How to Safeguard Your Small Business in the Digital Age

4 mins read

About The Author

Tanya Taplin is an assistant professor of cybersecurity at University of Mary’s Gary Tharaldson School of Business. She has 25 years of cybersecurity experience—most recently working for the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency as North Dakota’s cybersecurity advisor. Taplin is among a team of faculty experts at the University of Mary with a combined 75 years of cybersecurity experience.

Navigating the Cybersecurity Landscape

In today’s hyperconnected world, the art of cybersecurity stands as a reliable defender of our digital lives. Its mission is to shield our information and data from the clutches of unauthorized users and potential threats. In an era where technology permeates every facet of our existence, the value of digital assets, personal data, and privacy has soared, becoming prime targets for cybercriminals. From the individual level to the broader business landscape, cybersecurity is no longer a mere option—it’s a nonnegotiable necessity

The Digital Evolution: Embracing Connectivity Amid Vulnerabilities

Our lives have become intricately woven with technology, yielding unparalleled convenience but also ushering in new vulnerabilities. The proliferation of digital devices and networks has opened doors to seamless interactions, but it has also left us susceptible to malicious intent. Each connected device, from smart thermostats to wearable gadgets, offers an entry point for cybercriminals seeking to exploit weaknesses and gain unauthorized access. It’s an ongoing process where technology’s progress is met by the ever-changing landscape of threats. Moreover, the influence of cybersecurity extends beyond virtual domains—it shapes the reliability of power grids, the precision of agricultural systems, and even the resilience of corner store operations.

The Bullseye: Small Businesses As Unassuming Targets with Monumental Impact

Small businesses often underestimate their allure to cybercriminals, driven by their size or the perception that they lack enticing digital assets. Yet, these enterprises hold a trove of invaluable information— employee and customer records, financial data, and access to interconnected networks—that hackers actively covet. Interestingly, small businesses might be at a greater risk compared to their larger counterparts, as resource limitations can hinder their ability to invest in robust cybersecurity measures.

Ransomware’s Rise and The Modern Threat Landscape

The cyber threat landscape has undergone a seismic shift in recent years, and small businesses find themselves thrust into the crosshairs. Ransomware attacks and denial-of-service (DoS) breaches have become weapons of choice for cybercriminals, leaving small businesses grappling with the aftermath of these sophisticated assaults. The strategies that once provided security a mere decade ago are now significantly inadequate. This rapidly evolving threat landscape highlights the need for a dynamic and adaptable approach to cybersecurity. 

Championing A Culture of Cybersecurity: From the Owner to the New Hire

The responsibility of defending against cyber threats isn’t limited to the realm of IT teams or outsourced providers. It’s a shared responsibility that should be woven into the very fabric of every business, from the top leadership down to the newest team members. The outdated reliance on a select few for security needs should transform into a joint commitment to safeguarding valuable digital assets.

Strategies For Cyber Resilience: Equipping Small Businesses For The Battle

Left to Right: 
| Dr. Kevin Fishbeck
Program Director of Computer Information Systems at University of Mary’s Gary Tharaldson School of Business

| Matt Frohlich
Assistant Professor and Program Director of Cybersecurity Administration at University of Mary’s Gary Tharaldson School of Business

| Tanya Taplin
Assistant Professor, Cybersecurity Administration at University of Mary’s Gary Tharaldson School of Business

1. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Fortifying Digital Identity

MFA emerges as a potent weapon in the fight against unauthorized access. By demanding more than a mere password, MFA adds an additional layer of protection. Whether it’s text-based codes, smartphone-generated tokens, push notifications, or hardware-based keys, MFA mitigates the risk of breaches even if one authentication factor is compromised.

2. Crafting Impenetrable Passphrases: Building Strong Fortresses

Crafting robust passwords is like building fortified walls against cyber intruders. Longer passwords are more secure passwords. Employing passphrases, infused with creativity, punctuation, and capitalization, bolsters protection against cybercriminals. Weak or default passwords are the chink in the armor, often exploited by hackers looking for an easy way in.

3. Training and Awareness: Empowering the Workforce

Human vulnerability is often the weakest link in an organization’s security chain. Proper training equips all employees with an understanding of cybersecurity’s significance, their roles in maintaining it, and the tools to identify and address potential threats. By ingraining vigilance against phishing attacks and software updates, businesses cultivate a more secure environment.

4. Staying Up-To-Date: Updating and Patching for Resilience

The importance of staying current in the digital realm cannot be overstated. Regularly applying security patches and updates closes the door on known vulnerabilities that cybercriminals exploit. In a world where outdated systems are the low-hanging fruit, timely updates stand as a formidable defense.

5. The Safety Net of Backups: Fortifying Against Ransomware

Ransomware attacks can paralyze businesses, but robust and tested backups serve as a lifeline. A comprehensive disaster recovery plan (DRP) and incident response plan (IRP) offer both preventive and remedial strategies, ensuring business continuity and resilience.

6. Endpoint Security: Strengthening the Perimeter

Every device connected to a network is a potential vulnerability. While all operating systems are striving for improved security, Chromebooks and iOS devices stand out as “secure by design.” Streamlining a business’s technology arsenal around these devices reduces the attack surface and elevates overall security. 

7. Building Strong Vendor Relationships: Allies in the Battle

Many small businesses entrust their technological needs to third-party vendors. Establishing clear roles and responsibilities, safeguarding data, drafting disaster recovery plans, and ensuring compliance standards are met create a robust cybersecurity framework. In a world where data protection is paramount, effective vendor communication is critical.

Embracing A Cyber-Aware Future: Where Vigilance Meets Vigor

n an age dominated by digital connectivity, every small business stands as a potential target, and the mantle of cybersecurity rests on the shoulders of all. The increasing sophistication of cyber attacks underscores the potential consequences that can disrupt everyday operations. Every business bears the responsibility of diligently recognizing its assets, cultivating a culture centered around optimal approaches, and enabling employees to actively safeguard their data, operations, and instill trust among their customers.

As the digital frontier continues to expand, the call to action is unmistakable: adapt, reinforce, and thrive amidst evolving cyber challenges. In the dynamic realm of cybersecurity, a proactive stance emerges as the most formidable armor any business can adopt. With a concerted effort, unwavering commitment, and a firm grasp of the evolving threat landscape, businesses can not only navigate the cybersecurity maze but also emerge stronger and more resilient on the other side.

Better Protect Your Business From  Online Threats

The University of Mary offers degree and certificate programs in cybersecurity. Gain hands-on expertise in safeguarding digital domains, mastering multi-factor authentication, and tackling modern cyber challenges. The curriculum is designed to equip you for the ever-changing digital landscape. Whether you’re entering the field or enhancing your skills, University of Mary’s programs provide the knowledge to effectively counter cyber threats and excel in the technology-driven environment. 

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