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Seven Cybersecurity Best Practices for Small to Medium Sized Businesses Blog Feature

Tools & technology Cybersecurity

By: Collabrance LLC on October 25th, 2023

Seven Cybersecurity Best Practices for Small to Medium Sized Businesses

In today's digital world – where nearly every function of business happens online – cybersecurity is a topic that should be at the forefront of every business owner's mind. As a master managed services provider, Collabrance provides the security solutions IT providers need to deliver comprehensive security to their SMB customers. In this blog, we'll discuss essential cybersecurity best practices you can share with your customers to strengthen their defenses and protect sensitive data.

1. Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) and password controls

One of the most effective ways to prevent unauthorized access to a company’s systems and accounts is by enabling multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication, or MFA, is an electronic verification method in which a person is given access to a tool only after confirming their identity and permissions with two or more factors, such as a password and a fingerprint scan. Another commonly used MFA function is a one-time password (OTP). OTPs are the codes that are received via text, email, call, or app. A new code is generated each time a request is submitted to access an application or tool.  

MFA adds another layer of security to keep a business’s accounts safe even if a cybercriminal somehow manages to get a user’s password. By enabling MFA, it becomes significantly more difficult for a cybercriminal to gain access to critical business resources.  

For added security, organizations should implement the use of password management, and create an access control policy to prevent unauthorized users from accessing company data. 

Related: Multi-Factor Authentication & Why You Should Be Using It

2. Use endpoint detection and response (EDR) software

EDR – endpoint detection and response – is a security technology that continuously monitors and enables devices to self-defend against threats. In short, it’s a bigger and better version of antivirus (AV) software.  

EDR is recommended over traditional AV because traditional solutions may not be sufficient in today's threat landscape. Traditional AV only recognizes viruses and malicious software and doesn’t account for “fileless” attacks and other modern, AV-evasion techniques.  

By comparison, EDR uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to detect potential threats. Endpoints – or physical devices connected to a network, like computers and mobile devices – are continuously monitored to detect potential threats, and, if malware or other hazards are found, the software responds automatedly on the device to undo any damage done. This enables IT professionals to identify and respond to threats in a more timely and efficient manner than is possible with traditional antivirus solutions. EDR delivers a more comprehensive and complete approach that is safer in today's digital landscape.  

Remember, endpoints are connected by a network, and that network should be protected, too. A unified threat management (UTM) solution helps businesses deploy a centralized set of network controls, like firewall, VPN, content filtering, and more.  

Related: Ready or Not, Here Cyber Security Compliance Comes 

3. Keep software and systems up to date

Regular software updates are a critical cybersecurity practice that often gets overlooked. A system that is outdated or expired has typically reached the end of its manufacturer’s support coverage, too – meaning the system is not being actively maintained and will not qualify for the security updates newer versions receive automatically. Hackers know these vulnerabilities exist and will exploit them to gain access to a business’s IT infrastructure.  

In addition to providing protection from vulnerabilities, software and system updates ensure a company’s tools are as functional as possible by addressing issues like bugs and crashes. Required updates keep tools safe from viruses and malware while adding new features, improving performance, and protecting data. 

Because new vulnerabilities are always emerging, current software and systems frequently need updates, too – applied through a process called patching. To ensure it‘s operating in the most secure environment possible, an organization may choose to work with an IT provider that offers patch management services to keep hardware, operating systems, and cloud resources up to date. 

By keeping systems and software up to date, potential security gaps are narrowed, and a business’s IT network is kept safer from potential cyber threats. 

4. Ensure proper data backup

Businesses rely on technology; many couldn’t operate a full day without it. And even if a company has procedures in place for backing up data, it may not be enough. Many backup services only include the latest version of a network’s files, and aren’t equipped to restore an earlier, uncorrupted version of the data. A ransomware attack can freeze data systems, and many variants delete local backups to prevent recovery.  

