Why 2020 could be a bad cybersecurity year for SME’s

SME’s are a prime target for cybercrime.

They have reduced expertise, minimal money, and an attitude, we are too small to be a target, that leaves them wide open to a cyber event.

Our industry, the people who know and think we understand the bad guys have been pushing for an attitude change for the last 10 years. In a large number of ways, we have failed, especially in the SME space.

In some, we have failed significantly.

By the time we get called in, after a cyber event, it is way too late.

To late to recover, too late to respond and definitely too late, in a number of organisations, to get back to business as normal.

Most SMEs, after a cyber event and especially after a ransomware attack, have but 3 choices,

  • pay the ransom,
  • recover from backup and hope you have a decent backup (a decent, tested backup is vital, no matter the situation)
  • or go out of business.

Here are 3 cybersecurity strategies that every SME should implement to be more secure and avoid that devastating cyber event.

Training users

Increased awareness of business security in a workplace is vital in today’s business world.

Not many businesses know where to go to get that training.

Training needs to be done as an ongoing process.

Once or twice a year is inadequate. But training and education has to be easy, bite-size pieces, easily digested, easily implemented and easily followed.

In addition to ongoing training, you also need to incorporate business security into your onboarding process to instill the required cultural elements into new people on staff.

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Risk management and gap analysis

SME’s have a limited understanding of the new risks delivered to the business via our digital components.

The game has changed significantly in the last 10 years and we, as small and medium businesses, are constantly playing catch-up.

We are significantly hampered and handicapped by the impact and scale of our digital usage.

It is everywhere, used in every component and used all of the time.

To understand the risks without understanding the systems you need some help.

Here is some help for you.
Https://CareMIT.scoreapp.com

With the report, you can now implement a gap analysis and work out what you need to do to increase security around your organisation.

The report also ties in well with:

Implemented a framework

If you are looking for a better way to manage security within your Organisation, you need to look no further than a framework.

A framework is a documented system that allows an organisation to follow the bouncing ball and tighten up the security in a regimented way.

The more the components of the framework are implemented the more secure and mature the organisation.

Frameworks are easy to follow and implement and the one I recommend is the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) cybersecurity framework.
https://www.nist.gov/cyberframework

Answer the 98 questions, honestly, and you now have a road map to implement cybersecurity in a significant way.

The NIST cybersecurity framework also gives you a number.

Between 0 – 4, it can be used as a comparison between businesses, supply chain components, and government departments so you can do business with like-minded organisations.

What can SME’s do?

It is not too late to implement any of these strategies. The bad guys are getting more and more clever, so time is running out.

They are targeting everyone who is connected to the digital world, the internet, with more sophisticated systems, a number of them are now fully automated.

Some of those automated systems have minimal human involvement after the initial set up.

From initial social engineering attack, all the way through to payment of ransom everything is automated and driven by machine learning.

Every SME should be implementing a training and education process, doing a risk and gap analysis and implementing a cybersecurity and business security framework.

With that everything else will follow.

The business will be more stable, the culture of the organisation will change and getting back to business as normal after an attack can be significantly easier.

The impact of a cyber event for an organisation implementing these 3 components or not is significant.

If you haven’t implemented these 3 strategies in the last 12 months, 2 years or 5 years then 2020 is going to be a bad year.

But it’s not too late.

Encryption and Backups are your fall back position

When it comes to business security there are 2 systems that will save you after the impact of a cyber event.   The first is a good backup and the second in encryption.

Neither of them is as foolproof as business owners think.

Understanding the importance of backups.

The whole point of a comprehensive back up regime is to be able to get back to business as normal as fast as possible.

A good backup will help you achieve that.   So will a good disaster recovery plan, a decent business continuity plan as well as building in as much resilience as possible into the organisation itself.

Like any plan or solution it has to be tested, it has to be stressed and more importantly, everyone in the organisation needs to know what to do, where information is and how to implement those plans.

Failing to test or improve from the experiences of real-time tests and war-games is usually where an organisation fails.

You cannot improve a system unless it is tested regularly.   Once tested you can rectify issues discovered during the testing.

You DO NOT want to have the cyber event as the first test of system failure and recovery.

What to do with backups.

When it comes to a backup it needs the following items in place.

  • A copy of all critical and non-critical data stored in another location.
  • A copy of that information only connected to the system when it is doing a backup
  • A process that has no human requirements except to check it has happened and fixing it when it fails (immediately)
  • A system that is regularly tested and improved.  In business everything changes, the systems and data need to be tested but the people involved as well.

Protecting your encryption keys

The second component is encryption.   Seen by many as the silver bullet of data security, it is just another deterrent.   If your data is stolen then encryption will ensure that the data is unreadable, unless the bad guys have the keys.

The most important component of encryption is the security of those keys, if the keys are stolen or get out the encryption is useless.

So protecting those keys is more important than protecting the data the keys are securing.

When it comes to SME’s, not for profit organisations and charities we often find the security keys, especially for securing websites, just lying around a system.   Usually, they are saved in a folder called certificates with no added security around those files.

Protecting your encryption

There are many ways of using encryption and all of them cannot be discussed here so here are a few ideas.

  • Make sure your encryption key is not hardcoded into the applications using it.
  • Make sure your encryption key is your property and not owned by a third party.
  • The encryption keys should never be stored on or in the same system using them.
  • Make sure there is an audit trail in their use.
  • Only use one administrative account to encrypt data, record that account and the password in an out of band location, only used for that specific role.
  • Your keys can be encrypted!
  • Cryptographic keys change regularly, create a policy, process and procedure around that requirement.
  • Back them up.   The keys can be stored on an encrypted thumb drive and stored in a secure location. IE – a safe (part of the policy?)

To stop a cyber event instead of just recovering from one you also need to implement other components.   To survive the onslaught of cybercrime, follow and implement the best practices documented all over the internet.

A plan B is important, just like insurance is important.   When everything else fails your recovery is critical.

The CareMIT Security Methodology will help you secure your systems, people and data.