Cybersecurity: How to Prepare and Respond to an Attack

Wondering just how important it is to be proactive about cybersecurity? Cyber risks may seem like a big-company problem, but while large organizations generally handle more data, it’s the smaller ones that are at greatest risk.

Statistics show, for example, that not only are 43% of all cyber attacks aimed at small businesses, over 90% of SMBs have reported attacks that negatively affected their operation.

Here are 7 essential steps your small business can take to stay prepared and responsive to a cyber attack.

1. Know where your vulnerabilities lie

With the dual, growing trend of hybrid working and cloud technology, data vulnerabilities are on the rise.

As a minimum, make sure you implement basic cybersecurity measures like:

  • Firewalls
  • File encryption
  • Antivirus software

For a faster, more focused response in an emergency, you should also track the location of all your sensitive data and know exactly which daily business applications you depend on.

2. Choose a single source of security

According to Cisco, overlapping security measures from discordant vendors account for as much as 50% of the cyber risk companies face.

Rather than take the chance of complicating your infrastructure—and increasing your vulnerabilities, as a result—consider working with one integrated security provider and following all their recommendations for system updates, software patches, and security fixes.

3. Create a risk prevention policy

One of the best ways to prevent a cyber attack from closing your business is by enforcing a company-wide prevention policy that addresses the biggest risks.

Cyber threats at the top of the list include:

  • Malware
  • Phishing
  • Ransomware

So make sure your team is aware of company rules governing things like acceptable use, user authentication, and incident response.

4. Always back everything up

Even in this era of cloud-based solutions, many businesses consider it a best practice to back up ALL vital data and systems on a regular basis.

Data loss may be equally irreversible whether it stems from:

  • A ransomware attack
  • Hard drive failure, human error, or employee theft
  • An unreliable cloud storage service

Always back up your business essentials—whether from cloud to external hard drive, or from internal hard drive to cloud.

5. Document your emergency plan

A basic emergency response plan should highlight steps for identifying the source of a cyber attack, containing the damage, and restoring your systems and data.

Additionally, you may want to pre-assemble a team of experts to manage your response effort that includes:

  • Outside security professionals
  • Internal IT personnel
  • Legal advisors

Setting aside time to prepare can also be a good way to uncover hidden deficiencies (like inadequate security measures or untrained staff) that might make it more difficult to recover from a business disaster.

6. Contact your insurance company

Designed to cover everything from cyberattacks and data breaches to business interruption, if your company has opted for cyber insurance, you’ll want to contact your coverage provider immediately following an attack and follow their direction.

7. Put your response plan to work

Since a cybersecurity breach could impact your company’s reputation, bottom line, and customer standing, one of the first things you should do is isolate the affected systems and network so you can determine the scope of data that may have been damaged or exposed.

It will also be important to document the attack, notify law enforcement, and initiate incident support like:

  • Ransomware negotiations
  • Crisis management
  • Forensic investigation

Staying in the know is critical to making good cybersecurity decisions.

For more information, advice, and guidance tailored specifically to small and medium-sized businesses, be sure to visit Cybersecurity Canada.

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