Why do start-ups & SMEs need cybersecurity awareness & training?

Date: 29 October 2020

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It is often assumed that cybersecurity training and awareness is a matter of concern for only large businesses and enterprises as they are more vulnerable to threats and have more at stake than an inchoate or fledgling businesses. This is not entirely true.

Your start-up or small business is as vulnerable to cyber threats as a large corporation. The reason for this is simple – a larger business has more awareness and resources to pump into protecting its valuable data, training its staff in cybersecurity and implementing solutions to secure its informational assets.

Startups and small businesses, on the other hand, have limited knowledge and budget and often overlook spending on cybersecurity, considering it as a secondary issue or an additional expense. This mindset attracts cybercriminals who consider them to be easy targets and know how to bring their business to a halt for quick and convenient monetary gains.

Here’s a closer look at why your start-up/small business is an attractive target for cyber-criminals:

  • Dearth of expertise, training and budget for providing thorough security defense
  • Lack of dedicated cybersecurity specialists on the payroll
  • Limited security awareness in employees
  • Security defenses may be implemented but are not always kept up to date
  • Lack of risk awareness and risk management policy and procedure
  • Failure in securing endpoints

Keeping these points in mind, here then are 10 important reasons why start-ups and small businesses need to wake up to the threat of cybersecurity and if you own a small business, why now is the right time to ramp up your defences! 

1. The information your business has is invaluable

While small businesses and start-ups may not have as wide a threat landscape as large corporations, they do have sensitive employee and customer information. Hackers are interested in getting personal or financial information such as social security numbers or banking details, and small businesses are easy targets for them. Since criminals need credit card or banking credentials, this information needs to be protected as well as possible.

2. A cyber-attack can destroy your start-up

Start-ups and newly established businesses can be very fragile. They need to take many things into account and calculate risks in order to be successful and grow into an established organisation that their customers can trust. If your organisation suffers a breach of data in its initial phases, not only will it cause massive reputational damages, it can also be a major blow to your finances.

3. Cyber-criminals are always on the lookout for easy targets

Cyber-criminals never stop looking for opportunities to conduct malicious attacks. Since small businesses and start-ups are plenty in number, they present a big market for exploitation. Large corporations have the capability to enhance their security system and ward off hackers, pushing them to look for smaller and easier targets.

4. Non-compliance can be Costly

Data breach regulations are becoming more and more stringent the world over and there’s really no escaping them if you’re running a business, regardless of its scale and size. Cost of non-compliance with good cybersecurity practices can be more costly than that of compliance in case of data breaches. For compliance, you have to invest in cybersecurity solutions alone, while in case of non-compliance, you will have to bear data breach costs, reputational costs and operational costs. Just like large corporations, small businesses also deal with technologies, processes and people, all of which can be targets of a cyber-crime. Hence, it’s misleading to think that small businesses don’t have to comply with data security regulations.

5. Businesses need to attract and retain employees to grow

Professional and knowledgeable employees now understand the importance of their online privacy and security. If a potential or existing employee finds out that your workplace is not safe and is putting their personal data at risk, they will not like working for you. This may not seem like a reason big enough to implement cybersecurity standards and awareness, but for start-ups that already find it difficult to attract good talent, it can be a matter of concern.

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6. Downtime can break small businesses

In the event of a data breach, most of the times hackers bring down critical network infrastructure and websites through DDoS attacks or other methods. Larger organisations are able to survive such attacks because of their resources to withstand them, such as redundant servers. Small businesses, however, simply don’t have such resources. Most of the times, they are unable to recover from such losses and eventually have to shut down. According to the US National Cyber Security Alliance, 60% of small businesses close down after falling victim to a cyber-attack or data breach.

7. Partners and customers may feel hesitant to work with you

If your start-up is not following safe security practices, people outside your organisation such as third parties and customers may notice this and be hesitant in doing business with you. A potential partner will never want to work with an organisation which can impact its business and put its assets in danger due to unsafe cybersecurity practices. They will always see you as a liability.

8. Implementing cybersecurity can ensure productivity

In addition to reputational and financial damages, data breach incidents can destroy productivity in the workplace. When employees don’t have access to their networks and work files, they are not able to do their jobs. Small businesses and start-ups will be diverted towards recovering from the breach, ignoring other business operations and losing whatever edge they may have managed to maintain in an intensely competitive market. The best way to avoid this is to ensure cybersecurity best practices, having a solid incident response plan and preventing potential data breaches from the onset. 

9. Cloud Services also need to be secured

Most start-ups and small businesses today rely on cloud services for the unmatched utility and affordability they offer. However, this opens up a new area of vulnerability for growing businesses. Hackers can easily exploit cloud services that don’t use strong encryption technology and tap into the massive data stores that an unsuspecting small business may have on the cloud. This vulnerability has to be understood and the best barriers must be employed to ensure security of business that is being done via the cloud.   

10. It can prevent lawsuits and legal liabilities.

Have you heard of instances where an organisation had to deal with a lawsuit because an employee accessed prohibited content on a workstation? A cybersecurity solution can help detect and prevent employees from watching inappropriate content at the workplace. It can also prevent legal liabilities that you may face from customers or suppliers when there is a data breach in the absence of cybersecurity practices.

In a Nutshell:

Cyber threats are continuing to increase at an exponential rate, and small businesses are at a great risk of losing their finances, data, productivity, customer relationships and sales in the process. Since any organisation can become a prime target, it’s important to take all important steps for safeguarding business technologies, information and processes. While small businesses may not be able to afford investing in hiring security experts or comprehensive high-priced security solutions, they can use other affordable services such as VPN tools and adopt cybersecurity best practices and regular employee training to keep their business safe and succeed in the long run.

Author: David Smith 

its me david
David Smith is a cryptographer with 12 years of experience in both the public and private sectors. He is currently working on his second start-up (currently in stealth mode) that will track and interpret the use of contactless payments. David is also a consultant at at Cardzgroup.com. 



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