Protect your business against hackers with our top tips on cybersecurity for SMEs
In the modern world, cyber threats are a growing danger – and SMEs need to be prepared for them. A report from the Federation of Small Businesses last year found that SMEs are attacked online seven million times a year, costing the UK economy an estimated £5.26 billion.
SMEs need to be just as wary of cyber threats as large businesses. In fact, hackers often see SMEs as a route to attack the bigger companies that they work with. According to the same report, two thirds of SMEs have been a victim of cyber crime in the last two years. Phishing – where attackers pose as an organisation you recognise to gain valuable information or get you to download harmful software – was the most common type of attack, experienced by about half (49%) of firms surveyed.
Threats like this aren’t going to go away. But there are steps you can take to make your business safer. Here are five suggestions:
1. Monitor your systems
Cyber threats are ever-present, and at times they will breach even the strongest defences. It’s important to monitor your systems so you know what’s happening. If you track data and trends on your network, it means you can identify anything suspicious, and are able to respond to any issues as soon as they happen, limiting the damage they cause. If you have enough expertise in-house you can monitor your systems yourself, but many find it effective to enlist the support of an external company.
2. Set up a strong firewall
A firewall, which controls data going into and out of your business network, is a key element of any effective SME cybersecurity approach. A firewall can stop malicious software entering your system and prevent unauthorised access to data and programmes. You can set up a firewall by installing software on each computer in your network, by installing hardware, or both. But whichever kind of firewall you use, there are advantages to using an external company to manage it. They can use their know-how to set it up in the most effective way, and keep it up to date to protect your business from the latest threats.
3. Test your defences
There’s no better way to test your SME’s cybersecurity than to try and attack your own systems. Ethical hackers use the same techniques as real hackers to try to break down your cybersecurity defences, exposing any vulnerabilities and design flaws that you may need to address. A company that offers this service will typically provide a report outlining their findings.
4. Educate your staff
Getting the right systems, software and equipment in place is crucial, but it still isn’t enough for effective SME cybersecurity. Many risks come down to day-to-day behaviour, so it’s essential to bring your team up to speed with regards to security issues. You should make sure your staff are able to identify suspicious emails, know how to set strong passwords, and follow good practices like backing up their work and downloading the latest system or security updates.
5. Carry out a security audit
One of the best ways to protect yourself against cyber threats is to ask an expert firm to carry out a security audit. This will take a comprehensive look at your organisation’s policies, procedures, staffing and resources to determine how well you are protected against threats. An audit will consider the security of your hardware, software, and networks, as well as your policies on issues like access to data and the remote use of devices. The auditors will then make recommendations on what actions you can take to increase the cybersecurity of your business.
- A firewall, which controls data going into and out of your business network, is a key element of any effective SME cybersecurity approach.
- Getting the right systems, software and equipment in place is crucial, but it still isn’t enough. Many risks come down to daily behaviours, so educate your team on the latest security advice.
- One of the best ways to protect yourself against cyber threats is to ask an expert firm or ‘ethical hacker’ to carry out a security audit.