The question is simple — what’s the “right” amount of money a small to mid-sized business (SMB) should invest in its cybersecurity infrastructure and policies?
The answer? Well, that’s not so straightforward.
When it comes to protecting both internal, enterprise data as well as those of customers, businesses competing in today’s digital-first world no longer have the luxury of crossing their IT fingers. Over 61 percent of SMBs experienced some form of a cyber attack in 2017. What’s more, 86 percent of businesses surveyed say they feel underprepared regarding their ability to shield and mitigate a cyber attack, yet have no set formal for improvement.
The disconnect here is troubling. Businesses know they need robust cybersecurity plans tailored to their size, scale and risk profile. They also know their future is at stake without them, with roughly two out of three SMBs forced to close their doors after a cyber attack.
It’s time for businesses to take back control. By investing in tailored cybersecurity technology, adopting suitable protocols and including cybersecurity as its own line in annual budgets, companies no longer play hacker hide-and-seek, hoping to go unnoticed by data thieves. Cybersecurity budgets instill peace of mind — plus generate real business benefits along the way. Let’s walk through how.
Understand the Cybersecurity Risk
There’s no way to sugarcoat it — cyber attacks are the norm today, not the exception.
Businesses in the 21st century must tighten their grip on internal, tech-driven operations if they wish to prepare for some of today’s largest cybersecurity risks. And those risks are numerous, with dozens of attack types that — on the surface — can make a business’ defenses look like they’re always playing catch-up.
Yet certain cyber attacks are more common than others. We break down the top five cyber threats facing SMBs today, as well as their associated costs or losses, all to lend SMBs a foothold to prep proper cybersecurity budgets.
1. Top Cybersecurity Threats
- Malware: Malware represents a huge piece of the cyberscam pie. These malicious pieces of software, be they viruses, spyware, keyloggers or worms, have one intent — to enter and then disrupt or disable a computer system. Today, over 90 percent of malware is delivered via email, typically hidden in the form of infected attachments or inconspicuous links. All it takes is for one well-intentioned employee to click or download for malware can cross your defensive moats.
- Phishing: In a global survey of IT decision makers, over half stated targeting phishing schemes were the top cybersecurity threat faced by their organization. Advanced phishing schemes often mirror the electronic communications of trusted and frequent business contacts, from third-party vendors or contractors to other businesses you work with. They aim to solicit sensitive data like accounting information or customer credit card numbers straight from the source — your employees.
- Ransomware: Ransomware attacks strike every 14 seconds. They are amongst the most rapid-paced and prevalent of cybersecurity threats lodged at organizations, with the usual intent of shutting down servers or holding data and files hostage until a suitable ransom is paid.
- Fileless attacks: Like ransomware, fileless attacks have seen an uptick in the past year. Rather than attempt to download tainted executables onto a computer or server — like with spyware or malware worms — fileless attacks exploit applications or even operating systems already installed in a device. Nearly 77 percent of 2017’s known compromised attacks were fileless.
- Human error: Unintended disclosures, accidental data deletions or improper disposals of sensitive files all fall under human errors, a common yet under-the-radar enterprise threat. Human errors make cybersecurity awareness training and data-handling policies all the more imperative.
2. Hits to the Budget
- Malware: The average cost of a malware attack hovers around $2.4 million, according to research from Accenture. If that figure seems high, remember it accounts for the nearly 50 days it takes for businesses to identify, address, patch and repair affected systems.
- Phishing: A single lost or stolen individual’s record costs businesses $225. Yet few cyber attacks only target one record. Over 74 percent of cyberattacked companies who experienced stolen data averaged 1,000 files lost during their breaches.
- Ransomware: Without holistic data back-up, ransomware can wreak havoc. Between system downtimes, lost data, damaged data, patching systems and cost to training employees to avoid repeat incidents, ransomware attacks will cost businesses approximately $11.5 billion in 2019. This doesn’t even factor in the cost of the ransom itself if companies opt to pay.
- Fileless attacks: Due to their sophistication and ability to sneak past traditional antivirus software, fileless attacks cost businesses $5 million when fully executed. Other research indicates fileless attacks’ costs can be projected to be $300 per employee.
