Most businesses these days have a strong online presence and are set up with strong network management systems. With the threat of cyber attacks and breaches being so high, almost every company, small or big, generally has a budget set aside for cyber security and protection softwares. IT Support companies are constantly hired to provide excellent online security and to safeguard the firm’s internal computer and information systems.
When it comes to cyber security, it isn’t enough to simply have an external layer of protection. While firewalls, secure cloud databases, and protected network servers do provide a barrier against attacks, it is equally important to fortify your on-premise systems. Password-protected Wi-Fi, physical access control, regulation of sensitive data on personal devices, as well as periodic software and system updates are equally essential to keep the systems up and running. A robust setup makes for lesser vulnerabilities and thus reduces your chances of being at the receiving end of a cyber security attack.
However, just setting up security protocols isn’t sufficient; one must also perform timely checks on the system to ensure it is functioning at its optimum performance. Lots of IT consultancy firms have a team of experts who are seasoned in risk assessment and security scans. Either monthly, or quarterly, or bi-annually, as required by your firm, they perform various security checks and patch up whatever issues arise.
As every firm is different, its needs and vulnerabilities are also different. As such, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this. Small and medium-sized businesses also suffer from frequent attacks, and according to a survey, 43% of those businesses shut down after a cyber attack. Thus, prevention is always better than mitigation. There are multiple factors which determine how often your business needs a thorough cyber security assessment.
Firstly, what must be taken into account is the Budget. Security assessments and vulnerability scans are no laughing matter. They are extensive, detailed tests and check-ups, and involve the gathering of data and analysing patterns to figure out the weak points or potential entries for attackers. Then, after the weak areas are noted, software patches and network updates need to be performed. Post this, yet another scan is done to crosscheck if the recently performed security measures hold, and have solved the previous issues, thus fortifying your system. Needless to say, such a process takes time and a lot of money. So, if you’re a small business owner with limited funding, it would be prudent to perform such checks bi-annually. Meanwhile, you could train your staff or commission your in-house IT team to take care of basic monthly scans and updates.
Significant System Changes
Once the budget is sorted, the next thing to consider is if a significant system or software changes have been recently implemented by your company. Whenever a new change is executed, say, change of software, or a network server transition, or fixing of broken links and bugs, you must give it a little time to settle in, and then go in for a risk assessment. Like any IT Support company would tell you, risk assessment involves a set of scans, checks, and analysis of the system to check for possible weaknesses. Vulnerability scans are an integral aspect of risk assessment. Often, a certain software system may become obsolete, or you may change your platform vendor, or merge your business with a new entity. Any or all of these are big changes that affect the security of an Information system and might make it susceptible to threats. As such, it is always judicious to perform cybersecurity audits after any significant changes in the company.
Do you need a Pen-Test
A very popular security test method is the Penetration test or the Pen Test. However, it differs from the vulnerability scans mentioned above. Pen tests may be a part of security assessment, but instead of scanning the existing system infrastructure for loopholes, they try to penetrate your system to see if it can guard against a cyber attack. A form of ethical hacking, penetration tests are usually done by IT experts without any malicious intent towards any company. The sole purpose of these tests is to penetrate your company’s security systems and try to hack into it. Through this, any potential entry points or areas of vulnerabilities are exposed. Penetration testers usually work with the on-site teams to be able to perform thorough tests. But bear in mind, Pen tests must only be performed after detailed security assessment programs have been implemented and all fixes are in place. Otherwise, it is a complete waste of time. IT Consultancies generally claim that Penetration tests are not really necessary for small businesses and that effective risk assessment should be enough.
Stringent Compliance Standards
Yet another reason why you may have to perform cybersecurity checks is to meet with the various Compliance standards. As the internet is so unsafe and susceptible to attacks, many international and government standards exist that require compliance with them. These compliances usually involve annual penetrations tests or security assessment reports. One famous compliance standard is the PCI DSS which stands for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. It is mandatory for all eCommerce sites or any site that requires credit or debit card transactions. This compliance standard exists to minimize the risks of online transactions and secure them against breaches, intrusions, and thefts.
Data loss is a type of cyber attack wherein the attacker uploads ransomare to your system and locks you out of your data by encrypting it, then demands a huge sum of money to give you the encryption passkey. Data theft, on the other hand, steals all your sensitive information, including confidential client and staff details, and sells it for profit; bringing down your business, spoiling your reputation, and incurring grave financial losses. Then there’s the DDoS attack, where distributed entities overpopulate your server by sending it multiple requests that make it crash, thus resulting in a denial of service and bringing down your website.
These attacks are serious issues, and every business must prioritise their risks against a matrix of the likelihood of occurrence vs. impact, and address the most crucial risks first.
David Share has held positions as Operations Director and Head of IT in legal and professional firms for more than 10 years. He is a Director and co-owner of Amazing Support, a Microsoft Silver & Cyber Essentials accredited specialist Managed IT Support and Cyber Security Company. David actively helps SME businesses receive better Managed IT Support and Cyber Security Services in the London and Hertfordshire areas.