4 Essential Steps to Identify Cyber Risks and Help Protect Your Business

In today's interconnected world, the threat of cybercrime looms large and businesses—regardless of size—can't afford to ignore that threat. Research shows that small businesses (those with revenues of $100,000 to $500,000) are as likely to be hit by a cyberattack as those with annual revenue of $1 to $9 million annually. Often with fewer resources to defend themselves and absorb the cost of an attack, small businesses are particularly vulnerable.

For these business owners, building a robust cybersecurity strategy amid an evolving threat landscape can be challenging. Thankfully, there are steps owners can take to help protect their companies from online threats.

Step 1: Assess your digital footprint.

The first step in the journey toward a more secure business is to assess your digital footprint, which involves taking a closer look at your organization's digital assets. This can include your network infrastructure, software systems, and the human element—your employees. It's important to identify potential vulnerabilities in these areas, such as outdated software, unpatched systems, or employees who are lacking in cybersecurity awareness.

"The loss of sensitive information, whether that's customer information or access credentials, could lead to either financial or reputational damage, so it's important to take a look at the areas that might pose as vulnerabilities to avoid such damages," says Sukhjinder Singh, Senior Director of Product Management for Comcast Business.

To help get a better understanding of your company's footprint and vulnerabilities, SMBs can undertake a manual accounting of their systems, data, assets, and people, but they may be better served by enlisting the help of cybersecurity experts or leveraging specialized tools designed for risk assessment. Exiting partners—such as Internet providers—often have existing cybersecurity solutions, resources, and expertise to help small business owners achieve added protection.

Step 2: Invest in employee training and awareness.

Your employees can either be your most potent defense or your weakest link when it comes to cybersecurity. Phishing attacks, social engineering (deceiving people into divulging confidential or personal information), and human errors are just a few of the most common avenues through which cybercriminals infiltrate systems. To mitigate these risks, it's worth investing in cybersecurity training programs for your workforce. SMBs need to ensure that their employees are well-versed in recognizing and responding to potential threats, such as suspicious emails or links.

It's important to cultivate a culture of security within your organization, where employees understand the gravity of safeguarding sensitive information. You can regularly update training materials to stay current with evolving cyber threats and conduct simulated phishing exercises on a consistent basis to assess your employees' readiness.

SMBs should also work to establish a well-defined incident response plan that outlines the steps to take in case of a cyberattack. This plan should encompass procedures for containing the breach, notifying affected parties, and restoring normal operations.

Step 3: Monitor and detect anomalies.

With the insights gleaned from your risk assessment, you can now readily bolster your cybersecurity measures. SMBs should adopt a multi-layered approach to protection, starting with up-to-date antivirus software, robust firewalls, or intrusion detection and response systems that automatically identify and block threat attempts. These defenses can be critical in safeguarding against malware, ransomware, and unauthorized access.

Cyber threats are continuously evolving, which necessitates real-time monitoring and detection systems. Small businesses can invest in cybersecurity tools that can identify and block suspicious activity within your network, block potential threats, and these systems can alert you to potential breaches, allowing for swift responses to minimize damage.

"Apart from losing sensitive data to a ransomware attack, cyberattacks can also result in system downtime, which is a lost revenue opportunity," Singh says. "Sometimes, these attackers can be successful in deploying bots in your systems, which consume resources such as computing power or network bandwidth, and can slow down your operations."

Businesses may also want to implement strong password policies, multi-factor authentication, and encryption to protect sensitive data. It's also a good idea to regularly update and patch software to minimize vulnerabilities that cybercriminals might exploit.

Step 4: Continuously evolve and improve.

Cybersecurity is an ongoing commitment, not a one-time exercise. To stay ahead of cyber threats, SMBs should continually update and enhance their security measures. It's important to stay informed about the latest cybersecurity trends and threats through industry publications, webinars, and partnerships with providers.

"Cybersecurity risks are constantly increasing," Singh explains. "It's hard to come up with a singular solution that will protect against every single attack, so it's important to realize that it's better to take a multi-layer approach that you constantly revisit and adjust than to rely on one solution or plan."

By continuously improving your cybersecurity posture, you can effectively mitigate risks and ensure the long-term safety of your business and customers.

Click here to learn how Comcast Business SecurityEdge™ helps protect all connected devices on your network from malware, phishing scams, ransomware, and botnet attacks.

Originally posted on Entrepreneur: https://www.entrepreneur.com/science-technology/4-essential-steps-to-identify-cyber-risks-and-help-protect/463012

How small - and medium - size businesses can protect systems and data.

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