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As technology continues to work its way into everyday business practice, we find ourselves increasingly dependent upon it to do our jobs. Most employees spend up to 6 hours on email a day, making it one of the most critical tools to productivity. And while this productivity technology advances, email rises to the top as the the number one method used by hackers to get into your system, download your data or infect your systems and you have little control over it (or at least you might think).

Yet despite the risk, most businesses find themselves overwhelmed by the multitudes of security measures they need to deal with. It seems like there’s a new security compliance practice to worry about with each passing day, and with the threat of a cyber-crime putting their business at risk, the stress can pile up.

Can One Person Do It All?
Hiring IT professionals to maintain your IT is helpful, but protecting your business it isn’t as easy as having one expert on your side. With every employee using the technology your business requires, the potential holes in your security net widens. A simple mistake by a single employee can cause a breach that could set your business back immensely, resulting in issues such as:

1. Loss of revenue
In a direct way, through security scams that trick employees into unauthorized money transfers. In an indirect way, wasted employee time and fines for security noncompliance.

2. Loss of customer trust
When you fall prey to these schemes, it erodes customer confidence in your business ability to protect their data.

3. Legal consequences
Your contracts could potentially become unenforceable, or cause insurance coverage issues.

It’s difficult enough for an SMB owner to manage the day-to-day of their business, but to become an expert on technology security practices on top of everything else is nearly impossible. It’s a huge task to try and keep up with the ever-increasing security scams and infections that target small business every day, which can result in accidental downloads and ransomware attacks that are quick to exploit.

The Many Layers of Cyber-Security
There’s no simple fix for cyber-security in any company. Having a comprehensive security suite only covers about half your base, as even the most high-tech software can still fall prey to human error. It is essential to train up every employee who comes in contact with technology in your business, as each is a potential hole in your security net.

Its best to think of your cyber-security as a series of layers. Technology like firewalls are one layer, shielding you from obvious threats on the internet, alongside antivirus, patch management, and other automated systems designed to protect you from viruses and malware. Where these systems fall short, however, is when clever hackers introduce social engineering into the mix. No antivirus software can protect against an email that really looks like it came from your boss, and if you don’t realize the truth, then you’ve fallen prey to a security breach as bad as any Trojan virus.

People, on the other hand, when trained properly, are quite good at noticing details that seem out of place. Is the address on the footer of the email misspelled? Does the link say it’s going to take you to a website you’ve never heard of before? All these tricks that slip past detection software are really pretty simple for a person to pick out, but they’ll never think to look if they don’t even know the tricks exist.

So how should SMB’s deal with the struggle of ensuring their business is secure?
The easiest and most encompassing way to meet secure threats head on is to partner with a managed-IT service provider, who can analyze your business’s technology infrastructure and draw up plans to implement comprehensive security layer.

Simply hiring a professional to implement firewall software isn’t enough to fully safeguard your business, however. Your employees need to be in the loop, and there is a formula for doing that. Here’s a real-life story from the security trenches that PDNC experienced, and we want to share with you how we helped turn the employees into a security prevention asset by creating a culture of cyber-security awareness.

True Story
Recently, one of our own clients ran into a terrifying situation where an email came in that was nearly indistinguishable from the internal emails used by the management in the company. The email laid out directions to wire $140,000 to a “parts supplier” (the name of which was one of their actual vendors) that was expecting payment for goods offered.

The email was so realistic that the employee was finalizing the finishing touches on the transfer when she causally mentioned to her boss that the money transfer was almost done. The look of surprise on the CEO’s face when he heard that she was about to wire that much money to someone without his knowing was extraordinary, and the resulting scare shook the company from top to bottom as people realized how easy it was to be tricked through emails. Had that money been sent, people could have lost their jobs, and all because the employee wasn’t aware that an email could be faked so well.

While that sum of money might not seem that large, the company itself isn’t an enterprise level business, but instead a local SMB. This points out the misconception that cyber-criminals prefer to target enterprise level business, when the truth is that these large businesses invest so much money into their security that hacking is rarely a threat. Small businesses, by contrast are the targets. Many small businesses believe that they can install antivirus software and a firewall and they will be safe. When in fact, employees, busy doing their everyday jobs are the biggest target and without a culture of security awareness, these businesses find themselves at far greater risk.

With this reality comes a need for SMB’s to reevaluate how they handle security compliance. Simply investing in IT security measures isn’t always enough to truly mitigate the threat of a security breach. Once you’ve invested in security measures, it is key to ensure that each of your employees knows what’s going on in the security department. By introducing employees to the threats they face, you can integrate a sense of awareness into your company culture. When every employee has a knowledge of the threats, they’re far less likely to accidentally fall prey to them.

3 Steps to Making Your Employees Your First Line of Defense:
So, you want to make sure your employees are a defense against cyber-threats, instead of a potential avenue for attack. What should you focus on first? Below are three steps to start you off on training your employees to be cyber-aware.

1. Make security compliance important from the top down
Invest in IT services that offer a full suite of security compliance solutions. Whether you spring for a fully managed contract with an IT consulting firm or outsource your CIO needs, ensure that every aspect of your technology has been looked over and that you have solutions in place at every level.

2. Upskill the employees with consistent and recurring training
This is where integrating cybersecurity awareness into your company culture comes into play. The first step is to simply go over your cyber-security policy with each employee. Teach them to take advantage of the various tools you’ve implemented, and make them aware of the data backups, antivirus, and firewall solutions you have in place. That way, when a hacker tries to tell them about fake security breaches as a way into your security net, the employee will be wise to the trick. But that’s just one potential tactic a hacker might use. How do you intend to warn each of your employees about the multitudes of constantly evolving threats criminals are coming up with each day? There are a few solutions, including recurring security compliance training for employees, lunch-and-learns and webinars.

3. Gamify the Experience!
Implement a way to keep track of your employee’s cybersecurity awareness. New systems have come out recently that do an excellent job tracking each employee’s cyber-security compliance level, allowing employees to compare scores and push themselves to learn more, which in turn, closes holes in the business security net. The techs here at PDNC offer a software suite that covers gamification to help your employees learn. If you’re interested in learning more, give us a call and we’ll fill you in on the details.

Downloadable Infographic to Post in Your Breakroom
There’s really no excuse for an employee that’s unaware of the security threats they face every day. That’s not to say they need to understand the specifics of which ports are accessible on the company firewall or anything like that, but at the very least, an overview of phishing tactics and other tricks hackers use, and some general security best-practices will go a very long way in improving the overall security compliance of the business. Download and print out the “Security Tips for the Breakroom” below if you want something you can pin up around the office to get cyber-security on everyone’s mind!

Contact us today if you have any questions!