2024 Small Business Cybersecurity Essentials

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Chris Adams

January 12, 2024

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With the start of the new year typically comes many new problems. Don't let cyber threats be the ones to derail your business plans this year. Data protection doesn't end up high on the list of priorities for many small businesses, which is why enterprises of that size face such a disproportionately high number of cyber attacks. Lack of owner expertise in the area and a matching lack of IT personnel are reasons cyber security tends to take a back seat.

Common Threats

Implementing cybersecurity measures without taking stock of your organization's risks is no better than blind guessing. Before we take you through a handful of cybersecurity best practices for your small business in 2024, let's take a look at the most common cyber incidents you can expect for small businesses in 2024.

Ransomware

Ransomware attack

Ransomware has been the fastest-growing cyber attack for several years, and there is no sign that the trend will change. It is so popular with cyber criminals because it's so successful. Installing malicious software onto your device is the first step. Attacks then gain unauthorized access to your network, encrypt all of your sensitive data, and then demand a ransom to release it. The problem is that there's no guarantee your network will be released if the ransom is paid, and the attackers may have already made off with data for their use or potential resale even if they do release your network back to you. They could have also left a backdoor into your system to try the attack down the line again.

Social Engineering Scams

Social engineering attacks like phishing, whaling, vishing, and others harp on the weak link in every single cybersecurity system – humans. Your staff wants to be good, helpful people, and attackers rely on that underlying good nature to con them into revealing information that can be used to perpetrate cyber-attacks leading to data breaches, loss of customer information, and more. Creating a culture of solid cyber security practices begins with the lowest level employee that you or one of your vendors have.

Best Practices

Now, doom and gloom are not all that we have for you today. While it may not be as exciting as deciding between a chatbot or live chat for your website, these cybersecurity best practices for small businesses in 2024 will get you started on the right foot for the new year.

Training

The first step in creating a cyber security culture is to ensure your employees are well-trained. They need to know not just what is required of them, but you should also make it a point to illustrate why those security measures are important and their impact on your overall security posture. You'd be surprised how much more successful your cybersecurity practices are when personnel understand the reasoning behind the procedures.

Password Policies

Passwords

Preventing unauthorized access is priority number one. Establishing a minimum standard for password length and complexity, mandating regular password changes, and requiring multi-factor authentication are all absolute musts for data protection. The loss of customer information like credit card data can be devastating financially, but imagine the repercussions if it became public knowledge that this occurred because the admin account's password was "password." A blunder of that nature would take substantial time, effort, and cost to repair the reputational damage.

Keep Things Updated

Malicious software loves to take advantage of old operating systems and outdated software, especially self-replicating. Installing the latest versions of your applications and other software, as well as patches and program updates, will protect you from known vulnerabilities, limiting your exposure to more complex cyber threats.

Consider Artificial Intelligence

If criminals can leverage ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence to assist their social engineering attacks, why can't you take advantage of it with cybersecurity measures? The ability to learn from its environment allows next-generation cybersecurity software to reduce false alerts, speed up response times, and provide a more effective layer of data protection as a whole.

Incident Response Plans

A robust incident response plan is your final layer of defense when it comes to protecting your sensitive data. Cyber attacks or data breaches are an unfortunate likelihood, and being caught without an incident response plan is a surefire way to give the bad actors a leg up on you. Your incident response plan must be detailed and current, encompassing all aspects of your response to a cyber incident, from detection to containment, media management, and recovery. It should integrate all components of your business and list when vendors should be brought into the fold and their contact information. It's imperative that all of your employees are trained on your incident response plans, and you should run regular tabletop exercises so that they get reps to put them into action.

Stay Abreast of Trends

This is twofold. Owners of small businesses in 2024 know that they have to have their ear to the ground, but this applies to the cyber security world as well. You need to stay current on current cyber threats, emerging cybersecurity measures, and trends.

ReadySetCyber

ReadySetCyber

This brings us to what we think is one of the top cybersecurity best practices for small businesses in 2024. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is rolling out a new initiative in early 2024 called ReadySetCyber. It's based on their Cybersecurity Performance Goals and designed specifically for the non-technically savvy among us.

By answering a set of dynamic questions that change based on your responses to earlier items, the program is able to create an assessment of your current cybersecurity measures and posture. It can then provide you with a list of actionable items, priorities, resources, and even a direct contact method for your regional CISA cybersecurity advisor.

This system is tailor-made with the small business owner in mind. CISA's goal with ReadySetCyber is to be able to level the playing field and allow small and medium-sized business owners to make effective cyber risk reductions. That's something that we can get behind.

Here at E-Marketing Associates, we have branded ourselves on the idea of leveling the playing field for the small business owner. From our small business newsletter to search engine optimization, website design, or even social media strategies, our sole focus is to let small business owners punch above their weight and compete with the big guys. We wouldn't offer a free online business report otherwise! Give us a chance to show you what options we can provide for your unique situation today.

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