Small businesses are rarely equipped to handle the aftereffects of being hacked. In fact, nearly 60% of them shut down within six months of falling victim to a cyberattack.
According to the Data Breach Investigations Report, 43% of cyberattacks targeted small businesses. Unlike larger organizations, they often do not have the resources to deal with such attacks..
The best way to protect your business is to prevent an attack altogether. By having a strong cybersecurity posture, your business will be able to fend off hackers and avoid online security risks.
In this article, we explain what cybersecurity posture is, look at why it’s important to have a strong security posture, find out how you can perform a security posture assessment, and consider additional strategies you can use to protect your business.
Table of contents
What Is Cybersecurity Posture?
Cybersecurity posture, or security posture, reflects your business's current capacity to fend off online threats, such as whaling and spear phishing. These threats may lead to huge financial losses.
Your business’s cybersecurity posture is the setup that protects your business’s online presence. This may include your users, hardware, software, IT infrastructure, IoT devices, endpoints, and databases containing personal information.
If any of these are corrupted, your business may suffer long-term consequences, including lawsuits and damage to your organization’s reputation.
Having a strong security posture involves deploying the right security software, such as firewalls and anti-malware software. It also involves setting up procedures that will prevent or address security threats, such as security policies and employee cybersecurity training.
Cybersecurity Risk Vs. Cybersecurity Posture
Cybersecurity posture is a qualitative assessment of a business’s ability to prevent and repel cyberattacks.
Simply put, the more attack vectors an organization covers, the better its posture. Examples of attack vectors include:
- Malware: A type of malicious software like a virus that can infect your business systems and spread through the network.
- Distributed denial of service (DDoS): When an attacker overwhelms a website or network with traffic in order to render it unavailable to users.
- Ransomware: A type of malware designed to encrypt your business data, which will only be released in return for a ransom.
- Social engineering: An attack that involves psychological manipulations to trick people into sharing sensitive information.
- Zero-day exploits: Vulnerabilities in systems and software which attackers use to gain access to your business network or system.
Effective cybersecurity posture means a business will be able to defend itself against these attacks and prevent them from happening in the first place.
For example, if you don’t have security protocols and your employees haven’t been trained on how to avoid phishing attacks, you may be vulnerable to hackers. This increases the risk you are at and degrades your security posture.
However, let’s say that you then hire a security company to set up security protocols for your organization, as well as come in and train your employees on how to avoid a phishing attack. This will then reduce your risk of security issues and improve your cybersecurity posture.
The Benefits of a Strong Security Posture
As the above suggests, the strength of your security posture improves with the steps you take to protect your organization.
Some businesses simply activate the built-in security software that they find on their computers, while others do their research and deploy top-range security software for their organization.
What a good security posture looks like for your company depends on its size, your budget, and the kind of business you have.
Your security posture vs. your priorities
The protocols you have in place to counteract different attack vectors will depend on what your security priorities are within your business.
For example, a small software business that collects sensitive data from its customers may prioritize securing this data through encryption so that it cannot be intercepted by an attacker during transmission.
In contrast, a larger organization with a large number of branches and remote employees will focus on proactive security and strict policies and procedures to reduce risk.
If, however, there are blind spots in your security systems, your organization may be vulnerable to cybercrime.
This is particularly true for small businesses, which are often targeted by malware, ransomware, and some types of brute-force cyberattacks. This often results in the business closing down because they don’t have the resources to handle the financial and reputational consequences.
You should consider two kinds of risks: external and internal.
This is when your business is targeted by an outside party who doesn’t have official access to your site, software, or network. Instead, they use a range of tactics to secretly gain access to your systems.
For example, they could use malicious advertising, or malvertising. This is where hackers implant dangerous code into online ads in the hope that you or your employees will click on it.
It may take you months to realize that your security has been compromised and, in the meantime, hackers could have stolen your data and tried to trick you into losing funds.
External risks are the most common ones encountered and you need to make sure you build walls around your business to keep criminals out.
You can, for example, do this by performing regular penetration testing. This is when you simulate a cyberattack on your devices and networks to determine whether they will be able to handle a real attack.
Besides pen testing, other cybersecurity best practices to protect your business include:
- Deploying a firewall to monitor your incoming and outgoing network traffic based on security rules.
- Using a business virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt all your data as it travels from a device to a network.
- Ensuring you always have the latest security updates installed for your software and hardware as these updates often include security patches for vulnerabilities.
- Implementing IP whitelisting to ensure only authorized users can access your business network.
Internal risks, also known as insider threats, lie within your walls. This is when an internal party, such as an employee, opens the door for a criminal to come in.
The majority of these incidents happen by accident. Sometimes employees are simply negligent or they are trying to save time and effort.
For example, an employee may use the same password for all of their accounts and, following a data breach, hackers may now as a result gain easy access to your entire business network.
Both internal and external threats can work together to create data breaches. For example, a con artist may manipulate you into clicking on malicious links or trick you into sharing sensitive information.
However, the con could have been avoided if the internal risk was reduced. This is usually done by educating employees and business leaders about security procedures and explaining to them how data breaches can harm their organization.
Understand Your Cybersecurity Risk - Your Security Posture Assessment
Before you can improve your cybersecurity posture, you need to determine the vulnerabilities that you currently face. Get started with these steps:
1. Take inventory of your assets
You need to have a thorough understanding of your company’s assets before you can secure them—especially those that access the Internet.
