Let’s say you’ve invested a tremendous amount of time, energy, and money into your startup business. Your groundwork is finished. Your careful planning and investing have been all about growing all opportunities to their fullest potential. But if you haven’t yet considered cybersecurity, it’s time to set up the best protection for it now, from its inception. Here are the top strategies you can use now for bulking up your startup’s cybersecurity.
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Risks Your Startup is Facing
It’s a great time to launch a startup.1 As managing daily activities online is becoming not only possible but in many cases preferred, the options for launching a new business are practically endless.
Unfortunately, it’s not just the clients and owners turning to the internet to achieve their goals. As more people have begun to rely on the internet for activities like banking, shopping, schooling, and working, hackers have homed in on a new pool of targets. Hacking techniques and approaches have reached new levels of sophistication and it’s easy to become a victim of a cyberattack before even realizing you’ve been targeted.
Phishing attacks have come a long way over the last few years. While they were once easier to identify and avoid, these scams have become sophisticated and subtle. They can happen via email, text, or phone call to entice you to give them information about your important accounts or personal information that they can then use to access your accounts, steal your money, or launch new accounts in your name in an act of identity theft.
A successful phishing scheme can leave your business devastated on multiple fronts. It’s no longer enough to be on the lookout for phishing schemes only on a personal level. Hackers are increasingly attempting to access business data as well.2 So, not only can this expose personal and business data, but it also risks compromising all of your clients’ or users’ information.
Malware is software that’s intentionally designed to wreak havoc. Computer viruses, worms, trojan horses, and spyware are all different types of malware. Malware can frequently be inadvertently downloaded and installed and may be attached to legitimate-looking software.
Different malware has different goals, but may include gaining access to sensitive information, or in the case of ransomware, making your data unreadable and holding it hostage until you pay the demanded ransom for its return. As hacking technology becomes more advanced, even companies that follow security measures and best practices may find they become a victim of malware attacks.3
A data breach happens when sensitive information that should be protected is collected. This information can be used in a variety of ways and is often sold, used to create new accounts, and used to steal money. Not only is your startup’s information at risk, so is the information of every client or customer you have in your databases. One small breach can quickly lead to an exodus of clientele and financial risk for your business.
Data breaches have been rising, victimizing high-profile businesses.4 Although using well-known and respected platforms can help keep data safe, it’s no longer sufficient to expect other platforms to maintain the safety of your data. Taking additional precautions and keeping up with new developments in cybersecurity are crucial to protecting your startup and all the data attached to it.
Ten strategies to secure your startup
Once you’re ready to protect your startup using best capabilities, take a good look at the options available and decide which you can implement most easily. To get the best protection, you’ll want to use multiple cybersecurity approaches to help prevent any weak spots in your system.
1. Conduct a thorough Risk Assessment
Before considering the security options available, you’ll want to take the time to do a complete risk assessment. It will help you determine exactly where your vulnerabilities lie and allow you to choose the best security protocols for your needs.
2. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
The way VPNs work is by creating a secure connection to the internet, protecting your data from any would-be hackers while encrypting your data.5 VPNs can be installed on networks as well as on individual devices, providing great all-around protection for your startup. It’s also a great option for a mobile startup, because a VPN will allow you to work around existing regional restrictions on websites and give you access to servers you wouldn’t otherwise be able to access.
3. Invest in a Firewall
A high-quality firewall can prevent unauthorized users from accessing your network and the important information traveling through it or stored within it. Not all firewalls are created equal, so avoid budget buys when searching through the options. If you host remote workers, don’t forget to provide them the appropriate protection as well. If less-protected employees are working on your network and have access to your data, you may inadvertently welcome hackers into the process.
4. Implement Password Policies
When it comes to passwords, you likely know the basics: don’t share them with others; use complex passwords that exclude important names and dates; and make sure each password you use is unique. Teach your employees how to create strong passwords that use both capital and lowercase letters, special characters, and numbers, and recommend changing passwords on a regular basis. You may want to consider providing your employees with a password manager to help keep those passwords better protected and encourage the use of unique passwords.
5. Embrace Multi-factor Authentication
Many platforms already offer multi-factor authentication to strengthen traditional password use. This can be as simple as a text message requesting the input of a one-time code to confirm an authorized user is seeking access. Multi-factor authentication is especially beneficial to those who work from multiple locations and devices. In addition to keeping you better protected, an unprompted request for authentication will let you know when there has been a breach and allow you to take steps to resecure your information before any data has been lost.
6. Secure Your Network
A protected network helps keep every device using the network more secure and reduces the likelihood of hackers sneaking in via a less-protected device. A well-protected device will go a long way to keeping your information safe. Unfortunately, an unprotected or poorly protected network can easily allow hackers access to your devices. If you consider the number of devices using your network that might not be individually protected -- like wireless computers, security cameras, visiting devices, etc.-- you’ll quickly see how many ways unauthorized users can access your network.
7. Schedule Regular Updates
Staying on top of the newly released updates for both devices and software can help keep your data secure. Many updates contain security patches to address weak spots that have been identified. Avoiding updates will leave you vulnerable to cyberattacks. It can be inconvenient to take the time to update software and devices, so opt in for receiving automatic updates where possible and regularly block out time to check for updates and install any that exist. Clearly communicate to employees that this is one of your expectations for them, as well.
8. Maintain Backups
If a data breach does happen, important data can be lost. Schedule regular backups for the data you have on your network and devices to help mitigate any loss. The importance of a proper backup system cannot be overstated, and best practices include using a 3-2-1 system — that’s three backup copies on two different mediums with one of those copies stored safely offsite.
9. Provide Security Awareness Training
Offer your employees training that emphasizes just how important cybersecurity is to them and your startup. During these sessions, you’ll want to discuss safe internet use, password use, and how to avoid falling victim to cyberattacks. Anticipate reviewing company-wide policies during this time as well. For best results, stay current on cybersecurity issues and specific best practices you need to share with your team during the training sessions.
10. Have a Contingency Plan
Even the best-protected companies can find they have been the victim of a cyberattack. Plan for every contingency so you and your startup aren’t scrambling in the event of an emergency. Of course, you’ll need to keep a hard copy of your plan, so it is readily accessible to determine anything that has gone wrong with your digital information.
Always keep your startup fully protected
Don’t risk leaving your startup vulnerable to cyberattacks and lost data by skimping on your security protocols. Putting together a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity can give you the protection your startup needs — and the success you’ve been working toward.
- Greg Rosalsky. The Unexpected Boom In Startups.
- Aaron Weaver. Why Every Business Should Train Employees to Spot Phishing Emails.
- Lee Mathews. Hackers Inject Malware Into Widely-Used Password Management App.
- Emma Bowman. After Data Breach Exposes 530 Million, Facebook Says It Will Not Notify Users.
- What is a VPN?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brad Smith is a technology expert at TurnOnVPN, a non-profit promoting a safe and free internet for all. He writes about his dream for a free internet and unravels the horror behind big techs. With a lifetime passion for writing, Brad obtained a degree in writing so that he could bring his writing skills to the tech world. During my time at university, I took freelance contracts to stay afloat, most of these revolving around the tech world in some way. After I earned my degree, I immediately moved to writing for TurnOnVPN and have been there ever since.
TurnOnVPN is a cybersecurity advocacy group focusing on a free and unimpeded internet for all. They participate numerous online events aimed at promoting a safe, secure, and censor-free Internet. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, an encrypted tunnel between one’s device and the internet. is designed to allows a user web access that is free from obstructions and the tracking of network administrators.
Content reflects views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of World Commerce & Contracting.