- Human error: Accounting for 27 percent of data breaches, this type of cybersecurity threat costs businesses around $148 per compromised record and can take up to 196 days to uncover and reconcile.
The Benefits of Investing in Cybersecurity Protection
There are numerous business advantages to investing in cybersecurity defenses.
The operative word here, though, is investment. According to some industry experts, a robust cybersecurity budget should never fall below three percent of a company’s total capital expenditures. If it is below three percent, then — bluntly put — something is missing.
Companies should treat their cybersecurity policies and technologies like they do any investment — meaning fluid, long-term, performance-driven and with quantifiable goals. Capital expenditures can then be funneled as strategically as possible when cybersecurity is practiced as an arm of everyday operations rather than a red line in annual budgets.
When done right, that investment compounds into tangible and intangible benefits for an organization.
1. Solidify Client and Consumer Trust — and Therefore Your Reputation
The stains of mishandled data or network breaches are hard to scrub. Some organizations are now infamous for such incidents, and their reputations won’t be mended anytime soon.
Companies that proactively protect their clients’ data don’t just prioritize this aspect of business operations. They’re telling the world they take this responsibility seriously. Enterprises that put in this effort reap the rewards with happier, more loyal customers.
2. Protect Your Most Valuable Business Assets
A single compromised data point or record can cost a business hundreds of dollars. As noted above, these costs vary depending on the cybersecurity incident that breached them, as well as other budget expenses like system downtimes, employee downtimes, system patches, lost customers and in some cases regulatory fines.
3. Reduce Internal and External Security Threats
Choosing to invest in cybersecurity means choosing to invest in your company’s future. You’re intentionally harmonizing tomorrow’s goals with today’s risk-management practices, helping ensure a smoother path to achieving that vision.
All this is best accomplished through careful budget planning to mitigate surprises. You’ll have money and resources set already aside in case of an emergency, but also preemptive resources in-place carrying you through everyday security.
4. Bolster Regulatory Compliance at Every Level
If there was any doubt on the importance of IT security and data management, today’s uptick in regulations should put them to bed. Both states and the federal government administer cybersecurity compliance laws meant to keep pace with the times. Even international bodies have stepped up their cybersecurity game, most recently with the EU’s landmark passage of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Organizations found incompliant of these data mandates won’t be in business for long.
5. Have Peace of Mind
Cybersecurity investments lend businesses peace of mind that they’re doing all they can to be compliant, secure and successful. What manager doesn’t want that?
You have more administrative insight into networks, greater visibility into operations, a deeper trust in employees and heightened control of everyday applications. Plus, your business stands more poised to embrace emerging technologies like AI, cloud services and even blockchain, since its cybersecurity practices are already under control.
What Type of Protection You Need
Cybersecurity policies will vary, just as budgets and businesses do.
They can focus on securing contemporary software, improving data storage and backups, better detecting viruses and scams or setting up reporting workflows when problems are caught. They can also include institutionalized practices like network access controls, standardized password programs and even device-usage policies, all fortifying your most important digital assets.
Just remember that while security threats are serious both within and outside your organization, companies have the upper hand. No one knows the real, daily operations, technology, applications and systems like you and your team.
As such, you already have the foundation for what it takes to build the custom cybersecurity protections you need, likely budgeting and using the following proven measures.
1. Preventative Cybersecurity Measures IT Managers Can Make
- Implement data-access controls: Only system administrators and a handful of other relevant employees should have access to specific data portals. Similarly, not all applications will require universal, cross-department or even intra-department use.
- Get a second (or third) opinion: Outside experts and cybersecurity firms, like BlackStratus, can be brought in to review your current policies and technologies, including risk-assessment essentials like the state of your firewalls, multi-level antivirus and anti-malware software. You can even go the extra mile and hire a hacker to run penetration tests on your network, gaining extensive vulnerability insights.