Start by listing all your business’s assets, such as its hardware, software, and networks. This list should be highly detailed so that you can identify every risk that’s associated with each asset.
Each asset needs to be assessed based on its sensitivity to cyberattacks, which will impact how much protection they require.
Next, take stock of any other systems or third-party vendors that have access to your business or can be used to gain sensitive information from your organization.
How these systems are accessed is also important to consider. For example, providing a vendor access to your internal systems may be risky, but you get full control over their access privileges and monitor their activity.
On the other hand, sharing a third-party workspace with the vendor offloads part of the security requirements on the workspace provider, but you have little to no control over how your data is handled at the provider’s end.
Remember to consider both internal and external potential risks.
This is the first step in your security posture assessment, which will allow you to repel cybersecurity threats and improve your security posture.
2. Determine weak points
Once you have a clear understanding of your company’s assets, you will be able to assess their integrity and locate areas that may compromise your security.
Some of the business assets at risk for cyberattacks may include:
- Data: Sensitive information and customer details.
- On-site data repositories: A physical location where company data is stored.
- Cloud systems: Cloud computing technologies where private information is kept.
- SaaS applications: Software and programs that help your business to operate.
- Remote access control and access management: These are systems that allow authorized users to remotely access your business network.
- Users and their passwords: User login credentials and the passwords they use to access your business network.
A helpful technique is to create a spreadsheet where you can add columns outlining the threats to each asset, the impact it will have on your business, the likelihood of it happening, and the loss it will result in.
Let’s use an example to illustrate this. If your business relies on a website to advertise your services, then this would be considered another one of your assets. The columns mentioned above may contain the following information:
3. Address problematic areas
After taking stock of your assets and determining their weak points, you can find solutions that will protect your business in the long run.
If we return to the above example, you can take action by using HTTPS encryption to secure communication between the website and your users. HTTPS encrypts the data between the website and its users, which can prevent attackers from intercepting sensitive information.
After such an assessment, your company’s security posture will improve and you will be more confident that security attacks will be kept at bay.
If you don’t have the know-how or resources to do a risk assessment yourself, you can reach out to a security status specialist, such as GoodAccess, for help. We offer several security features that protect small businesses and we can walk you through each of them.
5 Strategies to Improve Your Cybersecurity Posture
After doing your initial security status assessment and implementing solutions, your cybersecurity posture will slowly improve. However, you shouldn’t stop there. Keep the momentum going with the following strategies:
1. Regularly assess your security controls
It’s important to regularly check your cybersecurity to prevent new vulnerabilities from developing. You should repeat the abovementioned three-step process every quarter. This continuous monitoring won’t be as time-consuming the second or third time around.
You can find automated cybersecurity tools like anti-virus software and intrusion detection systems (IDS), which monitor your traffic for signs of potential threats.
If you find that you do not have the expertise or resources to carry out your own assessment, you can outsource this to a cybersecurity professional who can conduct penetration testing, for example.
2. Educate employees on cybersecurity
Your business may be one click away from being a victim of cybercrime. All it takes is a single employee to click on a seemingly harmless link, and your business assets may be lost—possibly forever.
There are online courses that you can enroll your employees in, as well as local security professionals who may be willing to do a workshop with them.
Once the training is done, you need to regularly test employees to make sure they apply what they’ve learned. You can do this by sending out fake phishing emails and seeing which of them takes the bait. You can even turn it into a game and offer prizes.
3. Create an incident management plan
Despite your best efforts, your business may still become a victim of cybercrime. If this happens, you need to be prepared and have a plan of action.
For every associated risk, outline a cybersecurity strategy that your team has to follow so that you can minimize damage and quickly return to normal business operations.
Create a security team and work with them to create an actionable checklist and security policies to go through as soon as a security threat arises. Make sure that your security personnel have administrative access privileges so that they can effectively protect sensitive corporate data.
Ask your employees to practice different response plans in the same way they would a fire drill. This will help ensure they’re prepared.
4. Ensure company-wide communication
It is important that all your employees are aware if there are any current suspected threats. This can ensure that nobody falls victim to attacks like phishing and social engineering.
Your employees should be trained to report any suspicious activities to your IT administrator who will then inform the rest of the company regarding the threat and what to look out for.
5. Set up metrics to determine your security posture
These metrics are essentially the key performance indicators (KPIs) for your organization’s cybersecurity posture. You need to outline where you currently stand so that you can monitor your progress and establish whether your organization’s security posture is improving.
You should, for example, take note of:
- Detected intrusion attempts
- Vulnerability patch response times.
- Incident rates.
- The severity level of incidents.
- Asset coverage.
- Backup frequency.
- Cost per incident.
Build Your Organization’s Security Posture with GoodAccess
Your security posture is how you will protect your business network and your assets against potential cyber threats.
Your business may encounter internal and external threats, and a strong security posture will help protect it from harm.
It’s important to do regular risk assessments. You can also take several actions to further improve your organization’s security posture, such as educating employees on security risks and preparing an incident response plan to tackle threats head-on.
You can approach GoodAccess to improve your security posture. We abide by cybersecurity best practices and offer security features, like secure remote access, access control, or online threat detection, that you can test—for free–with our 14-day trial. It might make all the difference to your organization’s security posture and prevent future attacks.