cybersecurity is clearly based on technology and technology is constantly evolving. We cannot expect personnel to meet future cybersecurity threats with knowledge based on static concepts. Cybersecurity awareness training benefits both the business and personnel when it is regularly updated and refreshed.
Cyber Hygiene Tools and Technologies
In addition to training and education, SMBs should also consider investing in cyber hygiene tools and technologies. These tools and technologies can help to improve the security of their networks and systems, as well as monitor for potential threats. Additionally, these tools and technologies can help to automate the process of backing up data, monitoring for suspicious activity, and responding to security alerts. Many vendors such as Microsoft and Google already provide a certain level of cyber hygiene and cybersecurity tools with their office productivity software. Unfortunately, SMBs may miss opportunities to take advantage of tools they already pay for because they are unaware of proper settings or implementation. This is where having a cybersecurity-managed service provider can prove useful for an SMB.
Cyber hygiene is essential for SMBs to reduce their risk of becoming a target for cyber criminals. By taking the necessary steps to secure their systems, networks, and data, SMBs can reduce their risk of a data breach or cyber attack. Additionally, SMBs should consider investing in cyber hygiene tools and technologies, as well as training and educating their personnel on cyber security. By taking these steps, SMBs can improve their cyber security and reduce their risk of becoming a target for cyber criminals.
If you are a small to medium-sized business looking to improve its cyber hygiene and improve its cybersecurity, contact Quantum Vigilance. We provide comprehensive cyber security solutions tailored to the needs of SMBs. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your business improve its cyber hygiene and improve its cybersecurity now.