Developing an Effective Cyber Strategy for Your Online Business

The inevitable threat of cyberattacks has continually compromised the integrity of internet-connected data, programs, devices, networks, and systems. This uncertainty in the internet space has pushed all organizations that care about their sensitive information, intellectual property, and financial data to pause and think about cybersecurity. It is worth noting that a single successful cyberattack can ruin your business’ reputation and suddenly increase your financial burden. 

Remember that an effective cyber strategy isn’t just about expanding the infrastructure or channeling more funds; instead, it ought to be focused on building dynamic and effective security measures. Notably, clearly defined strategies are critical because they simplify the execution process throughout the organization. 

Core Areas of Cybersecurity Strategies

© Mossé Cyber Security Institute

A good cybersecurity strategy should take into account the following scopes:

  1. Resources

The most significant determinant in laying out an effective cyber strategy is resources. Therefore, you must first understand the resources available to you and work on the proper utilization of those resources. Remember that this includes investments in human resources, finances, and equipment. 

You need to find out the number of both full-time and part-time employees, their weaknesses, and their capabilities. Remember to recognize the employees that are key and essential to the cybersecurity of your systems. For instance, the patching team and the desktop and server administrators are instrumental in laying an effective cyber strategy. 

Additionally, analyzing the annual budget to see the figures in the capital and operating expenditures can give a clear picture of the firm’s resources. This will help in determining how much your business can invest in cyber protection.

  1. Business Drivers

Due to limited resources, companies are forced to allocate varying levels of cyber protection to different digital assets. To strategically decide on proper resource allocation, one must first understand the things that drive the business. For instance, find out the most critical success facilitators, the business line that produces the highest revenue, and the digital assets in these areas. 

Remember that a social engineer will research on this aspect of your business before launching a targeted attack, where they can reap millions of dollars. Therefore, allocating higher levels of protection to the digital assets that matter the most is critical in protecting your businesses from potential cyber-attacks. 

  1. Data

One of the most essential assets in a business is data. Notably, if you lose data, you can’t send personalized emails to your customers anymore, neither can you prepare accounting reports and make timely payments, nor risk a lawsuit on breach of confidentiality. Scammers know this too well, and they will apply all manner of social engineering tactics to gain access to your valuable business data. Thereafter, they may either encrypt it for ransom or steal it for malicious use.

Note that cyber-attackers often target the data from the lines of business that give you higher revenues. Thus, an effective cyber strategy should involve deciding on the format and volume of the information, where the data should be located, and the steward that will be in charge. As challenging as it may be, this decision will lay out a clear picture of data processing and storage in the organization.

  1. Controls

You can only minimize cybersecurity risks if you fully understand the status of the measures put in place. Some of the risks that need to be analyzed include the availability, integrity, and confidentiality of the digital assets in the organization. Additionally, the security measure to be deployed should be vetted to find out if its design and operations will be effective and adequate. 

A superior security control should reduce the risk to an acceptable level. Remember that conducting a phishing test can tell you if the residual risk is still high. For example, a measure that upholds confidentiality will require a second authentication factor before gaining access to sensitive data. 

  1. Threats

Cyberthreats tend to evolve every day since social engineers keep coming up with craftier ways of scamming their victims. This has made it challenging for businesses to identify the threats and come up with effective cyber strategies. However, understanding their procedures, techniques, tactics, motivations, and the threat can help you in remaining aware of the possibilities.

Types of Cyber Threats

© ENISA – European Union
  1. Attacks on integrity

Here, the cyber-attackers seek access todestroy, damage, or corruptyour business information and systems. An attack on integrity can be anything from subtle to extreme. Script kiddies will probably fiddle a little bit or create typos here and there. However, a nation-state attacker will often carry out a slash and burn campaign against your business. 

  1. Attacks on confidentiality

These cyber-attackers carry out their malicious activities to acquire personal information and use it for economic, military, or political gain. After stealing or copying sensitive data, the nation-state spies will use it to commit crimes like stealing bitcoin wallets, identity theft, and credit card fraud. 

