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Your Cybersecurity Strategy: A Step-by-Step Guide

Cybersecurity is an often-neglected facet of business operations – especially among small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), who mistakenly think they are not big enough to be targeted. Many SMBs are not properly educated on how to create a strong cybersecurity plan, or even why it matters. And this lack of knowledge puts them and their customers at risk.

So how exactly is a cybersecurity plan built? And why does your business need one?

Why is Cybersecurity Important?

The statistics, particularly for SMBs, are worrying. 60% of SMBs go out of business after a cyber-attack, and yet 27% of executives and 40% of chief security officers admit that they do not feel their business is prepared to handle a cyber threat. 

The reason so many SMBs never recover from a breach is clear – the consequences include financial and data loss, and a negative reputation that can be difficult to remove. As cyber-attacks continue to evolve, it has become clear that cybersecurity needs to be a top priority for SMBs.

Step 1: Conduct a Risk Assessment

The first step in developing a cybersecurity strategy is to perform a risk assessment. This stage involves identifying and evaluating potential threats to your business’ IT assets. 

  • Identify Assets: List all critical assets, including hardware, software, data, and network resources.
  • Identify Threats: Determine the potential threats to these assets, such as malware, phishing attacks, and physical breaches.
  • Evaluate Vulnerabilities: Assess the vulnerabilities in your current cybersecurity posture that could be exploited by these threats.
  • Assess Impact and Likelihood: Determine the potential impact of each threat and the likelihood of its occurrence. This helps prioritize risks based on their severity.

Step 2: Define Security Policies and Procedures

Once you have identified the risks, the next step is to develop security policies and procedures to mitigate them.

  • Create a Security Policy Framework: Develop a set of policies that outline how your business will protect its assets. This should include policies for data protection, access control, incident response, and compliance.
  • Establish Procedures: Create detailed procedures for implementing these policies. For example, procedures for managing user access, conducting security audits, and responding to security incidents.

Step 3: Implement Security Controls

With your policies and procedures in place, the next step is to implement technical and administrative controls to protect your assets.

  • Technical Controls: Implement technologies such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems, anti-malware software, and encryption to protect your network and data.
  • Administrative Controls: Establish administrative measures such as security training programs, background checks for employees, and incident response planning.
  • Access Controls: Ensure that access to information assets is restricted to authorized personnel only. Use multi-factor authentication and role-based access controls to enhance security.

Step 4: Educate and Train Employees

Employee error is a significant factor in many cyber incidents. Therefore, it is essential to educate and train your employees on cybersecurity best practices.

  • Security Awareness Training: Provide regular training sessions to educate employees about common cybersecurity threats.
  • Simulated Attacks: Conduct simulated attacks to assess employee awareness and reinforce training.
  • Clear Communication: Ensure that employees understand the importance of cybersecurity and their role in protecting the business. Provide clear guidelines on reporting suspicious activity and handling sensitive information.

Step 5: Monitor and Respond to Threats

Continuous monitoring and prompt response to security threats are crucial components of an effective cybersecurity strategy.

  • Continuous Monitoring: Implement tools and processes to monitor your network for signs of suspicious activity. Use security information and event management (SIEM) systems to collect and analyze security data in real-time.
  • Incident Response Plan: Develop and test an incident response plan to ensure that your business can quickly and effectively respond to security incidents. The plan should outline roles and responsibilities, communication protocols, and steps for containment, eradication, and recovery.
  • Regular Audits: Conduct regular security audits and vulnerability assessments to identify and address potential weaknesses in your security posture.

Step 6: Ensure Compliance with Regulations

Compliance with relevant regulations is a critical aspect of cybersecurity strategy. Failure to comply can result in legal penalties and reputational damage.

  • Identify Relevant Regulations: Determine which regulations apply to your business.
  • Implement Compliance Measures: Ensure that your security policies, procedures, and controls meet the requirements of these regulations. 
  • Document Compliance Efforts: Maintain documentation of your compliance efforts, including risk assessments, policy updates, and audit results. 

Step 7: Review and Improve Your Strategy

Cybersecurity is an ongoing process, and it is essential to regularly review and improve your strategy to address emerging threats. Stay informed with the latest cybersecurity trends using relevant news platforms. Make sure to review and update policies regularly, to reflect evolving threats and changing business practices.

Close the Gaps in Your Cybersecurity Strategy with Expert Assistance

Developing a strong cybersecurity strategy is less complicated than it seems, and it is worth the effort to protect your business. But if you’re still not sure how, we can help. ION247’s experienced team of technology experts can assess your current cybersecurity posture, to help you understand where your business currently stands. Reach out for an assessment today, and begin your journey to a safer future.