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SME Cybersecurity | 5 Ways to Keep Your SME Secure

December 6, 202311 min read

Cybersecurity

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) face a growing number of serious cybersecurity threats in the modern age, especially as malicious actors develop more sophisticated attack vectors and techniques. According to a June 2023 study by BlackFog, 61% of small and medium-sized businesses in the U.S. and U.K. were the victims of successful cyber attacks in the previous year. A large number of these impacted organizations faced downtime during critical operating hours and customer data loss.

SMEs find themselves in a particularly vulnerable cybersecurity position, as they're large enough to have multiple applications and data sources that can fall prey to attacks but small enough that they may not have up-to-date, enterprise-level security safeguards in place. In many cases, these organizations do not think they have the internal budget and know-how to set up their cybersecurity infrastructure for success.

Fortunately, there are many low-cost and no-cost steps you can take to optimize your SME's cybersecurity setup. In this guide, we'll walk you through some of the best practices, tools, and strategies you can adopt for more effective cybersecurity management.

But before we dive into the five most effective ways to keep your SME secure, we've compiled a quick list of key takeaways from this article:

  • Key Takeaway #1: SMEs face unique cybersecurity threats, but there are many low-cost and easy-to-implement solutions that can mitigate these threats across an organization.
  • Key Takeaway #2: Employees at all levels in your organization can act as a gateway to security threats; train all staff on cybersecurity and password best practices to improve your overall cybersecurity posture.
  • Key Takeaway #3: Invest in relevant cybersecurity software and services, but more importantly, make sure all existing components in your network are regularly monitored, audited, and updated.
  • Key Takeaway #4: Password managers offer a low-cost way for organizations to manage individual, team, and company-wide credentials in a secure and accessible format.
  • Key Takeaway #5: Your data is an asset to you but a liability in the wrong hands; invest in tools like TeamPassword that prioritize and support data security and compliance best practices.

Table of Contents

Why Is Cybersecurity Important for SMEs?

Cybersecurity protections are an important part of ensuring an SME's operations stay up and running, no matter how threat actors behave and other external factors change. These are some of the key ways in which a strong cybersecurity strategy can benefit your SME:

  • Data Protection: Small and medium-sized enterprises work with a wide variety of applications, hardware, software, and datasets that may include sensitive or proprietary information. Setting up data security tools and best practices gives security administrators more visibility into how data is being used, enables data encryption, and notifies administrators if/when data becomes vulnerable to attack.
  • Financial Security: Many cybersecurity tools protect data privacy and adhere to data compliance regulations, including strict regulations in the financial sector. Investing in the right cybersecurity tools and frameworks can support more secure financial transactions, give administrators an interface to monitor financial data for fraud, and provide businesses with the tools they need to encrypt and otherwise protect financial data and comply with regulations like the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX).
  • Business Continuity: A successful cybersecurity attack can lead to a range of problems, including data loss and network downtime and disruptions. With cybersecurity tools and strategies in place, your organization can prevent these kinds of disruptions by proactively detecting threats and quickly determining and acting on an incident response strategy.
  • Adherence to Compliance and Legal Obligations: Many compliance laws and other kinds of regulations have strict rules about how and by whom data can be handled. A cybersecurity strategy that emphasizes data security and encryption can help your organization pass audits with flying colors, protect customer data, and maintain your reputation as a compliant operator.

Common Cybersecurity Threats for SMEs

SME cybersecurity threats may target individual users, third-party applications, storage systems, databases, or other elements of your organization's network. Some of the most common ways in which bad actors launch attacks against SMEs include the following:

  • Phishing: Phishing is a communication-driven attack vector in which hackers send messages with malicious code, malware, or other subtle attacks to individual network users, most often via email. It's an effective cyber attack method because it targets multiple users with believable messages that can lead to accidental information leakages at scale.
  • Ransomware: This type of malware is one in which malicious code is installed on an enterprise network in a way that shuts down key operations and data access until the victim pays a ransom to the attacker. It most often impacts SMEs when their core applications are outdated or otherwise lacking in perimeter security protections and can lead to data loss and public leaks.
  • Viruses: A type of malware attack in which the attack code is multiplied and used to infect other tools and programs in the same system. Viruses can quickly take over an entire computer or network if no protections are in place against lateral movement; this type of takeover can lead to network downtime, data loss or theft, and other operational issues.
  • Malware: Any type of malicious software that is used to infiltrate a business network and cause some type of damage. Malware can be difficult to detect and remove, and even once it's removed, the damage may already be done in the form of data loss or corruption.
  • Password Hacking: When hackers attempt to gain unauthorized access to networks and related systems and accounts by exploiting password and credential vulnerabilities with brute-force attacks, phishing, or credential stuffing. Password hacking can give unauthorized users access to your most sensitive data and systems, resulting in data loss or corruption, fraud, and/or noncompliance issues.

