Hackers are lurking around the internet, mining for information and exploiting vulnerabilities all the time. While larger companies have more user data and are generally more likely to fall prey to cybersecurity breaches, startups are also under attackers’ radar.
As a startup founder, you might not think you have enough critical information to be targeted. Still, many hackers focus on smaller companies, and there are a few reasons for that:
- Security measures are more likely to be lacking
- Employees are less informed of threats
- There are little funds to spare for extra protection
Any startup is eager to establish trust with customers. Therefore, a security breach could be the stroke that kills it.
In short, startups have more vulnerabilities; hence, they are easier to hack. Still, there are plenty of solutions to ensure no attack can break customer and partner trust. Below are nine tips to protect your startup from unwanted outcomes.
Establish and Enforce Proper Data Security Policy
Policies are like air and water for startups. You might be small right now, but being growth-oriented helps a lot. If your product breaks through, you need to have clear guidelines about what information you collect and how you store it.
As hackers use insiders to access the company network, establishing strict access boundaries and responsibilities makes breaches less likely.
Exercise Strict Hardware Standards
At first, when you’re just building the company, you might not have enough funds to buy all the hardware needed for business operations. It’s common to allow employees to use personal devices for work. Although this can cause network vulnerability, you can still set guidelines and requirements for the devices.
Protect Your Domain and Website
For any startup, the website is its most significant online asset. Therefore, protecting it should be a top priority. A safe and dedicated hosting provider solves most problems by offering Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) and file backups.
Installing an SSL certificate will secure the data transfer between your browser and server. At the same time, a web application firewall will help protect the information flow between the data connection and the server.
Domain protection is yet another crucial step, especially for those startups that reach out to their customers via email. The deliverability and trustworthiness of your communication can make or break your reach to new clients and prevent customer loss.
Here is where setting up DMARC protocols and getting your SPF records in order becomes a priority.
Install Latest Software Updates
Old software is like an invitation for a hacker to explore vulnerabilities in your system. On dated systems, bad actors are more likely to have already discovered bugs and exploits. In addition to the fact that new software versions patch known issues, they also strengthen the security with each update.
Installing the latest software on every device in your system is one of the best ways to prevent becoming easy prey to cybercrime.
Make Backups and Keep Them Up-To-Date
Protecting yourself from malware and attacks is essential, but failures happen. You need to have a proper response plan in place to recover fast and as painless as possible.
Make a list of your assets and regularly back them up. Whether you’re using cloud storage or hardware, it should be extra secure. Therefore, only use trusted online service providers. As for the physical backup, you should move the hard drives off-site in case there’s a physical break-in.
Require Strong and Unique Passwords
With so many online service providers, your employees are likely to subscribe to some essential apps they use during work. Plus, all the communication and financial transactions flow through password-protected applications. This is a vulnerability most often leveraged by hackers.
During many attack types, including the “watering hole,” hackers use repetitive and weak keys to sneak into your system. This is the reason you need to enforce strong and unique passwords and petition for frequent modifications. An excellent way to ensure this happens regularly is to integrate a password manager.
Make a Mobile Security Plan
Mobile devices are an inseparable part of the working environment these days. While keeping personal computers safe is one thing, smartphones pose an even greater threat. If your employees access work-related information on these devices, you can have steps in place to help install security apps, activate two-factor authentication, and encrypt their data.
Foster Cybersecurity Culture
Social engineering attacks are the best way to affect small and medium businesses. The reason is that the employees are less knowledgeable about cybersecurity. Educating them and embedding the security protocols into the company’s DNA might not produce immediate results, but it’ll transpire in the long run.
Prepare for the Worst
When it comes to physical assets, we’re always more vigilant. Threats to our digital possessions don’t seem too alarming until they happen. Planning is key to the fast and easy recovery of any data you might’ve lost during an attack.
Companies, and especially startups, need to pay more attention to their disaster recovery/management plan. You might not yet have a large IT department to take on this role, but each key player in the company should know their steps during critical and unforeseeable situations.
This document should be a set of rules and steps for the team during and after an attack. Password management, data backup, and standardized procedures are also part of this plan.
As you can see, each of the steps above brings your startup closer to higher cybersecurity and more peace of mind. By building them from the start, you’re giving yourself a significant advantage in the market. You build responsiveness and trust among your customers and partners while building capacity for easy scaling when the time comes.
Once you have protocols and guidelines in place, you set the company up for success.