While you’re likely aware of the dangers of an unprotected IT system, it’s easy to think that a cyberattack or data theft won’t ever happen to you. But that level of complacency puts businesses at increased risk of falling victim to criminal activity, which could be devastating from both a financial and reputation perspective.
Whether you work alone, in a startup or as part of a large organization, it’s essential to stay on top of your cybersecurity game and protect any areas of your business that are especially vulnerable to an attack.
Here are five steps to reduce your risk of becoming complacent in your cybersecurity efforts.
1. Stay educated
Ensure that every team member is knowledgeable about significant threats and basic trends in cybersecurity. You can achieve this in many ways, such as through an accredited course on cybersecurity for IT systems staff, and by encouraging all employees to attend credible e-learning courses. You might integrate current articles and news updates in a weekly newsletter for your team. Your team can utilize many online resources to stay educated on the risks. Knowledge is power; that’s never been more true than when it comes to cybersecurity—the more you know, the better protected you are.
2. Be open to change
A “we’ve always done it this way” culture can put your business behind by favoring legacy software, old processes and outdated solutions. Aversion to change is something that many companies fall foul of, and it tends to impede decision-making that can lead your business down the wrong path. Avoid it at all costs.
Longstanding attachments to software, vendors or processes could put your systems and networks at greater risk. Building strong security habits requires constant innovation and assessment, plus active participation from all team members, so be prepared to iterate in order to stay protected. Regularly ask yourself if the software and hardware you’re using are the best choices for your organization, if your IT architecture design is conducive to optimal performance, and if comfortable relationships with certain vendors are clouding your judgment on what delivers the best protection.
3. Develop a comprehensive incident response plan
Regardless of how active a role you play in cybersecurity, there’s always a risk that you could fall victim to an attack. A comprehensive incident response plan is crucial. Leading cybersecurity specialists define incident response as the process of “responding to, managing, and mitigating cyber security incidents. The purpose of incident response is to limit the damage and disruption of cyber-attacks and, where necessary, restore operations as quickly as possible.” Your incident response plan should prepare you to diagnose an issue, respond, recover from the attack, and learn from the experience to be better prepared next time.
To diagnose an attack in real-time, enact systems and processes to gather information quickly, assess severity, and know how to respond promptly and appropriately. Who reported the issue? When did it occur? What systems are affected? Armed with these details, you can respond and manage the incident more effectively. The recovery stage may involve restoring affected systems and taking any actions addressing legal or PR concerns. And don’t neglect the opportunity to learn what security steps you can implement to prevent a recurrence.
4. Keep practicing and be vigilant
If you can prevent even a single employee from clicking on a nefarious link or opening a malicious email, your efforts are worthwhile. Never stop putting your employees to the test. Run practice tests to keep staff on their toes and ensure that everyone is constantly staying vigilant. Your efforts must extend to remote and hybrid staff, external contractors, freelancers and flexible workers. Being on guard is one of the most effective ways to avoid complacency and minimizes the risk of a successful attack.
Positive feedback also helps. Reward or praise staff when they report a suspicious link or notice activity that could pose a threat. It reinforces that everyone plays a role in protecting the business and keeps the team motivated to stay alert.
5. Remain agile
Agility is critical when it comes to preventing criminal activity in your business. Just as you implement physical security measures on your premises, you must be sure to stay protected with the proper digital defenses too.
Through constant education, learning from experiences and making sure you’re not getting stuck in a process rut, you can stay one step ahead of cybercriminal activity.
Contributed by Annie Button, an established business writer based in the UK who focuses on business growth and development, branding, digital marketing and HR trends to help business thrive.