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Cybersecurity Checklist for SMBs to Follow in 2021

Posted by: MK CS Team
Category: Cyber Security

For many enterprises, 2020 was a disaster but for those who have survived, it was a learning experience. 2020 explained the importance of having an effective business continuity plan, and it also emphasized the importance of having an agile IT infrastructure.

In 2021, both gigantic organizations and SMBs will be looking forward to having a preventive approach. While companies with deep pockets can throw money at their all problems, SMBs need to take a different route. SMBs will have to consider they are already under attack and take measures accordingly. We have prepared a checklist of 5 steps that covers everything SMBs need to focus on to avoid mishaps in 2021. 

Here’s Cybersecurity Checklist for SMBs to follow in 2021

1. Start with Vulnerability Assessment

2020 was all about transition, first employees were moved to remote working followed by new policies to ensure data protection at all touchpoints. Governments worked with agencies to ensure services were live and it took some changes to data privacy policies. Varied industry experts have agreed that in the initial stage of lockdown, data privacy was at its lowest phase and it is the reason why so many hackers were inspired to carry out attacks across the globe.

While the government is continuously ensuring that all organizations are ensuring data privacy even when working remotely but the transition is expected to have left some loopholes. Hackers are continuously trying their luck with big organizations, if there’s a loophole, they are most likely to exploit it.

Starting with vulnerability assessment will help organizations understand the measures they need to prioritize. A robust vulnerability assessment will highlight all kinds of failures at infrastructure as well as compliance levels.

2. Look for Hardware & Software Compatibility

2020 was a tough year even for the biggest of organizations; even top hardware and software enterprises pushed the launch of new products. In varied cases, enterprises failed to provide security updates, which is a matter of concern. 

PCI DSS Council has urged all certified businesses to do a self-attestation and ensure that they are following the 12 commandments of PCI DSS Compliance. The first step towards ensuring compliance at all levels is to ensure that hardware and software packages are compatible and working in sync. 

Lack of compatibility in software packages and hardware leaves entrance points, which are tough to identify through a vulnerability assessment. To discover these loopholes, organizations need to run penetration testing or they can simply upgrade all their software packages to the latest version and ensure hardware upgrade too, if necessary. 

3. Prepare for the Upcoming Challenges 

Well, conducting robust VAPT and ensuring hardware-software compatibility reduces the chances of facing a data breach but it is advised to prepare for challenges because hackers are constantly innovating.

E-commerce players are now facing new threats like friendly and triangulation fraud, which are very new and only a handful of customers are aware of it. To prepare for upcoming challenges, organizations need to work with teams or entities that are constantly monitoring and neutralizing threats.

Small and medium businesses are organizations that cannot afford a full-fledged IT team to implement and protect IT assets. The best way out for SMBs is a proven Managed Security Service Provider. 

Managed security service providers are perhaps your one-stop destination for all cybersecurity needs. These MSSPs rely on a collection of connected security operation centers to monitor and neutralize threats in real-time. 

An MSSP can protect organizations against the following:

  • Threats that are new and there’s very less information about it.
  • DDoS attack by restricting the source of traffic
  • Compliance failure leading to heavy fines
  • Data breach through stolen credentials from an unauthorized location or IP address

4. Upgrade your Business Continuity Plan

When COVID-induced lockdown was imposed, companies were forced to move their employees to remote working. Organizations that have robust BCPs had an easy time moving their employees while the ones who didn’t have an effective BCP suffered service disruption.

Since SMBs have very little bandwidth and less space for committing mistakes, they need to be prepared for the worst or one disaster and they go poof. By creating BCP that covers all important aspects of continuity, SMBs are buying themselves another chance, which is a necessity. 

If there’s one lesson you want to take from the 2020 pandemic, let it be the importance of an effective Business Continuity Plan. 2020 highlighted the importance of contingency plans and turned BCPs from a decorative document to an action plan that saves lives.

Creating a business continuity plan is not enough, enterprises need to test it rigorously and render all hindrances and shortcomings out. By having a plan that saves the day when disasters occur, organizations are preparing themselves for the worst and it’s the best investment they will ever make. 

Here’s how to make your BCP better:

  • Learn from past mistakes
  • Test it often 
  • Make changes based on what is happening globally
  • Leverage industrial expertise to make it stronger
  • Run it through your clients

5. Implement Restricted Access to IT Assets

Small and medium businesses are most vulnerable to data breaches of all kinds because they have fewer tools to protect and very little bandwidth to fight the attackers. SMBs need to ensure that the best precautionary measures are in place because they really cannot afford an arbitrary response to attacks or pull their brand reputation once it goes down.

Here are some steps that SMBs should take

  • Only authorized personnel get access to IT assets
  • Maintain records of everyone who access data servers
  • Maintain robust backup of all such data servers
  • Constantly monitor for unauthorized access
  • Ensure all former employee accesses are revoked instantly
  • Allow MSSPs to run a thorough check of your IT assets every quarter
  • Leverage expertise of PCI QSA annually before furnishing self-assessment forms

Fortune 500 companies can fight an attack even after it has occurred, they have the required bandwidth and funds to fight media, hackers, and agencies like PCI DSS Council but SMBs simply cannot. The best way out for SMBs is to be preventive, take necessary measures to avoid any such attack, and ensure effectiveness at all levels.

Final Thoughts on Cybersecurity Checklist for SMBs

In the changing landscape where industry leaders are investing heavily in protecting their IT Assets, SMBs are left vulnerable. With bigger organizations getting the requisite certifications, hackers are shifting their focus on SMBs. 

SMBs can protect their assets like industry leaders by making a small change to their IT infrastructure. Every step mentioned in this post will take them towards a safer tomorrow. 

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