Cybersecurity is a priority for businesses of all sizes, but it can be especially challenging for small businesses because of fewer resources and limited expertise. This comprehensive guide covers everything you should know about cybersecurity as an SMB owner. We discuss the basics of cybersecurity, how it impacts businesses of your scale, cybersecurity strategies and tips you can use, the future of cybersecurity, and cybersecurity tools to have in your arsenal against this prevalent threat.
What is cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity, according to Gartner, is the combination of people, processes, policies, and technologies companies employ to protect their digital assets and sensitive business information from cybercriminals .
Why is cybersecurity important?
In GetApp’s 2022 Data Security Survey, more than half of businesses surveyed reported data breach as a common threat*. This indicates cybersecurity is not just important but also mandatory, especially when its consequences include:
Lost revenue and funds
Damage to brand reputation
Lost customer faith
Inability to carry out online transactions
Lost business partnerships and contracts
Today, most SMBs rely on online platforms such as Dropbox and Google Drive to manage business data, making them a lucrative target for cybercriminals. In line, 66% of business leaders, as per a Gartner survey, are looking to increase their cybersecurity investments this year .
What are the most common cybersecurity concerns?
A cybersecurity concern is any possible malicious attack that intends to unethically access your data, disrupt operations, or damage business continuity. GetApp’s 2022 Data Security Survey reveals that 66% of businesses have experienced a data breach in the past 12 months*. Some of the most common cybersecurity concerns these organizations faced include:
Phishing: Phishing attacks trick you into taking a wrong step, such as clicking a link that directs you to the attacker’s malicious website or downloading a file that injects a virus into your computer. We compared the results of our data security surveys from 2019 to 2022 and found that the rate of employees clicking on phishing links has increased by 88% in three years*.
Malware: Malware is a type of malicious file or software that corrupts your computer system with a virus. It enters your device the same way a phishing attack does—either by clicking a malicious link or downloading an unauthorized file from the internet.
Ransomware: Ransomware is a type of malware that threatens to publicize your personal data or locks your system until you pay a ransom. GetApp's 2022 Ransomware Impact Survey** found that 62% of businesses have been victims of at least one ransomware attack.
Weak passwords: Another finding from our 2022 Data Security Survey: 59% of employees use the same password for multiple accounts*. This is not only one of the biggest concerns for most businesses but also an irresponsible act on the employees’ part.
Insider threat: An insider threat is when a current or former employee intentionally or unintentionally misuses their authorized access to harm your organization. Surprisingly, 33% of businesses, as per our 2022 Data Security Survey, give complete data access to their employees*.
What are the different types of cybersecurity measures?
Cybersecurity is a broad field. We’ve classified it into the following categories to help you better understand how it secures different business facets:
Cloud computing security: Safeguards your business’s cloud-based infrastructure, including applications, data, and storage, by using cloud security software.
Endpoint security: Protects the entry points of end-user devices, such as laptops, desktops, and smartphones, from malicious threats by using endpoint protection software.
Mobile security: Safeguards sensitive business information stored on and transmitted by mobile devices such as laptops, wearables, and tablets.
IoT security: Secures IoT devices—which function completely on the availability of the internet—such as smart security cameras, smart speakers, smart lights, and voice control devices (e.g., Amazon's Alexa).
Application security: Uses application security testing software to test, develop, and add security features within applications to eliminate vulnerabilities.
Encryption: Converts data into a secure, encoded form by using encryption software. The encoded data can only be decoded or accessed by individuals with the correct decryption key.
Security awareness training: Uses security awareness training software to help users understand and recognize cybersecurity threats and how to protect against them.
What are cybersecurity standards?
Cybersecurity standards are guidelines that organizations follow to measure and improve their cybersecurity defense. These standards are developed by government bodies, industry groups, or individual companies. They can be classified into four categories:
Technical standards: These establish the minimum acceptable level of security for products, services, and systems. Examples include NIST SP 800-53 and ISO/IEC 27001.
Operational standards: These define the procedures and processes for implementing and managing security controls. Examples include ISO 27001, NIST 800-53, and CIS 20.
Organizational standards: These establish the security responsibilities and expectations for individuals and groups within an organization. Examples include NIST SP 800-53, NIST SP 800-171, ISO 27001, and HIPAA.
Management standards: These provide guidance for setting and achieving security goals and for measuring and improving security performance. Examples include NIST SP 800-53, ISO 27001, and COBIT.
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Here's a list of the best cybersecurity software tools featured in GetApp's Category Leaders report—yearly software rankings based on verified reviews from software users.
How do cyberattacks impact small businesses?
One successful cyberattack could do severe damage to your small business. In addition to the consequences listed above, further damage could include:
Loss of business productivity
Loss of sensitive data
Loss of employee morale and motivation
Loss of competitive advantage
Loss of intellectual property
It’s wise to invest in cyber insurance to mitigate these repercussions. A cyber liability insurance policy can protect your small business from losses related to cybersecurity incidents.
What are some cybersecurity tips for small businesses?
Follow these simple yet effective tips to reduce the possibility of a cyberattack on your small business:
Keep your software and IT resources up to date.
Train your employees on cyber-safe practices.
Take regular backup of your business data.
Use strong and unique passwords to access any software or device.
Limit employees’ access to company resources.
Don’t connect business devices to public Wi-Fi networks.
What should a cybersecurity checklist include?
Your cybersecurity checklist should include the steps, policies, processes, and software tools your small business incorporates to build a solid cyber defense mechanism. A checklist will allow you to implement your cybersecurity plan in the right order and ensure nothing is forgotten during execution.