  1. Attacks on availability

Cyber-attackers can gain unauthorized access to a company’s systems and deny the owners access to their data. In a denial-of-service attack, the network resource becomes unavailable because it is flooded with requests. Ransomware, on the other hand, involve scammers encrypting data and demanding a ransom before decrypting it. 

© Business Advice

Ways to Develop an Effective Cyber Strategy

  1. Build awareness and proactive mindset in the staff

Cybersecurity requires a combined effort from all the employees, together with the management. Unlimited support and frequent training on cybersecurity will equip everyone in the organization with knowledge and skills on how to detect a scam. Note that the goal is to educate the staff on security measures that the business has put in place and cultivate in them a proactive mindset. 

Consider reducing the time and effort put in by employees on routine aspects of cybersecurity. For instance, you can automate day-to-day compliance and security check activities to make it easier for them. 

  1. Establish security policies and principles for your employees

All employees need to be educated on the threats they face on the online platform and their responsibility in keeping the business systems secure. They should be aware of fraudulent emails and have a medium for reporting suspicious activities. An effective cybersecurity strategy should incorporate rules of behavior that will guide employees on how to protect and handle vital data and customer information. 

It should also lay out fundamental security policies and practices like requiring strong security passwords that are hard to crack. Additionally, appropriate internet use guidelines should be in place; stating the penalties for violating the cybersecurity policies of the company.

It is also necessary to establish a robust social media policy to guide your staff’s activities on those platforms. This will set a standard on the kind of information they can share online on the company and personal social media pages. Notably, a cyber-attacker can use information posted online to build a profile and craft a convincing scam for your employees. 

  1. Take an end-to-end approach

Remember that cyber-attackers look for small gaps in your network on which to capitalize. Therefore, it is crucial to integrate an end-to-end approach to cybersecurity, where all teams work together. If all the fault lines and loopholes have been sealed, the threat and risk level will also reduce significantly. 

  1. Create a feedback system 

The business should open feedback channels where any stakeholder can pinpoint a red flag in the cyber strategy. Since you can remediate the shortcomings as soon as they crop up, your security measures will remain relevant and effective at all times. Additionally, a monitoring system that monitors internal threats should be incorporated into the strategy to detect unauthorized activities from within the organization.

  1. Regular testing exercises

Regularly testing your cybersecurity program can help identify residual attack vectors that hadn’t been addressed and gaps that are still present. Thereafter, you can come up with effective remedial measures to keep your digital assets safe. 

  1. Protect your networks, computers, and information

The most efficient way to defend your business against malware and viruses is to have the latest OS, browser, and security software. As soon as vital software updates are available, don’t forget to install them. Note that security updates contain certain upgrades that have been developed based on recent cyberattacks. Ensure that anti-spam filters, anti-spyware, and anti-virus are present in all computers and set them up for automatic updates. 

  1. Provide firewall security 

With a firewall in place, it will be difficult for strangers to access any data in your private network. Note that there is free firewall software online, but make sure that you enable the firewall in the operating system. And if you or your employees work from home, make sure that you/they protect the data in the system with a firewall.

  1. Create a mobile device action plan 

Does your phone or those of your employees access the corporate network or hold confidential information? If so, there’s a risk of scammers stealing sensitive information and using it to the disadvantage of your business. Therefore, make it a requirement for such phones to have security apps installed, have data encrypted, and have passwords to protect the devices. Remember that there’s the possibility of employees losing their phones; thus, set a reporting procedure for lost or stolen devices. 

  1. Back up and encrypt essential business data

Accounts payable/receivable files, human resource files, financial files, databases, electronic spreadsheets, and word processing documents are some of the critical data in any business. If your data is backed up, it will be easier to recover it in the event of a cyberattack. Backing up data is fairlystraightforward and cost-effective.  

