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Cybersecurity has dominated the discussion across companies of all types and sizes lately, as hacker attacks seem to be on the rise. What once seemed like the domain of a niche industry has now expanded to incorporate almost every business sector. How exactly can you make sure that you have done everything to protect your business from online hackers?

Evaluate the situation

The first step for any business looking to beef up its digital security is to assess its current situation. Data security is an indispensable part of cybersecurity, as data is often what hackers are after when trying to invade a company’s servers or computers. Before putting safeguards in place, it is crucial to understand the volume and variety of data that must be protected. For instance, sensitive data may require added security measures – so startups active in the healthcare sector must ensure that personal health information is covered by extra layers of protection. Similarly, when a company deals with big data and vast data sets, they will probably need to invest many resources and funds into building a robust in-house IT expert team to address day-to-day issues. An initial evaluation will also uncover hidden risks such as forgotten or rogue databases, as more often than not the landscape will be more chaotic than expected.

During this phase, it is important to also understand the various obligations that the company must meet. As data protection and privacy have emerged as pivotal fields governed by legislation, regulatory authorities have enhanced the requirements that businesses have to adhere to. These may include, according to the place of operation and the industry that a company is active in, obligations under the HIPAA and SOX, as well as the latest EU General Data Protection Regulation rules, which call for hefty fines in case of non-compliance. In other, more niche markets, more specific rules might apply. For instance, companies that accept and process online payments through debit and credit cards need to comply with the PCI-DSS protocol in order to receive and retain relevant certification. Such certifications are very often crucial for prospective clients who expect a company to maintain high standards when it comes to cybersecurity and safeguarding privacy.

Be proactive

The best strategy when it comes to fending off hackers is to be proactive, as suffering a data breach can cost a company an impressive amount of money. This is due both to the need to redirect funds in order to mitigate the consequences and due to the blow that will be inflicted to the brand value and the company’s reputation – which can easily lead to client losses. As research published by Statista shows, the average financial cost of a data breach incident in the US amounts to a whopping $7.91 million, while Canada comes in second at $4.74 million and Germany follows closely behind at $4.67 million. France has an average of $4.27 million, while the United Kingdom, at $3.68 million, completes the top five countries where data breaches cost the most. While the cost might vary across industries and businesses of different sizes, these average figures are indicative of just how devastating a data breach can be.

Infographic: The Price Tag Attached to Data Breaches | Statista

You will find more infographics at Statista.

A comprehensive cybersecurity policy that tackles every aspect of the problem is the only solution. Companies must set up and implement a wide array of technical measures, such as installing anti-virus and anti-malware software on every business computer. Other common cybersecurity tools like firewalls are also important, especially when fighting low-level hacker attacks. Fortunately, companies are not alone in this fight; software developers like Microsoft routinely release operating system updates that will fix bugs and security vulnerabilities that have been found lurking in your OS. The key to being proactive is to perform checks regularly, in order to make sure that everything is in place. In that context, frequently updating your OS and other software as well as carrying out regular backups of your data and other valuable assets can make a huge difference when it comes to preventing cybercrime.

Invest in people

Besides having a proper infrastructure in place, your employees are perhaps the most valuable defense against cybercriminals. Invest in a robust training program from a reputable provider that will focus on privacy and cybersecurity, so that your staff will understand which best practices to follow. This will also allow them to spot incoming hacker attacks like phishing emails more easily and know how to address them, as well as making sure that they pass the information on to those equipped to handle it. On that note, it is equally important to have the right expert help available at all times when it comes to cybersecurity. This will differ from one company to the next, depending on enterprise size and the complexity of the issues involved. For most businesses, having a dedicated IT team on board will be the best option, but for others, it might be more financially wise to seek the assistance of external consultants – which can be managed with more scalability.

Finally, it is important to note that every company must also have a plan B. While being proactive is crucial, sometimes – despite our best efforts – hackers can outsmart us. It is then that having an incident response plan can truly prove to be a life-saver in allowing a company to recover as fast as possible.

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