Some key elements of a cybersecurity checklist:
Discover GetApp’s recommended free cybersecurity software
Just like a premium tool, free cybersecurity software also protects your IT systems from cyberattacks. However, it may not offer comprehensive protection, may not send updates as frequently, or may not offer the same customer support as a paid tool. But despite these shortcomings, it’s still worth checking out if you’re on a budget.
Different types of cybersecurity software solutions to protect your small business from malicious attacks.
What is a cybersecurity strategy?
A cybersecurity strategy is an action plan to secure your data and digital assets from cyberthreats. Ensure your strategy is adaptable to the current threat landscape and ever-evolving business climate. Also, revisit and update the strategy as frequently as possible based on changes in your budget and technology infrastructure.
What are some effective cybersecurity techniques?
Cybersecurity techniques are practices your small business should follow to prevent malicious cyberattacks and boost security. Here are a few for your small business:
Data encryption: A powerful technique that converts plain text data into encoded information called ciphertext. Only individuals with the correct decryption key (or password)can read or access the data.
Data masking: A data security technique that creates a structurally similar but inauthentic version of the original data by using codes and random characters. This helps protect the data from modification while keeping it functional for activities such as user training, software testing, and client demonstrations.
Row-level security: A technique that limits data access to certain users by adding restrictive filters within the tables of a database.
Cyber insurance: More like an indemnity that keeps your small business financially covered from the consequences of a cyberattack.
Backup and recovery optimization: The process of creating and storing multiple copies of data to protect your organization against data thefts and enable recovery in case of data loss.
How to build a cybersecurity strategy?
As a small-business leader, follow these five steps to create a robust cybersecurity strategy:
Conduct a security assessment to collect accurate benchmarks.
Calculate your security budget and create a cybersecurity checklist.
Take preventive measures such as creating a cybersecurity training program for employees.
Develop a cybersecurity incident response plan.
Use data protection methods for regular business operations and workflows.
Discover GetApp’s recommended security awareness training software
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What is the future of cybersecurity?
The future of cybersecurity, according to Gartner analysts, will be more decentralized, with more control and safety implications. With up to 60% of the workforce working remotely, businesses will be more vulnerable to cyberattacks in the future. Gartner research also suggests that by 2025, 45% of businesses will have experienced attacks on their software supply chains .
To strengthen your cyberdefense mechanism now and in the future, you should adopt a cybersecurity mesh, which is a system of tools to centralize data, achieve more collaboration, and ensure full-suite security. Gartner research indicates that by 2024, businesses implementing a cybersecurity mesh architecture will lower the financial implications of individual security incidents by an average of 90% .
How can artificial intelligence and machine learning help with cybersecurity?
Artificial intelligence and machine learning both dwell on data. They use intelligent self-learning algorithms to help cybersecurity software solutions automatically recognize patterns in a data set. In simple terms, machine learning learns from the mistakes, errors, and cyberattacks of the past. Then, AI develops resistance to these security errors and attacks by forming defense mechanisms. Gartner’s AI use case prism for cybersecurity presents 19 prominent ways you can leverage AI to reduce cybersecurity risk .
What is cybersecurity software?
Cybersecurity software is a software solution that protects your company's confidential business data and IT infrastructure from cyber thefts and cyberattacks, such as malware, phishing, and ransomware. It uses network architecture and advanced technology such as data encryption, firewall protection, and real-time threat monitoring to ensure hackers don’t attack your business assets and resources.
As a small-business leader, you should invest in cybersecurity software to identify potential system vulnerabilities and create a defense ecosystem that can sense cybercriminals before they cause any harm.
What are the features of cybersecurity software?
When buying cybersecurity software, look for these top features:
Endpoint protection: Protects your mobile devices, including laptops and smartphones, from cyberattacks, such as phishing and ransomware.
Antivirus: Automatically scans, detects, and removes malicious files that can harm your business systems.
Activity monitoring: Monitors your business networks for any policy violation or suspicious activity that can harm your business systems or data.
Threat response: Mitigates threats before they harm your IT systems by quarantining malicious files or blocking them permanently.
Data security: Protects sensitive business data such as financial information, employee details, and customer data.
What is the cost of cybersecurity software?
As per our research, most cybersecurity software tools on the market are priced on a “per user, per month” or “per website, per month” basis. The starting price of cybersecurity tools can be broken down into three levels:
$7 - $10
$10 - $16
The following factors also influence the cost of cybersecurity solutions:
Category of software: antivirus, email protection, network security, firewall, etc.
Size of your business
Number of features in the software
Types and number of devices you want to protect
Duration of the subscription: annual, monthly, or one-time license
Maintenance and training costs
What is Cybersecurity-as-a-Service?
Sometimes, organizations can't manage to have dedicated resources or bandwidth to look after cybersecurity policies or take care of online defense routines. For such companies, Cybersecurity-as-a-Service (CSaaS) is a viable approach wherein they can partner with a specialized information security services provider to outsource cybersecurity management for their organization.
Cybersecurity software helps identify potential system vulnerabilities and cyberthreats, such as viruses and ransomware, to protect your company's applications, networks, and IT systems.
*GetApp conducted the 2022 Data Security Survey in August 2022 among 1006 respondents who reported full-time employment. 289 respondents identified as their company's IT security manager.
**GetApp conducted the 2022 Ransomware Impacts Survey in May 2022 among 300 U.S. business leaders that have experienced a ransomware attack. All respondents were part of the response team or were made fully aware of the company's response.