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SME Security Checklist: Protect Your Business from Digital Threats

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Businesses have to be more careful than ever when it comes to their security. Data theft, malware, ransomware—there’s no end to the threats. Barely a day goes by without hearing about another data breach, and with huge fines for failing to protect your data, it’s something you need to take very seriously. 

Pierre Tagle, Ph.D.,Head of GRC Consulting ANZ & SEA at Secureworks, says: “Cybercrime and security breaches are definitely a genuine concern to businesses across the world. The recent breach at PageUp has exposed recruitment records of major Australian companies, with hundreds of thousand job seekers reportedly affected. If you think this is an isolated incident, you only have to look at second Notifiable Data Breach Quarterly Statistics Report that was released by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner last 31 July for confirmation that the risk is real – that report indicated 242 breach notifications of which 59% were attributed to malicious or criminal attacks. The number is significantly higher than the previous report in April, which include 65 notifications. Even more alarming is the fact that it is often too hard to say for how long criminals were accessing personal information as often times, organisations that fall victim to cybercriminals are unaware of the incident until weeks or even months after the attack has occurred.

“Any organisation that has something a cyber-criminal would want should be concerned. If it is of value to you or your customers then it is likely it will be of value to someone else.

"Cyber security should not be looked at any differently than home security. Why is it that people invest on locks, alarms and take steps to secure their home? It could be for peace of mind, but most likely, it is to mitigate the risk of someone easily walking into their house and stealing their expensive equipment and other valuables. The same thought process needs to be adapted across the organisation.”

Organizations of all sizes need to take preventative action, so read on for a quick security checklist you can follow to keep your business protected. 

SMEs Must Protect Themselves from the Risks 

SMEs should not think they are less at risk because they are smaller. On the contrary, they are often more tempting targets because hackers know they are more likely to have inadequate security in place.

Firstly, why should you have a security checklist? John Catiblog, Director and Insurance Broker at Indagard Business Insurance advises: "To be able to respond effectively to a cyber incident can reduce further damage to company and third parties, limit downtime and loss of income. Ultimately, it will limit loss of money, time and unwanted effort, as well as reputational damage.

"What should be on it? Current risk profile with details of digital assets and information used, who has access, the security in place, backups, human and IT resources and business continuity plan.

"How to implement? Internally or externally? It should involve both internal and external to give a holistic perspective. Gather internal stakeholders such as director, CFO, IT and general manager to understand risk profile of business and what measures are in place. Involve external stakeholders such as risk management consultant, IT providers and insurance broker to further understand risks and liabilities from an outside perspective, how risks are managed in an event, and other measures that can be put in place.

"Once risks are identified, determine actions to take, who will be responsible and deadlines to put action in place."

The good news is that if you’re taking basic security measures, your business will be less at risk. This is because potential hackers will often move on to other softer targets.

Here are some of the basics you need to put in place to protect your data and ensure hackers don’t cause any problems for your business: 

Use Strong Passwords 

Passwords have their problems, but you can reduce the risks by ensuring you and your team use strong, uncrackable passwords. There is lots of advice on choosing secure passwords. For example, it’s a good idea to use long, random passwords that cannot be guessed. Consider using a password manager like LastPass, and that way everyone can use more secure passwords without having to worry about remembering them. 

Get an SSL Certificate

Patrick Nohe, Content Manager at The SSL Store, says: "As of July, it's mandatory that all websites install an SSL certificate, but as a business, you should have done that a long time ago. Good connection security is just a part of a larger holistic approach, but it can't be overlooked. You need to install an SSL certificate and migrate to HTTPS immediately if you haven't already. 

"Beyond just installing SSL, you'll need to make sure you have your servers configured to only support TLS 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3. Previous versions of the TLS and SSL protocols are vulnerable."

Carry Out a Risk Assessment 

You need to know what your current risk level is. You might have a good idea already, but it’s good to know exactly what risks you face so you can take action. Get a full audit from a security firm and carry out penetration testing to find out what action you need to take. 

Patch Your Systems 

Always make sure you upgrade to the latest versions of software you run on your systems. Download all the updates and security patches, otherwise hackers could take advantage of vulnerabilities to infect your systems with malware. 

Educate Your Employees 

Humans are often the weakest link, so make sure they know about their security responsibilities. Arrange training on issues such as how to deal with email attachments, and make sure they do not have sensitive business data on their personal devices. 

Invest in Antivirus Software 

Make sure you have high-quality Antivirus software in place and use a firewall. Keep it updated, and this will help to reduce the risks significantly. 

Create Backups

Hackers could take over your data or encrypt your files, your property could be affected by a storm or a fire—anything could go wrong. Backing up will ensure your data is safe. Consider backing up in the cloud so you can access it anywhere.

Protect Your Business from Threats

The threats posed by malicious hackers are real. Ransomware, malware, and data theft can cause significant problems for your business, so make sure you are prepared.

One final step you should take is to carry out a regular audit. Go over your security every six months, and look for any potential problems that need to be addressed. Also, consider speaking to a security specialist to find out what else you can do to make sure your data stays safe.

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