- Consider cloud SOC-as-a-service: Cloud-based SOC-as-a-service is one of the most cost-effective ways for businesses to implement robust, around-the-clock security and incident-management platforms into operations. Rather than hire in-house analysts and install expensive monitoring infrastructure, plus perform updates and maintenance, SOC-as-a-service platforms, like CYBERShark, are great ways to partner with experts who do this for you. It means more compliant procedures, better continuous threat mitigation, better real-time monitoring — and better peace of mind.
2. Preventative Cybersecurity Measures IT Employees Can Make
- Change your passwords, please: Password rotations might be cumbersome, but it’s square one to safer computers and networks. Passwords should not only adhere to character best-practices, but they should be changed frequently and shared as little as possible.
- Adopt two-factor authentication: Confirming log-ins and identities is the second line of user defense, after strong passwords. Employees and organizations looking to reduce internal risks even more should consider adopting two-step authentication software and apps.
- Be digitally vigilant: Update browsers and operating systems per company policies. Be smart about what links you click, materials you download or unfamiliar websites you visit. Double check you’re safely sending sensitive information over encrypted, secure file-transfer systems. All this should be complemented by a cybersecurity awareness training program that bolsters your ability to spot unsafe websites, downloads or any other suspicious activities.
How to Budget for Cybersecurity Protection
Research from industry leaders, including IBM, project that a healthy cybersecurity budget should make up nine to 14 percent of an overall IT department’s annual budget. Yet in reality, businesses spend less than six percent of total IT budgets on security and risk management.
Cybersecurity is an investment — not an expense. This is the essential thing for managers and employers alike to understand when it comes to budgeting for cyber preparedness and implementing the right changes at the right time. Yet it can be difficult to prioritize expenses in the fast-paced, rapidly evolving world of corporate cybersecurity.
Priorities need to be continually revisited. The following cybersecurity domains can provide scaffolding when departments prepare their annual and quarterly IT budgets. Each should be reviewed and discussed with stakeholders one at a time, ensuring they receive proper attention and inclusion if deemed institutional priorities contributing to that 10 percent budgetary ideal.
- IT outsourcing and service support: It may be more economical for your IT department to partner with a security vendor, particularly for services like 24/7 network monitoring, diagnostics and correlations, alerts, reports and mitigation pipelines when threats are detected. This avoids current personnel from becoming overstretched in their duties, as well as brings experts on-board who can perform high levels of threat detection and administration with their distinct skillsets.
- Security software: Multi-level antivirus and anti-malware will continue to be critical budgetary concerns for IT departments at any stage. However, costs are shifting from traditional, installed hardware and software to virtual and cloud-based applications as well as SaaS solutions.
- Secure mobile apps: Mobile security remains an often-neglected branch of overall cybersecurity budgets. However, investments in this category are only expected to compound in importance as mobile and cloud technologies burgeon. From mobile web-filtering applications, firewalls and virus and malware detection to mobile-friendly platforms for secure file and data transfers, IT departments should take a microscope to current capabilities and vulnerabilities in their mobile operations, then seek out software solutions accordingly.
- Improved cybersecurity awareness training: All the work IT-decision makers put into researching, planning and investing in cybersecurity enhancements only gains traction after real employees buy in. That’s why, in tangent with physical and technical investments, companies must invest in their people. Proper training and communication practices need to be reviewed, both in departments and by human resources. A comprehensive cybersecurity awareness program immerses personnel in both the logic and the functionality behind cybersecurity operations. It gives them the knowledge and the tools they need to be responsible end users protecting the hard-earned budgets companies balance.
Your organization cannot predict every cyberthreat. That doesn’t mean it has to wave the security white flag, either, accepting breaches and data loss as inevitable.
Organizations like yours have more resources than ever to defend their networks, secure records and ensure evergreen, compliant operations. With the right security partner, you can do so at a fraction of the cost.
BlackStratus CYBERShark is a scalable, sustainable managed-security service that elevates your cybersecurity budget. It also gives peace of mind your organization has what it takes to protect itself, today and tomorrow.
CYBERShark can help you:
- Assert greater control and visibility over your digital assets
- Improve everyday business operations
- Reduce the likelihood of cyberattack financial losses
- Bolster compliance efforts
- Secure your reputation — and your future