5 Ways to Keep Your SME Secure

Regardless of the budget and current in-house cybersecurity expertise your team has, there are many best practices and strategies that can improve your SME's overall security posture. These five tips will get you started in securing your organization's most important assets:

1. Train Employees on Cybersecurity Best Practices

An organization's most important asset is its people, but people can also become a cybersecurity liability if they aren't trained on how to uphold security and privacy best practices in their daily work. Offering regular cybersecurity training sessions to employees throughout the organization is a great practice, as it educates them on a range of potential threats and the role they can unknowingly play in opening the organization to new threats.

Whatever training you develop should cover best practices, like not clicking on links in suspicious-looking emails, and the importance of using strong usernames, passwords, and other user credentials. Also, give employees a clear process for reporting suspicious activity or suspected threats; a ticketing system or threat monitoring system that can accept user notifications is a possibility.

2. Use Strong Authentication Measures

Making sure users are who they say they are is one of the easiest ways to prevent unauthorized access to and behaviors on your organization's network. Strong authentication measures, like multi-factor authentication (MFA), device registration, and/or credentials-based logins give employees access to everything they need without opening the floodgates to everyone else.

However, authentication measures like passwords are only as effective as the credentials that are used. If users are regularly picking easy-to-guess passwords or sharing their credentials with other users through unencrypted and unsecured channels, bad actors can fairly easily phish out those credentials and get into your network. It's important to not only set but enforce standards for unique password creation and secure sharing to prevent these kinds of scenarios.

Password managers offer built-in security features and benefits and are great solutions for any organization that wants a more standardized way to generate and manage user passwords. For example, TeamPassword supports secure group-based credentials-sharing and gives administrators real-time visibility into password and user group activities that may lead to security incidents.

3. Complete Regular System Maintenance Tasks

Besides user error, outdated software and operating systems are some of the most common gateways for cyber attacks. Software providers regularly identify issues in their products and patch or completely revamp their products to fix the problem, but if your team does not keep up-to-date with these third-party changes and recommendations, hackers can quickly pick up on the presence of out-of-date tools and find ways to get into your network and wreak havoc.

Whether it's a tool you've spun up internally or a third-party application, your team should prioritize keeping all software, operating systems, antivirus programs, and applications up to date and regularly check with third-party vendors for updates that minimize risk.

However, depending on the number of third-party tools you're using, this can become an overwhelming process. Consider investing in tools like vulnerability scanners, patch management systems, continuous monitoring tools, and security information and event management (SIEM) systems to automate and scale the process of system maintenance across your network.

4. Increase Network Security

Your organization's WiFi network includes infrastructure that can easily be compromised if you're not intentional with your network security practices. When it comes to your WiFi network, be sure to use encryption, unique network names, and regularly updated passwords, and keep track of all of this information with thorough and secure documentation. If possible, you should also set up your WiFi as a private network with only authorized users, as public WiFi networks provide limited safeguards against hackers.

It's important to note that, in the modern cloud, hybrid, and multi-cloud networks, traditional network and perimeter security practices aren't nearly as effective as they used to be. It's certainly still important to maintain firewalls and WiFi best practices, but modern network security techniques and tools may be necessary. One of the following tool types may be what you need to up your network security game:

  • Endpoint detection and response (EDR) or extended detection and response (XDR).
  • Secure access service edge (SASE).
  • Security information and event management (SIEM).
  • Security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR).

5. Back Up Data Regularly

Regularly backing up data ensures that your organization's most important data — including financial transactions, customer profiles, product information, and more —is stored in a secure, secondary location. It's important that data backups are not conducted as a one-time effort but as a regular part of your business operations. In the event of a cyber attack, up-to-date backups allow you to quickly restore any data that was lost to a virus or other malware attack.

The data that you back up should also be encrypted, both in transit and at rest, especially if it is data that is subject to compliance regulations and rules. Encrypting data is one of the most effective ways to protect your data from unauthorized access.

Strengthen Your SME Security with the Help of TeamPassword

The cybersecurity threat landscape is massive, diverse, and overwhelming, especially for SMEs that may not have up-to-date tooling and training in place to mitigate threats. To add insult to injury, several of the most advanced cybersecurity tools are prohibitively expensive and difficult to set up, meaning many organizations opt out entirely and leave their network vulnerable to more and more attack vectors.

Fortunately, modern SMEs are picking up on the importance of robust cybersecurity tools and comprehensive security best practices and are working to create a more holistic and affordable approach to security management. Tools like password managers have come to the fore in this refocused cybersecurity effort, giving SMEs an accessible and easy-to-implement tool for managing users, systems, and data across the organization.

TeamPassword is a leading password manager for SMEs because it balances ease of use and setup with key features like robust group password management, password generation, administrative controls, and data compliance features.

Looking to get started with a low-cost, capable password manager for your SME? Try out TeamPassword today.

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