Cybersecurity: How small and medium-sized businesses can protect themselves

Cybersecurity options for SMBs.

The headlines are full of stories about victims of cybercrime, usually large companies with well-known brand names like Sony, Target or Home Depot. Not covered in those news accounts is the impact of cybercrime on small and medium-sized businesses. According to Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Small Business, 71 percent of cyberattacks occur at businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

“These are family businesses and small manufacturers with fewer resources to combat security threats, which makes them even bigger targets,” he told an April 2015 congressional hearing on protecting small businesses from cyberattacks.

Cybersecurity tools your business can afford

For business owners and managers who want to make sure they have a solid understanding of cybersecurity, the U.S. Small Business Administration provides a 30-minute online training course called Cybersecurity for Small Business. It can be accessed free of charge. Here you will find the basics of cybersecurity including what kind of information you need to protect, common cyber threats and cybersecurity best practices.

Additionally, more resources are available for when you are ready to create your own cybersecurity plan. Some of the nation’s best experts have partnered to create tools for small and medium-sized businesses. The Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Communications Commission have developed the Small Biz Cyber Planner that helps businesses create custom cybersecurity plans. This online resource can also be accessed free of charge.

Building an in-house cybersecurity talent pool

Most small and medium-sized businesses choose to avoid the cost of outside service providers and manage the IT function internally. In fact, approximately 40% of business owners told a congressional survey that they handle IT personally. But as businesses put in place an effective cybersecurity plan, many find they either need to train or add to current IT staff.

For Chicago area companies, affordable talent-building resources can be found at community colleges. Among them is the City Colleges of Chicago’s College to Careers program at Wilbur Wright College. Here they offer both degrees and certificates in areas of information technology that are key to cybersecurity.

But for companies who make the decision to go outside for IT services, there is no shortage of talent in Chicago. Of the 104 businesses that landed the city on the Inc. 500 list of top cities for fast-growing companies, more than one third of those companies were in the IT services sector.

Consider cyber insurance

With cyber criminals increasingly finding their targets among small businesses, owners and managers are looking to cyber insurance to protect them from losses. For many, a rider on a standard business insurance policy may be sufficient. For more information, read our article “Does your business need cyber insurance”.

What to do if your company is a victim of cybercrime

While protecting your business from cyber criminals is critical, so is preparing to respond if you are a victim. The U.S. Justice Department has prepared Best Practices for Victim Response and Reporting of Cyber Incidents to help businesses respond to attacks and to report them.

The bottom line for small and medium-sized businesses is straightforward: the potential losses – both in dollars and reputation – posed by cyberattacks make them a senior management priority. It’s not good enough to be informed about and reactive when dealing with cybercrime. All businesses must take a proactive approach in planning, budgeting, and defending against cyber threats. By taking advantage of affordable resources and staying on top of new offerings from government and not-for-profit organizations, your business can build a solid cyber defense system.