Written by Dyanne Harvey for Founder Shield

Mary Kay Ash said, “Your biggest asset isn’t your product, it’s your data. Guard it like gold.” The question small business leaders often ask themselves is how do you guard something so intangible as data — and why?

This feature delves into the realm of cybersecurity, offering insights into the nature of these threats and their potential impact on small businesses. We’ll explore real-life scenarios and guide you through the process of safeguarding your most valuable asset —  your data.

The Landscape of Cyber Threats

Understanding cybersecurity is crucial in today’s digital era, especially for small business owners. Let’s demystify some key terms:

  • Identity Theft is when someone steals your personal information, like your name or Social Security number, to commit fraud. For a business, this could mean someone impersonating the business to steal money or sensitive information.
  • Data Breaches occur when there’s unauthorized access to confidential data, often exposing customer information. For a small business, this can lead to a loss of customer trust and significant legal repercussions.
  • Ransomware is malicious software that locks access to the victim’s data or threatens to publish it unless a ransom is paid. Small businesses, often less protected, are lucrative targets for these attacks.

Now, let’s talk numbers. Cyberattacks are alarmingly common in the small business sector. Reports suggest that around 43% of cyberattacks target small businesses, and the numbers are rising. The impact can be even more significant for female-owned businesses due to often limited resources for recovery and protection. These statistics underline the importance of cybersecurity awareness and the need for robust protective measures in the small business community.

Two Real-Life Scenarios

When Camila’s beloved bookstore suffered a severe cyberattack, including identity theft and a ransomware demand, her world seemed to crumble. The attack jeopardized her financial stability and customer trust. However, Camila’s decision to invest in comprehensive cyber insurance proved invaluable. 

The policy covered the ransom, assisted in data recovery, and compensated for business interruption. With expert help, Camila not only recovered her operations but also upgraded her cybersecurity. This quick turnaround transformed a dire situation into a triumph of preparedness, reinforcing customer loyalty and highlighting the crucial role of cyber insurance in safeguarding small businesses.

In another part of the US, Jessica dealt with a similar scenario. Only the impact was financially devastating. With no cyber insurance, she faced a mountain of recovery costs and legal fees. The incident drained her savings and left her questioning the future of her dream venture.

Your Data: The Crown Jewels

Navigating the complex world of small business data is vital for safeguarding your business’s future. Let’s delve into understanding and protecting your valuable data assets — and why approaching cybersecurity and business development strategically is critical.

Data Inventory

Start by identifying the types of data your business stores. This approach usually includes:

  • Customer Information: Names, addresses, emails, and possibly payment details. This information is the lifeblood of customer relationships and service delivery.
  • Financial Records: Banking information, transaction histories, and accounting data. Essential for financial integrity and operational insights.
  • Intellectual Property: Unique business ideas, proprietary processes, or innovative products set your business apart and drive its competitive edge.

Understanding the Value

Your data is a treasure trove for attackers for several reasons:

  • Financial Gain: Personal and financial information can be sold or used for fraudulent activities.
  • Intellectual Leverage: Competitors or criminals could exploit your unique business insights or ideas.
  • Reputational Damage: A breach can erode customer trust, a cornerstone of your business reputation.

The consequences of a breach are far-reaching, from financial to reputational to legal. Direct costs of addressing the cyber attack, lost revenue, and potential fines could seem surmounting. According to IBM, the global average cost of a data breach in 2023 was $4.45 million, a 15% increase over three years. 

Aside from financial loss, reputational damage could mean a loss of customer trust, leading to a decline in business. Lastly, Non-compliance with data protection laws can result in legal actions and hefty fines. 

In essence, understanding and protecting your business data is not just about safeguarding information; it’s about protecting your business’s reputation, financial health, and competitive position in the market.

5 Practical Steps to Shield Your Data

Small businesses must stay vigilant against cyber threats in the ever-evolving digital landscape. Here are five practical steps to shield your data:

1. Understand What You’re Up Against

Cybersecurity isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a crucial aspect of your business’s survival. Data breaches are increasing, with reports showing a significant percentage of small businesses experiencing breaches annually. Ransomware attacks, where hackers lock you out of your systems and demand payment, have also surged. And identity theft is not just a personal issue; businesses are equally vulnerable. These threats can lead to financial losses, reputational damage, and operational disruptions.

2. Know Your Level of Risk

It’s not enough to know the statistics; you must understand what a cybersecurity breach means for your business. Assess the sensitivity of the data you handle, the potential impact of a cyberattack, and the likelihood of such events. This understanding is fundamental to developing an effective cybersecurity strategy.

3. Learn How to Navigate the Environment

Mitigating these risks involves adopting best practices in cybersecurity. This approach means regularly updating software, using strong, unique passwords, and educating your team on the importance of cybersecurity. Implement technologies like firewalls, anti-virus software, and encrypted data storage. Regularly back up data to ensure you can recover critical information if an attack occurs. In the meantime, it’s empowering to know the 5 steps of risk management as you learn to navigate the digital world. 

4. Establish a Plan to Stay Resilient

Despite all precautions, breaches can happen. Have a recovery plan ready, including steps to limit damage, notify affected parties, and restore normal operations. Involve your team in this plan, ensuring everyone knows their role in a crisis.

5. Use Insurance as a Sword AND a Shield

Cybersecurity insurance isn’t just a safety net; it’s a proactive tool in your business’s defense arsenal. It can cover financial losses from breaches, support in managing the fallout, and access to experts to mitigate the damage. This insurance acts as both a defensive measure against potential financial ruin and an offensive strategy, providing resources to tackle the problem head-on. Plus, it’s attractive to investors, encouraging them to invest in a well-protected business. 

Protecting your small business from cyber threats requires understanding the risks, staying informed about best practices, having a solid response plan, and considering cybersecurity insurance as a comprehensive solution. It’s not an easy endeavor — but with the right team in your corner, it’s an accomplishable goal.

Join us for an event presented by Founder Shield and FirstBank, Cybersafe for Entrepreneurs: Defend Your Business Against Cyber Threats, on Wednesday, January 31, 2024, from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM. This workshop will empower you with the knowledge and tools to safeguard against cyber threats. Reserve your spot today