The following is a guest post by Tiffany Rowe. Tiffany is a Marketing Administrator at Seek Visibility, where she assists clients in contributing resourceful content throughout the web.
At a startup, every dollar scraped together is precious, and few entrepreneurs can spare even a thought for their business’s security. Startup owners can easily convince themselves their digital risks are low. After all, startups seem to offer cybercriminals little of value: They tend to be poor when it comes to both money and data, the two commodities hackers are most eager to obtain. Devoting any time in the week, let alone any space in the budget, to cybersecurity would surely be a waste – right?
In truth, at least half of all small and medium-sized businesses have been victims of cyberattack, and a business’s brutal beginnings offer the perfect opportunities for a quick and easy strike. Malicious hackers take full advantage of the lax security of startups to steal whatever money and information they can, and some build backdoors into devices and data storage spaces to make later entry even easier. Therefore, entrepreneurs need to hard-bake security measures into their startups from the beginning.
1. Understand the Most Pressing Threats
Different types of businesses will be subject to different types of cybersecurity risk, so trying to defend against all potential security threats is probably a waste of time and resources. Therefore, the first step in safeguarding a startup is assessing which threats are most likely to endanger the business.
Businesses can outsource their risk assessment to cybersecurity firms, or they can save money and learn more about their specific security needs by following these steps:
- Identify, locate, and classify information assets. What type of information does the startup manage? Where does that information live? Rank each type of information from one to five, depending on how public or sensitive the data is.
- Rate threats to information. Use Microsoft’s STRIDE model to better identify which threats are more likely.
- Finalize the data and plan. Combine the research from threat modeling and information classification to determine which threats require immediate attention.
2. Acquire Appropriate Security Tools
It is possible for a startup to overshoot its security needs. When that happens, productivity can slow as workers must wade through level after level of protection to access essential tools and data. Worse, investing too heavily in security is a waste of valuable funds. Therefore, startups should focus primarily on tools that address those threats identified in their risk assessment. Likely, a startup will need little more than DDoS solutions, including ransomware protection, and SSO solutions.
3. Integrate Security Into IT Strategy
Startups rely on their tech, so most have thorough tech strategies from the get-go. Then, tech departments are often given free-reign to modify configurations or devices as necessary to grow the business.
However, a startup’s security needs are highly dependent on existing tech structures, so miscommunication between security and IT workers can result in vast vulnerabilities that hackers won’t wait to exploit. Startup entrepreneurs should ensure their IT workers are mindful of security needs and communicative with security professionals at all times.
4. Empower Employees With Security Training
Even as cybercriminals toil to create new and more effective methods of infiltrating networks, the single biggest threat to business security is its employees. Lazy, apathetic, and otherwise unengaged workers are likely to skirt necessary security protocols, perhaps disabling malware scans or distributing passwords with abandon.
An essential step in employee training should be security instruction, which should both teach employees how to use their devices safely and why such behavior is absolutely necessary. Regular reminders, perhaps in the form of staff meetings or seminars, will likely be necessary throughout the life of a business to keep employees diligent about security.
5. Evaluate Security of Third-Party Vendors
After reading this guide, a startup might recognize the importance of cybersecurity measure and invest appropriately in defenses. However, if a startup doesn’t evaluate the security of its vendors, it might as well lack any security whatsoever.
Many startups use various vendors to make business easier; for example, they might use a cloud hosting service, email ticketing solutions, HR services providers, and more. These vendors will have access to the startup’s data, and if they aren’t suitably secure, the startup will suffer. Startups should have security criteria for any potential vendor to decrease the likelihood of surprise threats.