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5 Essential Cybersecurity Tips for Startups

Tim Green is passionate about marketing and technology and currently enjoys covering important topics within the startup niche. Having specialised in cybersecurity for much of his career, Tim frequently contributes to leading industry publications to share and expand his knowledge and skillset with the wider community.

June 13, 20237 min read

Cybersecurity

There are countless cybersecurity threats facing modern companies, and with a huge 39% of UK businesses reporting a cyberattack through 2021 and 2022, this isn’t an issue that startup owners can afford to ignore.

Hackers, fraudsters, and all manner of other cybercriminals know that startups have limited resources and a focus on risk-taking and innovation, often making them soft targets for attacks. 

Though reviewing your cybersecurity capabilities may not be the most exciting part of developing your startup, it’s essential to protect your assets and ensure your future ability to scale.

In this post, we’ll go over five of the most important cybersecurity tips that startups need to take on board.

The five essential tips are to:

  • Ensure your cybersecurity policy is compliant with regulations
  • Create and enforce a strong password policy, ideally using a password manager
  • Train your employees about cybersecurity and update that knowledge regularly
  • Use and enforce a VPN for your entire team
  • Fina a reliable firewall and use it

Table of Contents

Image credit: Unsplash.com

Ensure Regulatory Compliance

One of the most straightforward and important things small businesses should do for their cybersecurity in those early days is to research security compliance requirements and plan a thorough review to get the business aligned with them.

Whether your operations begin and end in the UK or you’re a global business interacting with customers and entities all over the world, there’ll be many different laws and regulations you’ll need to ensure compliance with, including but not limited to:

  • GDPR: A far-reaching piece of legislation aimed at protecting peoples’ personal data and giving them greater control over how this is used by businesses. Compliance will require you to maintain policies about deleting unnecessary data after a certain period of time, giving customers the option to have their personal data deleted, and ensuring certain protections against breaches.

  • PCI DSS: An information protocol that sets minimum security controls over the personal data of cardholders, with the aim to prevent the theft or loss of cardholder data. Any business that processes cardholder data through online payments must ensure compliance with this initiative.

  • SOC 2: If you’re in the SaaS niche or provide other tech services to third parties, you’ll need to show SOC 2 compliance to prove you’ve taken adequate steps to protect user data and ensure the privacy of your clients.

‘Cyber threats are everywhere and are becoming more sophisticated and complicated by the day’, states cybersecurity support experts Counterpoint. Ensuring compliance can be a long and complex process, but it’s essential if you want to have a robust general level of cybersecurity at your company. 

Whether you hire a contractor to spearhead a compliance project yourself or seek compliance certification services from a company, knowing your requirements and getting your business aligned with them is an essential step for any startup. 

Create and Enforce a Strong Password Policy

Passwords are one of the most universal layers of security that every business relies on to ensure their privacy, and this makes them a prime target for cybercriminals. Though the name of the band you formed in uni followed by ‘123’ may have served you well so far, it’s important that the passwords protecting your business assets are kept to a higher standard and not inviting opportunistic hackers.

To make passwords hard to crack, it’s important to enforce clear rules about complexity, such as requiring passwords that are at least eight characters long, with a mix of upper and lowercase letters, and at least one number and special character each.

Aside from enforcing these standards with the passwords themselves, it’s also a good idea to use an extra layer of security in the form of a password management system. These tools, like our own TeamPassword, allow you and your team to generate strong passwords whenever it’s time to refresh them and keep these passwords in a secure location where they’re only available to people who certifiably need them.

Train Your Employees and Keep Them In The Know

Many small business owners have a tendency to think that all their most valuable digital assets begin and end in the upper echelons of the business. However, breaches can come from practically any team and any individual within your business, especially if they’re not adequately trained to recognize security weaknesses or the signs of an attempted cyberattack.

The specific risks you’re most likely to come up against will depend largely on your industry, company size, and other variables. But no matter the specifics of your business, it’s important to remember that any of your employees could be at the center of a serious breach. 

Image credit: Unsplash.com

Lost devices, opening phishing emails, and simply falling victim to cleverly-worded fraudulent communications, can all lead to damaging employee-initiated attacks. To make sure you’re protecting your assets from any possibility of internal threats, it’s important to invest in cybersecurity training at all levels of your business, covering everything from the basics of your device policy to the more nuanced schemes that cybercriminals can use to trick people into divulging sensitive information.

For more detailed information on making sure your entire workforce is staying smart about cybersecurity threats, check out this helpful guide from Cyber Ready.

Use and Enforce a VPN

In the modern business arena, more people are working remotely than ever before, and this is especially true when it comes to small businesses. 

Having a workforce who’s spread around the world and could be working from any private network they choose multiplies the potential points for entry that cybercriminals can use to steal your data and disrupt your operations. 

In order to patch this vulnerability, getting a business-grade VPN (Virtual Private Network) like Nord can help you provide your workers with secure access to your online assets no matter where their internet access is rooted. Furthermore, you can provide access to clients during meetings in public spaces, minimizing the risk to their data through their interactions with your business.

Image credit: Unsplash.com

Furthermore, getting a VPN will allow your employees to access geographically-restricted online content in the course of their work. This means that if you have a remote-working international team, with some people based in nations where UK-hosted content is restricted, you can enable them to browse the web in the same way as your other workers, ensuring a more seamless, collaborative experience.

Find a Reliable Firewall

Firewalls are security elements that work by monitoring all traffic coming in and out of your organization’s IT network, flagging suspicious activity and preventing viruses from causing any serious damage.

Firewalls have been a mainstay of business cybersecurity setups for years now, not least of all because of how effective they are at deterring the most common threats that companies of all sizes have to deal with. 

By communicating threats as they arise to other security systems, reducing the entry points for viruses by blocking harmful websites, and more, getting a good firewall will instantly improve the overall security of your operations and probably save you from at least one disaster as you work to develop your business.

There are many variables to consider when finding a firewall that’s right for your needs, such as the size of your team, your access to in-house IT expertise, and any cybersecurity products that you may already have in place. To maximize your chances of a long and hassle-free relationship with your company’s firewall, be sure to research your options thoroughly, and where possible seek expert advice to better understand how different features can fit the needs of your business.

Final Thoughts…

Cybersecurity can be easy to forget when you’re in that intense initial period of developing your business, but it’s just as essential as the basic systems that make your business tick.

We hope these tips have made life easier as you build a solid foundation for your startup’s cybersecurity, and helped you towards developing a more comprehensive strategy in the future.

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