The introduction of the World Wide Web about three decades ago ushered in the Information Age. Its 2020 and information has become a commodity that we can quickly and widely disseminate through our internet-enabled smartphones and computers. Over the years, we’ve come to rely on the internet for a range of day-to-day tasks such as shopping, learning, entertainment, and work. In the process, we generate a lot of sensitive information.
All the information we generate has value and with the world now firmly in the digital age, data has become a currency. As a result, there’s a lot of scary individuals coming after the valuable information that we inadvertently put out there. It’s not only individuals that are at risk of a cyberattack but also companies that store, process, or transmit personal data. Symantec’s 2019 Internet Security Threat Report shows that attacks on businesses are up 12 percent.
Start-Ups are Particularly Vulnerable
Every company, whether it’s a tech giant or a small business, has vulnerabilities that hackers could exploit. However, young start-ups are more vulnerable to cyberattacks and data breaches compared to larger, established businesses. And given their propensity for embracing new technologies and the lack of robust cybersecurity infrastructure, this is no coincidence. Reports show that 43% of all cyberattacks target small and medium-sized businesses, including start-ups.
Do not make the mistake of assuming that your start-up, due to its size, is not a target for cybercriminals. Start-ups have customer records that may contain information such as credit card numbers, medical records, social security numbers, and personal information (including birthdate, address, identification number, etc.). Hackers will try to steal this information from your organization, often with potentially devastating consequences.
Types of Cyber Risks Facing Start-Ups In 2020
Cyberattacks targeting young start-ups and other small businesses will continue to increase unless business owners do something about it. As a start-up entrepreneur, the most important thing you need to do is acknowledge the threat.
By truly understanding that you are a target of cybercrime, you have made an important first step toward better cybersecurity protection. Speaking of which, here are the types of cyber risks facing start-ups in 2020.
Constituting more than 90 percent of all attacks, phishing is the most common form of cyberattack targeting businesses and individuals. Phishing is a form of social engineering tactic designed to trick the victim into sharing sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and other sensitive information. A phishing attack often takes the form of an email directing you to a fraudulent website that is designed to look like a legitimate site.
Ransomware is a form of malware that is designed to encrypt or lock down a company’s mission-critical data until the victim pays some cash. Hackers prefer payments in the form of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin because they are harder to trace compared to cash or online transactions.
A data leak is an unauthorized transfer of confidential information from within a business to an external environment. In such an incident, sensitive or classified information seeps to the outside world. A data leak can be intentional or unintentional. The information exposed through a data leak may include contact info, user credentials, payment card information, etc. Data leakage is common in start-ups.
Ways to Secure Start-Ups
Any business that relies on technology to store and manage customer information is a potential target for a cyberattack. Despite their small size, start-ups are not exempt from cyberattacks and data breaches. In fact, start-ups and other small businesses are a favorite target for cybercriminals due to their lack of strong cybersecurity systems. So, what can start-up entrepreneurs do to ensure that their businesses do not fall victim to these attacks?
Assess Risks and Vulnerabilities
A risk assessment helps you identify where your company is most vulnerable and take the necessary steps to fix these weaknesses. By assessing risks and vulnerabilities in your system, you can effectively defend against the wide range of cybersecurity threats out there. Start by auditing the most valuable data and information in your possession including customer information, intellectual property, employee data, and other records.
Install Antivirus Software
Install reliable anti-virus and anti-malware software on every laptop or desktop in your company to protect your system from malicious code. Antivirus refers to a set of programs designed to protect your system from malicious programs. Malware may include viruses, trojans, spyware, etc. Antivirus software can also remove glitches and unwanted programs to improve performance.
Secure your Wi-Fi network
A virtual private network (VPN) provides online privacy and anonymity by creating a private network in a public internet connection. Many large organizations use this service to protect sensitive data, and you can do the same for your start-up. A VPN on your router at the office will ensure that your office Wi-Fi network is encrypted, secure, and hidden. It provides a private connection and protects your office network against online threats.
Hire IT Services
Hackers often target start-ups due to their lack of a robust cybersecurity infrastructure as well as experience in IT security. As a start-up entrepreneur lacking the resources to invest in a strong cybersecurity system for your company, hiring IT services from a company that specializes in IT security gives you a chance to focus on expanding your business.
Backup Your Data
Backing up your data in the cloud and locally is important for a variety of reasons. Having a reliable backup is essential to start-up cybersecurity. A good backup strategy ensures that mission-critical data is available for restore in the event of a cyberattack, say a ransomware attack that encrypts your files. You can use your backup to restore your data from the cloud and start afresh in the event of such an attack.
Limit Access to Company Information
The amount of information your vendors have access to can pose a cybersecurity risk, and most start-up entrepreneurs are not aware of this. Check your vendors’ cybersecurity controls as part of the vetting and onboarding process. Items to look at include how they store data, compliance with data protection regulations, access control, etc.
Employees are often said to be a weak link in a company’s cybersecurity system. Most data breaches can be traced back to negligent employees, contractors, and third parties. Employee actions such as continued use of default passwords, loss of company smartphones, etc. can easily result in a data breach. Employee training on cybersecurity best practices can greatly reduce the risk of an attack.
Build a Security Centric Culture
Develop a security-centric culture within your start-up, it’s one of the most effective ways to secure your start-up’s data. Encrypting mobile devices used for work purposes, blocking access to websites that pose cybersecurity risks, and making your employees use strong passwords reduces the risk of attacks and makes it clear that you are serious about cybersecurity.
Cybersecurity is increasingly becoming a concern for businesses all over the world. Due to their propensity for embracing new technologies and the lack of robust cybersecurity infrastructure, start-ups are a favorite target for cybercriminals.
For a start-up entrepreneur, defending against cyberattacks and data breaches is always going to be a constant struggle. However, using IT security tools such as antivirus and VPN, backing up your data, and applying common sense policies can help you mitigate these risks.