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Weak (or Nonexistent) Cybersecurity Is Taking a Massive Toll on Small Businesses. Here's How to Protect Yours. Every small business must face digital dangers head-on, creating and implementing an effective cybersecurity plan.

By Summit Ghimire Edited by Kara McIntyre

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If you were to ask five random strangers from different walks of life what the major threats to the future of small businesses are, you're likely to get similar answers. The potential responses would likely include rising inflation and possible recession, job market volatility, the speed of technological advancement, supply chain issues and more.

The real question is, what insidious threat is far too often shunted to the back burner, passed on to the next operating budget? What issue is left to address when revenue is on the right trajectory, inventory is viable, growth is stable and scaling up is starting to take shape?


Related: Cybersecurity Is No Longer An Option. Your Money Is in Immediate Danger.

Ignoring the warnings is the easy — and shortsighted — path for SMBs

Ignoring the gravity of cyber threats is a dangerous gamble. The risk is undeniable:

  • 61% of small businesses suffered a cyber attack in 2021
  • Small businesses account for 43% of all data breaches
  • More than half of small businesses that suffer a cyberattack close within six months

Acknowledging the harsh reality the majority of individuals choose to ignore is a crucial stepping-off point. A true understanding of the situation results in knowing what protective measures must be taken. Creating and implementing cybersecurity measures must be a high priority for businesses of all sizes, particularly SMBs, where the margin for error is razor-sharp.

Pressure to allocate resources effectively undercuts cybersecurity efforts

There are few endeavors as nerve-wracking, terrifying, and potentially disastrous — yet 100% worth it — as starting and running a small business. I've experienced the passion that drives those dedicated to seeing it through. I've felt the fuel that burns within team members fully committed to taking an idea and nurturing it into a viable, self-sustaining entity.

It's no secret that the odds are stacked against us. The numbers don't lie. It's widely reported that, on average, 8 out of 10 small businesses fail within the first year. The odds get even grimmer within five years, with nearly half of all new small businesses closing up shop.

Given the evident confidence and enthusiasm founders exude, why do the majority of small businesses trivialize or wholly ignore cybersecurity? Why is the immense potential for all-too-truly disaster lurking around every corner? It's a matter of resources and a lack of an informed perspective.

Related: 5 Ways to Protect Your Company Against Cyber Attacks

SMB leadership must elevate cybersecurity

Addressing cybersecurity as a small business is a necessary undertaking that sees greater complexity and effort over time. There are foundational steps that need to be taken, which are strengthened with increased security measures. Given the undeniable threats lurking, the stronger a business's protection features, the better.

Here are some crucial measures to take from the get-go:

  • Internet and firewall security software. It is important to have both antivirus and firewall software running, as they address distinct issues. Firewalls prevent outside access to any data on a private network; integrating trusted security software, operating systems, and web browsers is essential armor for network-connected usage of that data.
  • Data backup. If a cyberattack occurs involving hijacking or corrupting company data, a quality, reliable backup will be a lifesaver. Data backups must be regularly updated to ensure prompt utilization.
  • Secure Wi-Fi. A simple, straightforward measure, a secure Wi-Fi setup is a powerful piece of the protective puzzle. Going above and beyond the basic security offered by your provider may be necessary.
  • Controlled access and authority. The most effective way to avoid potential crises is to implement controlled access to data and limit user authority. This action helps ensure employees don't inadvertently install or operate compromised programs, weaken cybersecurity settings or access data and information that falls outside the scope of their responsibilities.

Awareness, education and formal policies are vital for cybersecurity defense

One of the most critical steps a business can take is employee cybersecurity education. Without a thorough awareness and understanding of the myriad ways cybercriminals attack, employees are weak links that will inevitably be compromised. Basic instruction on the severity of the threat and critical risks to avoid will go a long way in bolstering the strength of active cybersecurity defense.

Equipping your company with established cybersecurity policies and action plans strengthens the foundational steps outlined above; these steps ingrain a defensive mindset and preparedness essential to countering adaptive cybercriminal attacks. The specific plans created will vary in correlation to the size and structure of a business but can include the following:

  • Internal incident response plan
  • Mobile device action plan
  • Crisis response/client engagement plan

Related: 5 Leadership Strategies to Improve Team Performance and Grow Your Small Business

Securing survival and success as an SMB in a challenging economic landscape

Every small business is unique. Every owner, every leadership team and every staff member — everyone has their own story. It's hard to say if they will all get told.

When navigating the endless parade of pressing concerns, looming threats and demands on dwindling resources of time, the energy and effort required can seem overwhelming. Lumping cybersecurity measures into the to-do list to tackle another day may seem to make sense at the moment, but reality paints a much different picture.

When leading a small business, there are appropriate levels of time and resources to invest in any given issue. Finding the right level for their business will be a call they have to get right.

Summit Ghimire

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Founder & Head of SEO at Outpace

Summit Ghimire is the founder and head of SEO at Outpace. He has experience optimizing websites for both small and enterprise businesses. His passion for SEO and conversion-rate optimization comes from successful campaigns working with hundreds of clients across verticals.

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