Ransomware isn’t the only circumstance that may call for data recovery. In the event of a natural disaster, for example, a cloud recovery solution could be used to move data to an alternative location temporarily if a business's primary location was taken out of service. There are the everyday calamities, too – equipment failures, accidental deletion, theft or loss of devices, and more.  

If a company’s data isn’t being backed up sufficiently, any one of these events could wipe out all its data – and that’s a high cost. IT outages mean teams can’t work and customers can’t buy products or services. Additionally, losing sensitive customer data could result in legal consequences, reputation damage, and more.  

Don’t risk days of downtime. Regularly back up critical data and systems to secure offsite locations or cloud services, and ensure backup procedures are tested and reliable so data can be restored quickly in the event of a breach or system failure.  

Related: The Best Defense for Ransomware is Data Backup 

5. Require security awareness training 

Human error is a leading cause of cybersecurity breaches. In fact, according to research by Deloitte, 91% of cyberattacks begin with a spear phishing email. So, a well-informed workforce can be a business’s first line of defense against cyber threats. Regular security education and training for employees – and anyone else who performs authorized functions for an organization – is critical. A small or medium sized business may not be bound by regulatory demands that require security training for employees, but awareness training around phishing attempts, account takeovers, and other means used by cybercriminals to misappropriate company information can be critically beneficial for employees. 

There are plentiful resources available to build an appealing and engaging security awareness program. Focus on high-quality content and live phishing simulations, and get leadership involved to set an example for the entire organization. 

Related: Security Awareness Training Has Gone Mainstream

6. Invest in cyber insurance 

The alarming truth is that any business should view cybercrime not through a lens of IF, but WHEN. A cyber insurance policy can help offset the negative impact of a successful security breach – but it’s important to exercise diligence in the process of applying for and adhering to a policy, as requirements can be complex. As part of the insurer’s risk assessment, a business will need to answer a broad range of questions relating to the company, security resources, systems, protocols, and more.  

Despite the daunting process of obtaining cyber insurance, having coverage in place in the event of an incident can be the difference between a business’s life or death: Research shows 75% of SMBs could not continue operating if they were hit with ransomware.  

Most small businesses are not prepared for an attack, and cybercriminals know it. A managed security services provider can support an organization in implementing the systems and processes to qualify for an adequate and cost-effective policy, and ongoing managed IT support can ensure a business continues to adhere to carrier requirements.  

7. Develop an incident response plan

Businesses should have a well-defined plan in place for how to respond to a security incident. The plan should include provisions for:  

Containing the damage 

The first step in any incident response plan is to “stop the bleeding”. This may involve isolating affected systems, disconnecting from the network, and taking other steps to mitigate the risk of further damage, like changing passwords, revoking access to sensitive data, and other steps to protect company assets.  

Investigating the incident 

This may include looking at system logs, reviewing network traffic, or analyzing malware samples. The goal is to understand what happened and how to prevent it from happening again.  

Restoring IT access and any lost data 

Restoring IT access after a breach can be a complex and time-consuming process. Depending on the extent of the attack, the precautions taken ahead of the attack, and the damage caused, restoration can take as little as a few hours, or may be accomplished over a longer timeframe, or impossible altogether. The restoration plan should include steps for:  

  1. Restoring from data backups 
  2. Reinforcing security controls 
  3. Communication with business stakeholders 
  4. Reviewing the incident response plan moving forward  

Security breaches can have a significant business impact, potentially leading to lost data, downtime, and reputational damage. By having a plan in place, businesses can minimize the damage and get back up and running as quickly as possible.  

How to implement these cybersecurity best practices 

There is no such thing as 100% protection from a cyberattack. But by implementing the practices outlined in this blog, an organization can significantly reduce its risk. Cybersecurity is not a one-time measure – it's a continuous process that requires ongoing attention and adaptation to evolving threats.  

Managed services providers are favorably positioned to help SMB customers navigate the ever-changing cybersecurity landscape and deliver the solutions customers need. Collabrance can provide the tools and resources needed to deploy and maintain robust security protocols for your customers, without taking on new vendors or additional staff. Contact us to learn more. 

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