According to a recent survey, almost 70% of small businesses experienced a cyberattack in the previous year.
If you also own or operate a small business, this statistic isn’t very encouraging. To avoid becoming a cyberattack victim, you should invest in the best possible security that you can, including:
- Antivirus and firewall protection
- Software updates and security patches
October is the perfect time to get started, given that it is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.
However, technology alone will not save you. Until you bring your entire team into the fold, your business will remain exposed.
Below are three reasons why your employees need cybersecurity training.
1. Humans Are the Weak Link in Cybersecurity
Most cyberattacks begin with some type of human action (or inaction), whether it’s:
- Clicking on phishing emails
- Using easily guessable passwords
- Not keeping software up to date
As such, employees represent the weakest link when it comes to cybersecurity. Though when armed with the right tools and training, your staff can also become the first line of defense against future attacks.
2. Not All Cybersecurity Threats Are External
When most people think of cyberattacks, they imagine nefarious criminals on the other side of the world who inflict damage remotely using nothing but code.
Yet, that’s not always how data breaches and cyberattacks occur.
Case in point is Edward Snowden.
When trying to bypass the National Security Agency’s defenses, Snowden didn’t use some clever algorithm or malware. Instead, he brought in an ordinary thumb drive.
Admittedly, employee training probably wouldn’t have prevented this particular data breach. Restricting information on a strictly need-to-know basis could have helped limit the damage. Known as the principle of least privilege, this security step makes it harder for sensitive data to fall into the wrong hands — both within and without your organization.
3. Security Technology Becomes Obsolete
Cybersecurity is a perpetual arms race, with even the best patches, firewalls, and antivirus software becoming obsolete relatively quickly. As such, the ROI of cybersecurity technology is limited and short-lived.
Cybersecurity education and awareness, however, both enjoy much longer staying power.
Training your employees to use strong alphanumeric passwords, for example, is something that you only have to do once. The cybersecurity benefits are long-lasting — even as the landscape continues to evolve rapidly.
How to Train Your Employees in Cybersecurity
Now that you understand the importance of cybersecurity training, the next step involves arming your team with the requisite tools.
Every business is unique, with no two organizations having the exact same vulnerabilities. However, below are best practices that can help keep your small business safe from cyberattacks:
- Schedule a brainstorming session during which your entire team identifies potential cybersecurity threats. Awareness of vulnerabilities is the most important starting point (and the whole thrust of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month).
- Institute the principle of least privilege (already discussed earlier). Employees should never have direct access to information that isn’t critical to their job function.
- Teach your employees to create new and unique alphanumeric passwords. Using the default logins that ship with most software products is no longer an option in 2019 and beyond.
- Require that all company-issued computers, tablets, and phones be configured for automatic updates. This not only makes your entire organization safer, but it also helps reduce interoperability issues if some employees are still using legacy versions of outdated applications.
- Restrict the use of non-essential software. Every download or installation creates a new potential entry point for malicious actors. It’s best to keep your digital operations as lean as possible.
- Devote at least several hours to “email click training.” This is crucial given that 50% of all online users receive at least one phishing email every day. Even more terrifying is the fact that nearly 97% of these users cannot properly identify phishing emails from legitimate ones.
- Similar to the above, but you should also train your employees how to spot and report potential cyberattacks — whether they originate from a phishing email, corrupted download, or some other source.
Remember that this training shouldn’t be a one-off event. Although the above best practices can deliver long-lasting benefits, people are forgetful. It’s a good idea to periodically revisit this cybersecurity training throughout the year.
This is especially true if yours is a business with high staff turnover. Regular training sessions provide opportunities for newer personnel to master the basics.
Cybersecurity Training on a Small Business Budget
If you’re like most small business owners, you probably lack the resources or IT expertise to train employees entirely on your own.
Fortunately, the U.S. Small Business Administration offers free online courses that are specifically designed for organizations like yours. If you’re not sure where to begin, working through these online modules (with your entire team) is a good first step.
Again, National Cybersecurity Awareness Month is the perfect time to get started.
Best of luck. Stay safe.