The Key Elements of a Highly Effective Cybersecurity Policy

The Key Elements of a Highly Effective Cybersecurity Policy

You may be familiar with the highly publicized cyberattacks that have been in the news, most of the victims being major corporations. You may also assume that your business doesn’t need a solid cybersecurity policy. After all, you’re not at risk based on your size and the fact that your business doesn’t represent anything of value to hackers.

We’re here to tell you that assumption is largely incorrect.

Why would your small business be targeted over a seemingly more valuable, larger organization? Interestingly, small businesses are the perfect middle ground between the high security of larger enterprises and the limited asset value of the average individual consumer.

Plus, small businesses are notorious for maintaining ineffective or outdated cybersecurity policies and represent relatively easy targets. This all ties back to small businesses inaccurately assuming that they are unlikely targets for these attacks, which works in the favor of cybercriminals.

In fact, according to Towergate Insurance, 82% of small businesses claim they aren’t targets for these attacks due to the fact that they “don’t have anything valuable to steal.” Of the businesses that do have a cybersecurity policy in place, many of them don’t actively optimize it to cover gaps created by the evolution of cybercrime.

That’s exactly why we’re here today.

We want to help you understand the threats facing your small business and the elements of a highly effective small business cybersecurity policy that will help you protect against them.

By the time you’re finished with this article you’ll be far better prepared to create a cybersecurity policy that proactively works to prevent the significant harm that could come to your business in the event of such an attack.

Common Types of Cybersecurity Threats

Nearly every cyberattack is executed with the intent to steal valuable data that can later be exploited illegally. That data could be personal credentials that could be used to impersonate an individual online, credit card information, or any number of sensitive insights about your business or your customers.

Here’s a list of some of the most common threats that are important to understand:

  • Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) - APTs are long-term attacks that invade your network over multiple phases in order to avoid being detected.
  • Distributed Denial of Service - DDoS attacks are those that shut down a businesses website or network by intentionally overloading a server with requests.
  • Password Attacks - These include: brute force attacks, dictionary attacks, keylogging, and other ways to gain access to your passwords.
  • Malicious Software - Malware is a blanket term for programs that are installed on a victim's computer with the intent to cause harm or access private information.
  • Ransomware - A form of malware, ransomware is software that locks you out of your computer and demands payment in order to regain access.
  • Phishing - Attacks typically sent via email that direct victims to a fraudulent website, which then asks for sensitive information.
  • Disgruntled Employees - Your employees have access to sensitive information about your business, other employees, customers, trade secrets, etc.
  • Lost or Stolen Devices - Many employees access networks and applications from their devices and often have sensitive information stored on them.

These are just some of the most common threats your business is exposed to. For more on these different issues and how to specifically work to prevent breaches, be sure to read our comprehensive guide, “Is Your Business at Risk? The Complete Guide to Small Business IT Security.”

Prioritize Your Cybersecurity Policy

The threats facing your small business are plentiful and very real. What’s more is that the U.S. National Cyber Security Alliance determined that 60% of small business impacted by a cyberattack are unable to sustain their business.

Creating an effective cybersecurity policy is not a difficult task, but it requires the following elements to be truly effective.

7 Elements of a Highly Effective Cybersecurity Policy

1. Buy-In

When it comes down to it, having the support of your entire company is critical to creating an effective cybersecurity policy. That is especially true when it comes down to getting your management on board.

Without your leadership on board, your cybersecurity policy won’t be prioritized. That means it won’t necessarily get the resources allocated that it needs to be successful. It also means getting the rest of the company to buy in will be difficult.

Expose your leadership to the threats facing small businesses today and help them understand the impact that these threats could have on the bottom line. The cost of an attack is typically far greater than most business owners/management understand and the cost to prepare for them is minimal by comparison.

2. Compliance

The foundation of your cybersecurity policy might already be laid out for you. Work to determine whether or not you should be complying with any government- or industry-mandated security regulations.

For example, HIPAA requires relevant businesses to maintain, implement, and update specific policies and procedures for protecting the data they handle. This regulation even extends to their business associates and third-party contractors. The same goes for PCI compliance for any business accepting credit cards on their site.

