A couple of months ago, the Australian tech unicorn, Canva, announced that it had fallen victim to a hacking attack. As a result, the personal information of about 139 million users was compromised. The information included things like the real names of the customers, their usernames, and email addresses, as well as their place of residence. Canva, like many other startups, scaled quickly, but they failed to take into account that as they become bigger, their cybersecurity risks also increase. In this article, we will talk about some cybersecurity measures you need to take as you scale your business.
The Absolute Minimum You Need to Do
While we will talk about several levels of protection, the absolute minimum security measures a business needs to implement upon expansion is protecting endpoints, educating employees about existing threats and instituting comprehensive policy training. Endpoint protection refers to the devices end users will employ to interact with your business. This includes things like mobile devices, PCs, laptops and other ‘smart’ devices. These endpoints can be exploited by hackers and can be used as back doors into the enterprise infrastructure. Therefore, it is very important that you use endpoint security software that secures the devices that access the network with encryption and application control.
By encrypting the endpoints, you safeguard against data breaches, while application control inhibits users from making unauthorized actions with said applications that could be hazardous to the network. Usually, this is done using a client-server model, where a locally managed security system protects both the network infrastructure and the client on both endpoints.
As far as employee education is concerned, it is important that your employees are fully aware of all possible methods a virus or malware can infiltrate a system. This could be a simple phishing attack where an employee clicks on a link that leads them to a dangerous website, or a more advanced version called spear phishing, in which the hacker tries to target a specific person within the organization. Therefore it is important that you conduct employee training on the identification of potential security risks, so they can know exactly how to spot and mitigate a potential attack before it wreaks havoc in real life.
Patch Management and Web Filtering
This is the next stage of protection beyond securing your endpoints and everything else mentioned above. Patch management is how you organize and implement all of the updates to your technologies. This can be challenging because as your company grows, the number of assets that you have to manage will also increase. It is extremely important that all of your apps and assets are well patched and maintained. Start by reviewing all of the operating systems that you currently use and try to reduce this number as much as possible. If you have a legacy system in place that is out of date or is not supported anymore, it puts your environment at greater risk. Also, it is important to keep in mind that patches are not reserved solely for operating systems. You will still have to patch installed apps, libraries, services, and devices. If something is difficult to patch, it is imperative that you do not lower the priority level or ignore altogether.
As for web filters, they can be used to prevent users from accessing compromised websites and other malicious content. This is a great tool to prevent security breaches because it allows you to see what your employees access and share.
Conduct Penetration Testing
One of the best ways to see where and how your systems are most vulnerable is to conduct penetration testing because it will allow you to see how well your system will perform against outside hacking attempts. It is a good idea to conduct penetration testing after you deploy new infrastructure or after you make any updates to your systems, such as patches, changes to your firewall and any other upgrades. Most importantly, you will become proactive in your defense against hacking attempts that could result in network downtime and remediation costs. You can use the information that you obtained from the penetration tests to assess your current cybersecurity capabilities and implement more effective security measures.
The company conducting the penetration should be able to provide you with intelligent recommendations on how to close any security gaps you may have. This could be crucial if your industry has certifications that your business must comply with, such as HIPPA, PCI, ISO 270001 and many others. Some regulations might even require you to conduct a certain number of penetration tests per year, so it is of utmost importance to be consistently up to date, in order to, not only maintain secure systems but also to avoid regulatory fines.
Maintain Your Image and the Loyalty of Your Customers
Dealing with the aftermath of a hacking attack can be very difficult, since, in the public’s eyes, you are no longer trustworthy. In order to keep your image and regain the loyalty of your customers, there are some things you need to implement in the short and long term. If we look at the short term, you need to put someone in charge of isolating and removing the issue. The response time must be incredibly quick. You need to be completely honest and transparent about the problem, both internally and with your customers, informing all of the steps you have already taken and plan to take to prevent future breaches.
In the long term, you need to limit the number of people who have access to critical personal information. It can be challenging for startups and medium-sized businesses to make necessary security upgrades, as these can be costly, however, it can be far more expensive to leave areas of your infrastructure unprotected and exploitable by hackers.
As your business grows, it is extremely important to realize that you will forever be facing new security challenges as hackers adapt and become ever-increasingly crafty. For the sake of your customers and all the hard work you’ve put in, please, remain proactive. Don’t become the next hack victim.