How to Create a Cybersecurity Plan

Accenture’s Ninth Annual Cost of Cybercrime Study reveals that 43% of cyberattacks target small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), yet only 14% of SMBs have adequate protections in place. Developing a cybersecurity plan can help ensure that your business is prepared to defend against cyberattacks.

But how do you create and implement an effective cybersecurity plan for your SMB? Below is a guide to help you get started.

What is a cybersecurity plan?

A cybersecurity plan helps you prepare for and mitigate the risks of a cyberattack or data breach. It also outlines the steps to take in case your data gets hacked. A solid cybersecurity plan should include:

  • An incident response strategy that identifies key stakeholders and details their roles when an attack occurs
  • A data breach response plan that includes steps to take in the event of a breach, such as notifying customers and law enforcement
  • A risk assessment that evaluates your company’s vulnerabilities and how best to address them
  • Security policies and procedures for protecting your data, including password requirements and mobile device security protocols
  • Training and awareness programs on how to spot and report suspicious activity

Why do SMBs need a cybersecurity plan?

All companies, no matter their size, are at risk for a cyberattack. However, SMBs are especially vulnerable because they often lack the resources to protect their data properly. They also may not have the same level of security awareness as their larger counterparts, making them an easy target for hackers.

Here are some important reasons SMBs like yours need to have a cybersecurity plan:

To safeguard your data

A cyberattack can result in the loss of customer data, trade secrets, or other sensitive company information. If this information falls into the wrong hands, it could be used to harm your business. Having a cybersecurity plan in place will help you protect your data and mitigate the damage if your data gets compromised.

To respond quickly to attacks

In the event of an attack, it’s crucial to have a plan in place so that you can act swiftly and effectively. An effective incident response protocol incorporated in your cybersecurity plan will minimize the damage caused by a cyberattack and help your business get back up and running as soon as possible.

To protect your business’s integrity

Quickly responding to a data breach can also help prevent further damage to your SMB’s reputation. For example, if a company laptop with customer credit card information is stolen, you could immediately revoke access to or remotely wipe the device before any data is compromised.

To avoid business interruptions and financial losses

A cyberattack can halt business operations and interrupt your workflows. Without a cybersecurity plan in place, you risk losing customers, damaging partnerships with vendors, and incurring financial losses from downtime. If worse comes to worst, you may never recover from a data breach. By implementing a cybersecurity plan, you can help protect your company from these losses and keep your operations running smoothly.

To comply with regulations

Many industries have regulations that require businesses to take specific steps to protect their data. For example, healthcare organizations must comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, which includes standards for safeguarding patient information. Depending on your specific industry and/or business type, you may be required to have a cybersecurity plan in order to meet compliance standards.

To improve your cybersecurity posture

A cybersecurity plan will help you identify vulnerabilities within your organization so that you can address them before they can be exploited by attackers. This includes everything from gaps in security policies to outdated software to weak password practices. By improving your cybersecurity posture, you can make it more difficult for hackers to penetrate your systems and steal your data.

How do you develop an effective cybersecurity plan?

Creating a cybersecurity plan can seem daunting, but by following these steps, you can develop a plan that is tailored to your SMB’s specific needs:

  1. List your key stakeholders – These include your C-suite executives, internal IT team, and external IT support service team. List their roles and contact information so that you can easily reach them in the event of a breach or any cybersecurity incident.
  2. Catalog your IT assets – In order to protect your data, you need to know what you are protecting. Take stock of all of your IT assets, including hardware, software, and networks. This will help you to identify which systems hold important business data and are most critical to your business operations, and thus should be given priority in your cybersecurity plan.
  3. Identify your protection methods – Based on your assets, decide which cybersecurity methods you need to implement to protect them. These could be security equipment like firewalls, security software like anti-malware programs, and protection techniques like data encryption.
  4. Prioritize assets, risks, and threats – After identifying your assets, decide which ones are most critical to protect. You will also want to identify the greatest threats and risks that your business faces, so you can determine appropriate countermeasures and solutions for each. By prioritizing assets, risks, and threats, you can ensure that your most vulnerable assets are given the highest level of protection.
  5. Establish user guidelines and best practices – Another key element of a cybersecurity plan is setting guidelines and best practices for everyone in your SMB. This includes implementing password policies, establishing clear protocols for handling sensitive data, and providing rules for using personal devices for work. By keeping your users informed and aware of potential cybersecurity threats, you can help them to avoid putting the business at risk.
  6. Set achievable goals – A cybersecurity plan should be tailored to your specific business and its needs. As such, it’s important to set achievable goals for your plan. This could include implementing specific security measures, increasing your staff’s cybersecurity awareness, or improving compliance with industry regulations within a certain time frame. In any case, setting attainable goals will help you measure the progress and success of your cybersecurity plan.
  7. Link goals to business objectives – It’s equally important to ensure that your goals are aligned with your business objectives. For example, if one of your business objectives is to increase productivity, then you may want to make it a goal to reduce the number of employees who fall for phishing scams. This is because the time it takes to recover from phishing attacks could otherwise be spent on productive work.

    By tying your cybersecurity goals to your business objectives, you can ensure your cybersecurity plan is effectively supporting your business and its success.
  8. Create procedures to handle potential threats – Preventive measures don’t completely eliminate the risk of a hack or data breach, so it’s only prudent to put in place procedures for responding to potential threats. These can be as simple as contacting your IT support provider immediately if you suspect you’ve been breached, or as complex as enacting a full-scale response plan that includes contacting law enforcement and your insurance company.

    It might be a good idea to develop several different response procedures that depend on the severity of the incident. At the very least, you’ll want a process in place for containing a breach and taking affected data offline quickly.
  9. Incorporate routine cybersecurity testing and audits – In order to find cybersecurity vulnerabilities before hackers do, make sure you build routine testing and audits into your cybersecurity plan. This could include things like penetration tests, which involve hiring an external cybersecurity expert to attack your systems and find weaknesses.

    Regular audits are also a great way to measure compliance with industry regulations and to ensure that your cybersecurity plan is still appropriate for your needs.
  10. Include regular employee cybersecurity training in your plan – One of the best ways to reduce your risk of a data breach is to make sure all your employees are aware of cybersecurity threats and how to protect themselves. Regular cybersecurity training can help keep your staff up to speed with the latest threats, as well as any new cybersecurity procedures. This can be as simple as monthly email updates, or more involved like quarterly in-person training sessions.
  11. Regularly review and update your plan – As new threats emerge and become more prevalent, you’ll need to update your plan to reflect these changes. This may include adding new security measures, revising response procedures, or provide training more frequently. Even if you don’t find any new threats or vulnerabilities when you review your plan, it’s still a good idea to update it on a regular basis to ensure your procedures are still effective and relevant.

If you are very hands-on with your business security, you may be able to develop a cybersecurity plan with very little input from other stakeholders. However, if you rely on an IT services provider for managed cybersecurity, it’s best to seek their assistance. The most important thing is to take the time to develop a plan that fits your business’s specific needs, and make sure everyone on your team is aware of it and knows how to follow the policies and procedures in your cybersecurity plan.

Implementing a cybersecurity plan can seem like a daunting task, but it’s crucial for protecting your business from cyberthreats. By taking the necessary steps, you can rest assured knowing that your data is safe and sound.

If you’re looking for more tips on how to bolster your SMB’s cybersecurity, reach out to see what MBM Technology Solutions can do for your business.

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