5 Simple Security Measures for SME Compliance on a Budget

Written by Ashley Gwilliam on December 19, 2022

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Did you know that nearly half of small businesses experienced cybersecurity breaches in 2021? 

The information comes from a 2021 AdvisorSmith survey of 1,122 small business owners and managers. Yet, a whopping 61% of them aren’t concerned about falling victim to cyberattacks. They think they’re “too small to be a target.” 

Bad actors target small businesses and small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) just as frequently (if not more so) than established organizations. Websites get hacked, email accounts get compromised, and sometimes, employees even steal sensitive information. 

While it’s understandable for budget-conscious SMEs to put cybersecurity measures on the back burner, it just isn’t worth the risk. Especially when there are simple actions organizations of all sizes can take to improve their security tenfold. 

Before we dive into our top five cybersecurity tips for SMEs, let’s take a moment to better understand what factors might make your organization an easy target. 

Why SMEs Are Easy Targets for Cybercrime 

blue key with code overlayed on the image

As previously mentioned, many folks assume adversaries solely target enterprise companies because they provide larger opportunities for blackmail profits.

What they don’t realize is that SMEs are often targeted by chance, not by choice. Cybercriminals may impersonally wade through lists including hundreds of business names without doing much research into organizational holdings. 

With that said, SMEs and enterprise-level companies alike are often chosen for the following reasons: 

1. Money

Most cybercriminals carry out attacks for financial benefits. Naturally, receiving direct payments from victims is the most efficient way to profit from an attack. They usually lock down assets, before demanding a ransom to unlock them. 

Intellectual property (IP) is a highly motivating asset to steal. Criminals know that an SME will pay big to get it back as a leaked IP can bring a small business down to its knees. Some hackers also sell breached assets, data, and information in the black market for profit.

2. Company Damage

Alternatively, some attacks are politically, competitively, or ideologically motivated. Though it may sound like the plot of a thriller movie, disgruntled former partners, business rivals, and unhappy employees have all been known to hijack organizational systems. 

A successful cyberattack can cause major damage. They can wipe data, cause downtime, or even drive a total business shutdown. In addition to depleting bottom lines, they can ruin consumer trust. Breached SMEs also risk facing compliance ramifications, especially if the breach affected other consumers and other third parties. 

3. Access to Resources

Cyberattacks can also be aimed at leveraging the company’s resources and relationships. For example, cybercriminals may target your business as part of a larger DDoS attack, to steal customers’ personally identifiable information (PII) for financial fraud, or just to hijack your computer resources for crypto mining.

4. Testing Tactics

Software engineers aren’t the only ones who run tests! Cybercriminals sometimes experiment with new tactics and attack vectors on smaller businesses before targeting the big fish in the pond. 

SMEs are an easy target in such cases because the criminals expect their defenses to be weak. Don’t allow your organization to be someone’s stepping stone to a more high-impact target.

5. Becoming a Casualty in a Supply Chain Attack

Finally, SMEs are sometimes victims of circumstances. An attack may target a large vendor’s asset and infect the entire supply chain, spreading out to customers, other third parties, and even SMEs that interact with the compromised assets or parties. 

These unintentional attacks may still end up crippling businesses. There are many other reasons why SMEs make easy targets for criminals. But the bottom line is that SMEs’ resource limitations can make them attractive and impactful targets to cybercriminals. 

Read Combining Business Priorities and Security: Choose Your Own Adventure.

5 Simple Security Measures for SMEs

coworkers in sever room looking at a tablet

Whether you’re the target of an intentional attack or a victim of an unintentional attack, the implications of a security breach can be dire. 

It’s better to take a proactive approach to cybersecurity than deal with potential financial, legal, and reputational challenges down the line. Below are five simple measures that can help you to improve your business’s cybersecurity even on a budget: 

1. Implement Multi-Factor Authentication

Leveraged credentials such as passwords cause 61% of data breaches. Implementing multi-factor authentication can help in reducing these breaches.

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a security method for protecting access to online resources by utilizing multiple (often two) factors to verify a user’s identity. The MFA requires an additional form of identity besides a password. This can be a security key, biometric data, one-time passcode (OTP) via email or SMS, or a push notification from a supported smartphone or tablet app. 

Implementing MFA has many benefits, including securing your resources even if your passwords have been compromised. 

Read How Effective Is Multi-Factor Authentication.

2. Stay on Top of Patch Management

Antivirus software is great at stopping known malware threats. But admins must keep systems up to date in order for them to work properly. This is why it’s important to stay on top of patch management. Your computers, servers, and operating systems should always be patched. 

System patch management is critical because patches often fix bugs and address security vulnerabilities in operating systems. For the modern business with distributed workforces and a variety of work devices and operating systems, manual patching can be a headache. Consider cloud patch management solutions within unified toolkits like the JumpCloud Directory Platform. 

Here’s how JumpCloud cloud patch management works for Mac and Windows systems. 

3. Use Firewalls

A firewall is a security system that filters network traffic and prevents unauthorized access to your network. Besides blocking unwanted traffic, firewalls also protect your systems from malicious software infections. It prevents unauthorized access to sensitive company data. They are an invaluable tool in web traffic management.

With a dependable firewall in place, only trusted sources and IP addresses can access your systems. Firewalls often differ based on their structure, functionality, and traffic filtering methods. Some of the most common firewalls include:

Firewalls are crucial components of any perimeter-based cybersecurity. For your network and devices to be protected, you need to properly set up and maintain your firewall. Always ensure your firewalls are up to date.

4. Enforce Strong Password Policies 

All your cybersecurity efforts can go to waste if you have ineffective password policies. Besides emphasizing strong passwords that are difficult to crack, you should also encourage your employees to change their passwords regularly and not share them with other people. Implement multi-factor authentication as discussed above.

Read Best Practices for IT Security Passwords. 

5. Implement the Principle of Least Privilege

People within your organization can pose significant security risks too. Insider threats happen when people with access and privileges abuse them. This is why it’s crucial to carefully consider who needs access to what.

Implementing the principle of least privilege will protect your resources from insider threats. Additionally, it makes it easier to monitor compliance and makes it easier for your employees to access the resources they need instead of having to sift through everything.

Read Your Guide to Privileged Access Management. 

Simplify Security With JumpCloud

For SMEs with lean budgets, cybersecurity can feel unattainable. But you can’t afford to completely skip on security. 

The five simple, cost-effective actions outlined above can significantly improve cybersecurity without breaking the bank. There are also affordable tools such as JumpCloud, with a la carte options, that can help SMEs streamline security efforts in a centralized platform. 

Simplify your security with JumpCloud.

Ashley Gwilliam

Ashley Gwilliam is a Content Writer for JumpCloud. After graduating with a degree in print-journalism, Ashley’s storytelling skills took her from on-camera acting to interviewing NBA basketball players to ghostwriting for CEOs. Today she writes about tech, startups, and remote work. In her analog life, she is on a quest to find the world's best tacos.

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