Can SMBs Overcome the Cyber Security Skills Gap?
A few short years ago, cyber security was mostly relegated to an organization’s information technology (IT) team. Sadly, cyber defenses were an afterthought to other network operational functions. As the threat of data breaches increased exponentially, IT personnel stepped up their game. But despite their best efforts, many IT professionals now don’t have the skills to respond effectively to the growing sophistication of cyber attacks. In the current cyber threat environment, a cyber security skills gap is leaving many organizations without the knowledge and expertise they need to thwart hackers. And that’s bad news, because hackers are intent on breaching business networks to steal data and information.
The few skilled cyber security professionals that are in the industry are being absorbed by large corporations. This leaves small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) without the personnel they need to develop proper cyber defense strategies. Given that more than 70 percent of all cyber attacks are launched against SMBs, this skills shortage threatens the very existence of SMBs.
Cyber Security Strategies
The good news is that many successful SMBs achieved success with innovative solutions and a good deal of improvisation by their owners and managers. That same innovation and improvisation can form the foundation of an SMB’s cyber defense strategies. A few of the more common elements of those strategies include the following cyber security skills:
- Developing strict policies and procedures for secure communications of data both into and out of an SMB’s information systems network.
- Adopting complex password requirements and multi-factor authentication for network logins.
- Implementing a robust data backup plan, and practicing network recoveries regularly with that plan.
- Monitoring potential internal threats, whether those threats are intentional or negligent.
- Designating one key employee to coordinate cyber security strategy and to manage any responses to a data breach event.
- Educating employees regularly on cyber security threats and defensive practices. And demonstrating the importance of that education by involving all employees from upper management on down.
How Cyber Security Skills Gap Influences on SMBs
SMBs do not have the luxury of spending the hundreds of thousands on cyber defense strategies. This makes them an easy target compared to large corporations with hefty security budgets. As a result, SMBs need to rely on third-party vendors and outside consultants. These outsiders can help install and maintain cyber attack barriers, such as antivirus and firewalls. With cloud computing and other “software as a service“(SaaS) solutions, the costs associated with these barriers are now more manageable. Still, not even a full complement of cyber defense strategies and solutions will prevent every attempted data incursion.
An organization can shield itself from becoming another statistic in the digital warzone, by procuring cyber insurance from a respected provider. Cyber insurance protects an SMB by providing compensation for the SMB’s direct losses due to an attack.
For instance, a cyber attack can impair an SMB’s hardware and software systems with malware. That can lead to excessive business downtime. Or the attack could lock devices and networks in hopes of a payment. This is known as ransomware, and it is an expensive nightmare to get rid of. A cyber insurance policy can cover some of these costs.
But that’s not all. An SMB that loses its customers’ personal and financial data to cyber attackers may be held liable in a class-action lawsuit. Why? For its failure to erect better protections around that data. If the SMB is ordered to pay damages to those customers, a cyber insurance policy can compensate the SMB for at least a portion of those payments. Rapid resolution of a customer complaint will also help the SMB to sustain and recover its reputation with its customers. Until the cyber security skills gap closes, cyber insurance will continue to be an SMB’s best and final cyber protection option.