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How startups can tackle cybersecurity

There is no doubt that data security is more important than ever. It’s time for all startups to realize that.

nondescript wifi router on table
Image: Consumer Reports

The current technology-focused market has pushed most startups to rethink their IT goals and strategies, particularly when it comes to cybersecurity. Contrary to what most people believe, cyberattacks are not exclusively targeted towards large corporations with data that could be worth millions. 

In fact, Symantec’s cybersecurity report revealed that over 50 percent of small businesses experienced a cyber attack in 2018. The ugly truth is that startups are at an equal, if not higher, risk of being attacked.

In this context, many SMB’s have realized that they need to do something to keep up. Some are developing customized software to protect themselves, others are reaching out to IT staffing services to augment their teams with the necessary talent to raise their defenses. However, these are not the only things you can do to stay ahead in the game. 

Why Would Cyber Attackers Target Startups?

Before your startup can build a strong defense, it’s important that you understand how attackers think. Even if you don’t have a ton of money or have gathered lots of sensitive data from your customers, there are still many people who will put effort into breaching the digital walls of a growing startup. 

Why? Because it is often easier and the reward is still greater than the cost. There are three main reasons for this:

  • Vulnerability: A lot of startups don’t see cybersecurity as a priority (not you, you are reading this). Because of it, they invest their time in resources in what they see as more critical areas only to push their online safety to the end of the list. Cyber attackers know that this lack of attention leaves most startups vulnerable, making them easy prey in an open field. 
  • Connections: Your startups may not have a lot of data to compromise, but that doesn’t mean hackers don’t see an opportunity in it. Often, small companies have connections to larger corporations and their systems. Sizeable organizations will most likely put cybersecurity as a priority, making regular breaches to their system extremely complicated. That’s why attackers find that accessing them through a less secure startup system can be the perfect way to sneak under the radar. 
  • Blackmail: It’s a terrible thing to go through, but it’s still something that happens regularly. Attackers know that many startups can’t afford the consequences of even a minor cyberattack. This gives the opportunity to demand ransom, which many unprepared startups will have to agree to if they want to keep in business. 

What Can You Do?

  1. Raise Awareness Constantly

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Chances are most of the people working with you aren’t aware of how important cybersecurity actually is. All it takes is one mistake from any team member to compromise your entire system. The risks are permanently out there: phishing schemes, easy-to-guess passwords, unintentional malware downloads, etc. 

People are both your weakest point and your strongest resource. If you want to prevent highly avoidable catastrophes, keep all staff well-informed and up-to-date with your company’s cybersecurity policies and practices. Running an internal communications campaign is a great start. Let everyone know how to identify phishing emails, make sure downloads don’t come from unsafe sources, and encourage them to create strong passwords and keep them safe.

  1. Secure your Wi-Fi network. 

Startups can’t afford to use Wi-Fi networks as any other normal user would. And having a strong password for it won’t cut it anymore. Anyone can access improperly secured networks. This means that people with a bit of tech knowledge and the right motivation can easily collect data from your systems, from exchanged emails and company records to shared files. Ultimately, this can lead to even bigger breaches.

Make sure all firmware and software run at their latest versions, set up public and private access networks, and turn off your router’s Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS). Here’s a good article on a few other ways to secure a business Wi-Fi network. In any case, just a few simple precautions can save you from enormous headaches in the future. 

  1. Create a Password Rotation System

I used to be one of those people that used the same password for everything. One day, I got hacked and most of my accounts went down immediately. No business can afford this situation, especially startups. Think about it like this: the longer your passwords remain unchanged, the easier they become to guess—and the longer hackers will be able to stay inside your system. 

While a password rotation system can be hard to enforce at first, its costs certainly outweigh its benefits. Changing your passwords frequently eliminates the possibility of unauthorized users attempting APT attacks over extended time periods, and nullifies the threat of password guess algorithms that knock on the door until someone opens it. However, be sure to never keep every password listed on a single location, and use different passwords for every system and platform.

Summing up

There is no doubt that data security is more important than ever. It’s time for all startups to realize that. Whether we like it or not, technology dependency is constantly expanding and it is now a basic tool for business survival. 

While small companies may have lower budgets and resources, they can face great cybersecurity challenges and prevent severe consequences with very few efforts. So if you have been treating cybersecurity as a low priority, it’s time to invest in a solid defense.

Have any thoughts on this? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Chris has been blogging since the early days of the internet. He primarily focuses on topics related to tech, business, marketing, and pretty much anything else that revolves around tech. When he's not writing, you can find him noodling around on a guitar or cooking up a mean storm for friends and family.

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