Five free ways SMEs can improve their cyber security

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According to the UK Government’s ‘Cyber Breaches Survey 2019’, in the last twelve months 31% of micro and small businesses and 60% of medium-sized businesses experienced a cyber attack.

Unsurprisingly, 78% of micro and small businesses, and 92% of medium-sized businesses, now say that cyber security is a high priority. With this in mind, here are five things that SMEs can do to make their cyber security better without spending a penny.

Remember physical security

It is relatively trivial for adversaries to engage in malicious activity once they have gained physical access to a machine or device. This means not only remembering simple things such as locking your office and not leaving your laptop unattended in public, but also ensuring that important documents are shredded before being binned.

Throwing away private information about your company can open you up to phishing attacks, whereby an adversary uses privileged information to trick you into clicking on a malicious link, parting with money, or worse.

Use a password manager and 2FA

With good physical security in place, the next thing to do is to strengthen your digital security. Primarily, this means strong passwords. LogMeIn and LastPass report that 59% of employees haven’t changed their passwords in the last twelve months, while nearly six in ten reuse the same password across multiple accounts. Moving swiftly past the obvious advice to not have ‘12345’ or ‘pa55word’ as your password, the UK’s NCSC, a branch of GCHQ, advise that the ideal password should have at least three random words in it.

Free password managers are a great way of ensuring each of your accounts has a unique, secure password. Two-factor authentication (2FA) is another great way for SMEs to shore up their organisations’ defences, yet according to LastPass, just 45% of businesses use it.

Of companies that have turned on MFA, 41% have 25 or fewer employees. With a secure password and 2FA, nothing short of a nation-state can realistically break into your business.

Train users on basic cyber security

Insiders, both malicious and negligent, are one of the biggest threats that companies face. According to the Ponemon Institute, negligent insiders and contractors are responsible for just under two-thirds of insider incidents. Stories abound among cyber security professionals of employees who clicked on an obviously malicious link because they ‘wanted to see what happened’.

More commonly, however, the link is clicked on due to nothing more than simple employee error; in other words, they are phished. No matter how many thousands a company spends on its defences, one link can be all an adversary needs to enter a company. Encourage employees not to click on suspicious links, and instead to forward them to the IT department.

Should they suspect they are being phished, seek to verify the sender’s authenticity through another channel of communication. You could even send out harmless phishing emails to your employees, and reward those who correctly identify them and forward them onto your IT team.

Access on a needs basis

The intern doesn’t need to have access to your financial records. Cybersecurity Insiders ‘Insider Threat Report 2018’ reports that 90% of organisations feel vulnerable to insider threat. With 53% of organisations reporting an insider attack, companies see the main risks as too many users with excessive access privileges (37%), and an increasing number of devices with access to sensitive data (36%).

While no solution can ever guarantee complete protection, consider reviewing who has access to what documents, and maybe restrict it. Everyone doesn’t need to see everything.

Take advantage of free software

There are many good, reputable, and free antivirus applications easily available on the Internet. Whilst by no means a catch-all, security from a trusted vendor is better than no security at all. However, SMEs should carefully research which tool is right for their business, and be careful not to download one of the numerous scams purporting to be genuine antivirus.

For more advanced users, open source security tools can also present a free opportunity to increasing Internet security. From network visibility to intrusion detection capabilities, for the money-conscious business the Internet offers a wealth of opportunities for budget-conscious organisations to increase the strength of their security posture.

Conclusion

These suggestions are of course just the basics of good cyber hygiene, and will by no means keep your business entirely secure. However, they will still go a long way towards keeping your organisation safe whilst preserving that ever important budget.

At the end of the day, security issues can be avoided by good cyber hygiene. So, let your employees know what they can do, take care of your organisation’s structural issues, and sort out the basics, and you will dramatically improve your security posture.

This post was written by Senseon. Senseon’s unique AI-led approach to cyber threat detection and response offers security teams unparalleled visibility across their organisations. Senseon detects even the most subtle and complex cyber threats, dramatically reducing false positives