In honor of cybersecurity month, here a few very basic tips to keep in mind.

There are three groups of people that will facilitate cybersecurity in your business and ultimately block a threat: Leadership, employees, and outside consultants.

Leadership's Role in Cybersecurity

The best  way for your leadership team to prepare for cyber-threats is simply this: take them seriously. Cybersecurity will be a top down initiative, meaning your employees will take it as seriously as you take it. Hackers are lazy and the next wave of attacks may be closer to home. Think municipalities, school districts, small governments - anywhere where data is rich. 

The reason hackers are going for data rich institutions and organizations is because data integrity may be the next big threat. Hackers will hack in, change data, make it unrecognizable, and then ask for ransom. The question becomes, can your organization really afford this massive cost?

What resources should be allocated?

The secret to this is that most of the tools are already in place - they just need coordination. At some point, businesses need to stop being reactive - i.e. scrambling when a threat occurs - because it may take dollars and effort, but small organizations can't afford not to make the investment. 

First, limit access to sensitive data. This gives you an easy way to monitor data integrity - should something change, you have a smaller group of people you'll go to for clarification. Do not provide any one employee with access to all data systems. Employees should only be given access to the specific data systems that they need for their jobs, and should not be able to install any software without permission.

Second, keep your insurance vendor and IT departments close by and in constant communication. They will be your first call should something occur (in addition to law enforcement.) 

That brings us to the most influential group of people at your business who will protect your information better than anyone else can: your employees.

Your Employees Role in Cybersecurity

Back up, back up, back up. And don't name your back ups back up. 

How can you equip your employees?
  • Conduct ongoing internal training in security principles

Establish basic security practices and policies for employees. Some examples include encouraging strong passwords, appropriate internet use guidelines, and protocol for handling and protecting customer information.

Require employees to use unique passwords and change passwords every three months. Consider implementing multi-factor authentication that requires additional information beyond a password to gain entry.

And don't just relate the security information to their jobs. Educate your employees on how to secure their own data, whether it be their saved passwords or credit cards, their homes or their sensitive data. If employees are educated about how to protect their own data, they may subconsciously secure their work, too.

  • Keeping employees aware of steps you've taken yourself 
If you are working with IT to put security measures in place, keep all your employees in the loop. It will empower them to see cybersecurity as a cross-departmental effort, rather than just "IT's job."

Should You Bring in Outside Consultants?

If you decide to invest in a consultant, look for education and recent certifications. The threat landscape is always changing and there is no way to totally evaluate the compliance of a outside adviser. Do your research and seek out referrals from peers. 

Conclusion

Your best defenses against cyberattacks are backing up your data diligently, and training end users in security protocol. No business is immune, and it's important to take threats seriously, remain proactive in preparing for them and stay informed about best practices.