8 Handy Tips on How to Protect Your Start-Up from Cyberattacks

A cyberattack is a malicious deliberate attempt to breach computer information systems or personal computer devices. Cyberattacks and data breaches have become increasingly common in recent years. Businesses are one of the major targets of cybercrime. And while only attacks involving large entities like banks and tech companies make headlines, it's often smaller entities that bear the brunt of cybercrime. 

With 43% of cyberattacks now aimed at Small and Medium-Sized Businesses, SMBs are the new frontier for hackers. Start-ups, in particular, are a favorite target of cybercriminals. A 2016 survey by the Ponemon Institute found that 55% of SMBs reported falling victim to a cyberattack. Most of these data breaches are caused by third-parties, contractors, and negligent employees. Read on to learn how to protect your start-up. 

The Cost of Cyberattacks

There are many factors to take into account when it comes to calculating the cost of a data breach. These include downtime, sustained system outage, cost of any data that may be lost, ransoms, and potential lawsuits. On average, a business will incur $200,000 in losses after a cyberattack. To make matters worse, more than half of small businesses and start-ups lack the funds they need to recover from a cyberattack or data breach and eventually go under

Why Hackers Target Small Businesses

There are several reasons why cybercriminals find start-ups and other small businesses appealing. For starters, most of these businesses have an inadequate computer and network security. In some cases, system security is virtually non-existent. Most start-ups don’t have dedicated IT staff due to budget constraints. 

Protecting Your Start-Up Against Cyberattacks

The challenges mentioned above make small businesses comparatively easy to attack. There’s a wide range of attack vectors that a cybercriminal can deploy against a small business. Here are some of the cybersecurity threats that every small business owner should be aware of.

Phishing. Social engineering scams pose a huge cybersecurity threat for small businesses. A 2019 Internet Security Threat Report by Symantec shows that staff members in small businesses have a higher likelihood of being targeted with email threats such as spam, phishing, and email malware compared to their counterparts in larger organizations. 

Malware. Malware is one of the most common types of malicious internet activity. Malware attacks can cripple entire security systems or render them useless. Small businesses are commonly targeted by malware attacks. Forbes predicted a 300% increase in ransomware attacks in 2020, mostly targeting small businesses.

Data Breaches. There are many ways through which valuable company data can fall into the hands of a cybercriminal. Common risks include Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attacks where a hacker intercepts data on a fake page, stolen passwords, and social engineering attacks such as phishing and spear phishing. 

The vast majority of small businesses are unable to respond to cyberattacks fast enough. Sometimes they can’t even detect them at all. Earlier, we looked into why small businesses are particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks. In the next section, we focus on how small business owners can secure their ventures from cyberattacks. Here are 8 ways to secure start-ups against cyberattacks/data breaches. 

Assess Risks and Vulnerabilities

Risk assessment gives you a clear picture of whether your security system can hold up in the face of a cyberattack. Hire external consultants to test your drives, folders, websites, and other systems that have external access. Come up with procedures to follow in the event of an attack. 

Backup and Encrypt Your Data

Ransomware attacks are very common today. So, protect your company, backup, and encrypt your data, then find a secure location for storage. Backup allows you to cut off a ransomware attack by wiping all your data and starting afresh. Encryption ensures that hackers don’t crack open any data they manage to steal.

Restrict Data Access

As a start-up, there is no reason to allow everyone accesses to company data. Look at who has access to your data and restrict access from employees and third-parties unless it's required by their role in the company. In the early stages of business, your start-up is more prone to disorganized data, and unrestricted access increases the risk of data breaches. 

Update Your Security Apparatus

Cybercriminals are always trying to stay ahead by coming up with newer, clever ways to execute attacks. Using old, outdated security systems puts your start-up at greater risk of attack. Regularly check your cybersecurity systems to make sure that you are running the latest versions and security patches. 

Cultivate a Culture of Security 

Your employees may know that they can only download apps from trusted sources. They probably also know that passwords should be kept secure and updated on an ongoing basis. However, people tend to be negligent when it comes to cybersecurity. Organize regular training sessions on cybersecurity best practices to instill a culture of security in your start-up. 

Set Up Security Measures

Considering the prevalence and severity of cyberattacks, you need to make sure that you are using every tool you have at your disposal. For instance, use two-factor authentication and facial recognition to log in to apps and systems. Also, make sure that you secure all your data with a VPN to reduce the risk of DDoS attacks and data breaches. 

Outsource Cybersecurity Expertise

Speed and agility are key to the success of a start-up, especially during the early stages. Dedicating a lot of time and resources on security can derail progress. Outsourcing the cybersecurity expertise of others in lieu of trying to manage cybersecurity in-house is the better way to handle security.

Keep Up with the Latest Hacking Trends

Everything to do with cybersecurity is constantly evolving. One type of malware or ransomware may be popular today but gone and replaced by something more sinister in a week. Don’t wait until your start-up falls victim to start learning about new threats. 

Cyberattacks expose data that may leave both customers and employees at the risk of identity theft, destroy your start-up’s reputation, and leave your business liable for compliance violations. If recent, well-publicized attacks are anything to go by, data breaches are not only increasing in number but also in severity. Use these tips to protect your start-up from cyberattacks, your clients are relying on you to keep their data and financials safe.