We all know cybersecurity is a big deal. Experts estimate that security breaches cost companies a collective $8 trillion in 2023. That number is expected to grow to over $10 trillion by 2025. The problem isn’t going away, so any lapses in security will catch up with you sooner or later. Here are the 9 biggest cybersecurity mistakes we see businesses making.
1. Having the Wrong Mindset
We consider this the number one mistake because it creates the environment in which all the other mistakes can thrive. Companies that think they are “too small to be a target” for cybercriminals are exactly what many criminals seek out. With this mindset, companies underinvest in both security defenses and disaster recovery, making them an easier target with less leverage. It doesn’t matter whether you think your business is too small, it matters what the criminals think, and they think that most small companies are easy marks.
2. Ineffective Password Policies
It can be easy to be complacent with password policies, yet passwords continue to be a leading cause of security breaches. Employees who reuse passwords, especially between personal and business logins, make an easy entrance point for criminals. If a password is compromised on one site, it’s compromised on every site. Criminals have tools that will test compromised passwords automatically so they can focus their time on companies with unsafe password policies. If the words multi-factor authentication, passphrases, or password managers aren’t in your company vocabulary, you’re at risk.
3. Insufficient Training
Rank and file employees will always outnumber your IT security staff. If they aren’t trained on how to perform their daily tasks in accordance with the latest cybersecurity standards, security breaches will occur. In companies that regularly deliver quality security training, employees not only make fewer security mistakes, but they also become extra eyes and ears and can notify your security team early on of phishing emails or strange login behavior. If employees are a company’s greatest asset, not having a cybersecurity training program is failing to fully utilize that asset.
4. Inadequate Documentation
Cybersecurity infrastructure is both complex and unique to each company. Companies usually have a handful of employees who know everything from overall architecture to administrator passwords. The problem is that employees take vacation or leave for other jobs. If an attack occurs and there isn’t adequate documentation, companies lose valuable time trying to track this information down and may spend significant amounts of money trying to recreate this knowledge or recovering from scratch.
5. No Audits or Assessments
Cybersecurity is constantly evolving. A state-of-the-art security strategy in 2019 is inadequate today. Because today’s IT technology is so interconnected, a change to one application or service can impact the security of other areas. With so many potential security solutions to invest in combined with limited budgets, prioritization is critical. Yet without a regular audit or assessment process, there’s no way to know which areas need improvement. The result is often what we call “random acts of cybersecurity”.
6. Mindlessly Adopting New Technology
A key element of random acts of cybersecurity is adopting new technology without investigating the security implications. The rapid adoption of Zoom during the pandemic and the resulting plague of people exploiting security weaknesses to interrupt teleconferencing calls was a high-visibility example of this mistake. Imagine if instead of exposing the company’s staff meetings it had exposed the banking accounts or personnel records. Because everything is interconnected, new technologies need to be evaluated and tested before broad deployment. As with all the other mistakes, a little extra work upfront saves a lot of sweat and tears later.
7. Not Keeping It Simple
When adopting new technology, there is also the temptation to select overly complex solutions. Vendors love to market complex solutions: with lots of bells and whistles, there is plenty to talk about. While simpler solutions are less exciting, they are also easier to deploy, easier to train employees to use, and easier to keep secure. Complicated solutions end up costing far more than anticipated with an increased learning curve, more time spent on configuration and integration, and more effort to keep it running securely. Having a trusted expert who can help you adopt new technology while keeping it simple is key.
8. Careless About Recent Attacks
When a new exploit is discovered, cybercriminals spring into action and look for companies that haven’t responded to this new threat. Unfortunately, they have plenty of potential victims. The old adage about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure applies here. Companies that have been attacked spend significantly more on recovery costs than they would have spent on updating their security to protect against new attacks.
9. No Disaster Recovery Plan
Cybercriminals know they have little leverage over a company with a disaster recovery plan. Those companies know that during an attack, they can block the exploit, restore uninfected images, and continue business. For them, a ransomware attack is an inconvenience, not an existential threat. Sadly, too many companies don’t have a disaster recovery plan, which is a major reason why 60% of small companies close within 6 months of a cyberattack.
Are You Making Any of These Mistakes?
Criminals make millions of dollars each year targeting small companies like yours. You do not have to be one of them. If you recognize your company is making some of these common mistakes, make the decision to fix it immediately. Study the problem, make a plan, and implement the solution in 2024.