10 ways small businesses can save on security
When it comes to SMBs, not everything is relative — especially when it comes to security. SMBs run the same kinds of risks and face the same kinds of bad guys that bigger companies do. Unfortunately, SMBs don’t have the same kinds of resources, so they ne
When it comes to SMBs, not everything is relative — especially when it comes to security. SMBs run the same kinds of risks and face the same kinds of bad guys that bigger companies do. Unfortunately, SMBs don’t have the same kinds of resources, so they need to get creative when it comes to stretching their security budget dollars. In this article, we provide some recommendations for getting the most bang for your security buck
hen it comes to technology and company size, many things are relative. The smaller the company, the smaller the need for, say, servers and software licenses. In at least one area, however, all things are not relative: security. Small and midsize businesses face the same kinds of threats and security breaches that their bigger brethren do, but they typically lack the budget and in-house expertize to deal with those problems. And it’s not like SMBs can just throw up their hands and forgo security. Rather, they have to figure out how to do security smart — that is, they have to determine the best and most effective ways to apply the resources they do have.
Stretching security dollars is a tricky proposition because the stakes are so high: Do it right, and no one will likely even know. Do it wrong, and you put your company’s crown jewels — and reputation — on the line. But there are ways that SMBs can approach technology, business practices and training, among other things, to get the most bang for their security buck. It’s not about cutting corners. Rather, it’s about doing security smart.
“You don’t ever want to counsel companies to try and do security as cheaply as possible, because cutting the wrong corners will cost you a lot more than what you saved,” says Chris Doggett, Senior VP of Corporate Sales, Kaspersky Lab. “Especially in small businesses — and some business verticals as well, such as public sector — companies are faced with not having enough budget to do everything they would like to do, and with not having enough people and resources to do everything they would like.”
SMBs are challenged not only by their limited security budgets, but also in their ability to spend that budget. That is, when it comes to products and services, there’s an enormous amount of choice out there. SMBs often don’t have the staff or specific know-how necessary to effectively and efficiently prioritize problems, determine the kinds of products that will solve those problems and then evaluate those products in order to choose the right one for the organization.
“[SMBs are] looking at all of the different products and services they could consume, and it’s daunting,” Doggett says. “They’re looking at a massive array of different options. It’s really easy to see someone who is responsible for IT for their company, for example — someone who’s more of a generalist than a security specialist — get overwhelmed with that array of choices and often make the wrong decision about where to dedicate their budget and resources.”
In this story, we look at the scope of the security issues that SMBs face and 10 ways in which small and midsize companies can tackle these issues using low-cost — and sometimes no-cost — products and practices.
While the items in this top 10 list are not ordered by importance, setting priorities may be the most important thing an SMB can do to save money on security. It’s certainly the first thing a small or midsize business should do. Experts agree that no
company — no matter its size — can hope to be completely secure. All companies, therefore, need to decide what areas and assets are most in need of protection, and to focus resources there. Ask questions such as: What corporate asset would cause the most pain if it were to be stolen or breached? What kind of attack would be the most embarrassing? Which customers are at risk? What risk do company employees pose? Which regulatory compliance mandates is my organization required to meet? All companies will have a long list of things they would like to lock down; the difference between big companies and SMBs, in this regard, is that a larger company may be able to protect more things farther down on its priority list.
It’s important to note that IT managers should not attempt to set these priorities on their own — one man’s crown jewels is another man’s costume jewelry, after all. Get input from people who can speak with authority (and perspective) from different corners of the company.
2 BE REALISTIC
Just as you can’t expect to protect everything, you can’t hope to protect against everything. “If handling payment cards is your business, then there’s a narrowly defined set of controls on which you can focus,” the 2013 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report states. ”If your IP is a hot commodity, you’ve got your work cut out for you, but knowing the attack patterns (and sharing them) can make that work more fruitful. Take steps to better understand your threat landscape and deal with it accordingly.”
Indeed, there are lots of threats and vulnerabilities out there, but not all of them are necessarily threatening to your particular company in your particular industry. “Look at where the most common exploits and vulnerabilities are for your type of business,” says Doggett. “Concentrate on protecting against those — not those theoretical risks that might happen ‘if.’ ” This type of risk assessment can help companies in their overall security prioritization efforts. And, as with determining what’s most valuable to the company, the process of determining what’s most threatening to the company shouldn’t be performed in an IT vacuum.
3 DEVELOP — AND ENFORCE — POLICY
If your company does not have security and/or acceptable-use policy in place, get one into place — stat. Policy can help your organization save money by providing explicit directions on what employees can and cannot do in the workplace with systems and data. Employees who are doing the right thing are a security measure in and of itself.
After you have developed policy, your work is still not done, however. Any kind of security or acceptable-use policy should be considered a living document. This not to say that changes should be made often — and certainly not without notice to the people who have to adhere to the policy — but as technology and culture change, so, too, should your company policy. ( Think about how social media, for example, has changed our ideas of what’s acceptable and what’s not, especially in the areas of marketing and customer support.)
Then comes enforcement and reinforcement. By enforcement we of course mean making sure that employees are made accountable for adhering to policy. By reinforcement we mean making sure that security policy awareness isn’t just a once-and-done thing. After employees initially sign off on policy — whether it’s right after they are hired or when changes to the policy are made — organizations need to make sure that they periodically remind end users of policy and of the consequences of ignoring policy. This can be done through online training or even as part of an employee’s performance evaluation process.
4 EDUCATE END USERS
End user education should be closely connected to the development and enforcement of security policy. In fact, users who know why a particular policy is in place will be much more inclined to adhere to it. Users should be trained on, for example, how to recognize a phishing scheme, how to create and maintain strong passwords across personal and corporate systems, and the ways in