With a widespread dependency on IT as an integral function within businesses, the importance of IT security for SMEs should not be underestimated.
SMEs remain vulnerable as both technology and cybercriminals become more sophisticated. Cyberattacks, data security breaches and data theft remain significant threats for small to medium enterprises (SMEs). IT security should be considered a critical investment to protect business data, intellectual property and IT systems from malicious cyberattacks.
What does IT security for SMEs entail?
IT security is the protection of both software and hardware from internal and external threats such as cyber-attacks, data breaches and malware infections. IT security encompasses the security of the physical hardware as well as network infrastructures, operating systems, stored data, sensitive information and integral IT processes.
Why is IT security for SMEs important?
IT security is critically important for business continuity as large volumes of business-sensitive information are stored within organisational IT networks. Compromised data or malicious attacks have the potential to shut down business operations. Internal and external business communications may also be affected if web-based applications or social media platforms are compromised. As a result of IT security breaches, SMEs could face significant financial loss, reputational damage and irrecoverable data loss.
Common sources of SME security vulnerabilities
Many SMEs are turning to web-based productivity tools and social apps to enhance efficiency. This dependence on apps and cloud infrastructure creates a reliance on external security procedures that could be breached and used to expose sensitive corporate data. An example of this is the recent Quora breach that compromised up to 100 million users’ account details.
According to recent reports (Verizon and Forrester), 80% of all breaches involve a weak, default or stolen password. We recommend all businesses to change passwords regularly and employ Dark Web monitoring services to be alerted when a compromised password appears for sale.
Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) is becoming increasingly common as SMEs allow or encourage their employees to work using their own devices. This reduces overheads for the company but creates a security risk as you are exposing your corporate data to unknown apps on each device. Mobile Device Management (MDM) can be used to safely separate your corporate data away from the staff’s personal data, keeping both safe and secure. MDM also allows corporate data to be easily removed from the device without affecting any of the personal data or apps.
How SMEs can stay one step ahead
It can be difficult for businesses to remain one step ahead, however, there are some basics controls that can be adopted to maximise efforts.
- You will need to ensure that a security breach in one part of your business will not affect another. Making sure your data is backed up in another secure location for future access is an excellent practice.
- Ensure your networks are protected from both external and internal breaches by installing high-security firewalls.
- Install anti-virus software on all systems that address the specific requirements of your company. Intermediate off the shelf software usually doesn’t meet the level of IT security required.
- Encrypt all your data, particularly if there is a high use of personal devices and employees that work from home. Two-factor authentication and asking staff to create strong passwords are essential security measures.
- Regular IT security risk assessments help you to respond to changing security requirements and improve internal controls throughout your business.
- Businesses now more than ever rely on their IT infrastructures. It is essential to have a business continuity or IT backup and disaster recovery plan in place, to ensure business continuity should your business suffer a critical incident. With a comprehensive recovery policy in place, systems are protected and can be back up and running in a short time span following an incident.
- Many SMEs do not have the in-house expertise to deal with security incidents. Consider using IT specialists that you can turn to in the event of an IT security incident. They can advise you on how best to deal with a security breach, how to get back to business, and how to prevent incidents in the first instance.