Remember that multiple back-up methods are available to secure your important files effectively. Consider backing up these data on the cloud and in a portable storage device daily. You can also incorporate end-of-week, quarterly, and yearly server back-ups for your system. Apart from your cloud back up, ensure that you keep a copy of the information in a portable external device in a separate location; offsite. Also, don’t forget to form a regular habit of testing and checking if you can retrieve data from the external source.

An effective cybersecurity strategy not only prevents access to sensitive information, but it also renders the data useless if it ends up with the wrong people. The latter can be achieved through encryption, which is the most efficient solution to securing your business data, employee information, and customer information. Remember that most operating systems come with full-disk encryption software that encrypts data whenever the device is at rest. You simply need to activate and update it in all the computers in your organization. 

  1. Create user accounts for each employee

If you want to prevent unauthorized access to the company’s computers effectively, consider creating a separate user account for each of the employees. Remember that the accounts should require strong user passwords and automatically locks itself when left unattended for a while. Don’t forget to restrict administrative privileges to key personnel and trusted IT staff. 

  1. Secure your Wi-Fi networks 

Do you have Wi-Fi in your business premises? It is crucial to make it hidden, encrypted, and secure. Wi-Fi networks usually come with a Service Set Identifier (SSID) that allows you to hide your network name by setting it up at the wireless access point or router. Additionally, access to the router needs to be password protected. 

  1. Employ best practices on payment cards

Your business needs to use the most validated and trusted anti-fraud services and tools for their payments. You can work with your processor or your bank and agree on additional security obligations to be added to your accounts.  Also, note that the computer used to process payments should not be used to surf the internet. Additionally, the payment systems should be isolated from other, less secure programs. 

  1. Limit employee authority and access to data and information 

No employee should have access to all the data systems in the organization. Instead, they should only access the systems they need to do their daily tasks. Also, the system will be safer if no employee can install any software without permission. 

  1. Build policies for passwords and authentication

Make it a policy for employees to change their passwords every three months and require them to use unique and strong passwords. Default passwords like ‘password’ or ‘123456’ are too obvious and can make it easy for any criminal to guess and gain unauthorized access. The digital security of your information is dependent on strong passwords. 

Multi-factor authentication is the best because any user needs more than just a password to access the system; for instance, they will need to provide additional information. Also, ask the financial institutions you work with and other vendors handling sensitive information to set up multi-factor authentication for your accounts. 

  1. Use spam filters

With spam filters, you can reduce the number of phishing emails that get to your email. This reduces the chances of an employee clicking on it by mistake and introducing the system to malware. Notably, you can set the spam filter on a high level to improve its efficiency. But you may have to check the spam folder from time to time, to ensure that no important email has been directed there by accident. 

  1. Consider cyber liability insurance

Did you know that even the most security-conscious organization is still at risk of a cyberattack? This is because cyber-attackers are continually striving to find more advanced ways of breaking security defenses put in place. As much as a cyber liability insurance cover cannot protect your business from a cyberattack, it can help you recover from the impact. It can cover the costs of replacing lost laptops, strengthening the security procedures, or repairing the databases. 

According to a U.S.study, the global average cost incurred during a data breach event in 2017 was $3.6 million. But investing in cybersecurity insurance can help minimize these figures significantly. Note that the financial impact of a cyberattack and your risk of attack are used to determine the best cyber liability insurance for your business.

  1. Secure your hardware

Physically attaching computers to desks is an effective way of securing your hardware. This makes it difficult for a social engineer to steal your digital equipment and the sensitive data stored in them. But for tablets, phones, and laptops, consider installing a “find my device” software. If they are stolen, it will be easier for authorities to locate the devices.

An effective cyber strategy can give you financial security and peace of mind knowing that all sensitive information and systems used in the business are secure. This can be achieved through a proper understanding of the critical factors in the business and implementing the right policies. 

Notably, the sectors that generate higher revenues in the company ought to receive higher levels of cybersecurity compared to the rest. The strategy should include using up-to-date anti-malware software, firewalls, data back-up, and data encryption. Additionally, on-going education on cybersecurity is critical in building an organizational culture where the staff actively takes part in protecting the system against malware.

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