If you’re operating under a mandatory or regular compliance regulation, work within that regulation to help craft your cybersecurity policy. Even if you’re not currently, be sure to check in regularly in order to determine whether any new regulations have been imposed.

3. Infrastructure

An effective cybersecurity policy is one that continually evaluates the security of your entire IT infrastructure. That means all of your hardware and the various software that your company uses. More importantly it identifies the specific measures that need to be taken to secure each of them.

That means your cybersecurity policy must cover:

  • The specific security measures you have in place to protect against vulnerabilities in individual hardware and software.
  • How you’ll be updating or patching these security measures in order to minimize your attack surface and deal with vulnerabilities as they come about.
  • Your method of backing up data so that you’re covered in the event of an attack.

4. Team Expectations

Your cybersecurity policy will also need to outline the members of your team that will be responsible for the various aspects of implementing, maintaining, and updating your initiatives.

That means identifying:

  • The access granted to each of your team members
  • The person/team responsible for documenting and updating the policy itself
  • Who responds to specific security incidents and how
  • The person/team responsible for enforcing the policy implementation, updates, etc.
  • Who is responsible for training and educating the rest of the staff on security awareness

5. Employee Training

While we’re on the subject of training your staff, your cybersecurity policy needs to outline the specifics of your training. That means detailing what general security awareness training should include and how often updates will be presented.

Employee training is one of the most important elements listed in this article. After all, according to a cybersecurity report by IBM, 95% of threats investigated involved human error.

It also means identifying the higher level users and admins that will need to undergo more thorough training to ensure they are not exposing the company to any additional vulnerabilities. You’ll also need to create a system to test the cybersecurity awareness of those that have undergone training, especially in more critical positions.

Training on your cybersecurity policy should include how to:

  • Detect scams and risks, such as phishing attempts
  • Use the internet securely and acceptably
  • Handle social media within the company
  • Grant remote employees access your network
  • Report suspicious activity
  • Respond to security breaches
  • Retrain those responsible for breaches

6. Testing and Maintenance

Another vital component of your cybersecurity policy, testing and maintenance, identifies how you’ll keep up with each of the various security initiatives included in your policy. That means identifying:

  • What hardware and software need to be tested and/or updated
  • What sort of testing you’ll conduct
  • How often those tests should occur
  • Who is responsible for testing
  • What happens when tests fail

7. Optimization

Finally, you’ll find that today’s highly effective cybersecurity policy may be rendered ineffective a few months down the road. That’s one of the reasons testing and maintenance is so vital to your security.

By regularly testing your policy you’ll be able to identify weak points and areas that can be improved. It’s important to include in your policy document:

  • How often optimizations will be made
  • Who will be responsible for updating the document
  • How staff retraining will be handled

If You’re the Victim of an Attack

If your business has already been the victim of an attack, there are a few key concepts that you’ll need to remember to recover from the incident most effectively.

Don’t Blame Those Responsible

They’ll already feel bad enough about the situation and may not react appropriately when they encounter them in the future. Insted, support them in resolving the issue and preparing for future threats.

Don’t Overreact

In the event of an attack, you may be tempted to pull back from connectivity or place stringent restrictions on your employees’ access to your network from home, social networks, or the internet as a whole. This will likely cause a negative impact on your productivity and employee morale.

Embrace Safeguards and Security

Rather than reacting to an attack by restricting your connectivity or employee access, be proactive and embrace the multitude of tools and services available to you to keep your business secure. That way you can continue operating at your highest capacity, scaling the business, and use technology as a competitive advantage rather than viewing it as a vulnerability.

Next Steps

The items identified in the article will help you understand the vital elements of a highly effective cybersecurity policy and your company will be much better off when implementing them. That said, if you’re ready to get serious about your cybersecurity, be sure not to miss our comprehensive guide on the topic that goes in to much greater detail about how to create your cybersecurity policy.

If you get stuck or are have questions about the most effective way to secure your small business, be sure to schedule a conversation with one of our experts today!