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Security Programs For Small Businesses

August 13, 2021

Tech startup or not, every growing company must answer to its customers' security needs.

GROWTH MEANS ATTRACTING BIGGER, BETTER CUSTOMERS—BUT CAN THEY RISK THE SECURITY OF THEIR DATA WITH YOU?

Maybe you’re a tech startup with a truly unique idea that will change the world. Maybe you’re a boutique marketing agency. Or maybe you’re a small company in almost any other industry. You have an exciting product or service, a few engineers, a growing customer base. At this stage of the game, though, information security may not be at the top of your priority list—you can deal with that when you hit the big time, right?

Wrong. Because once your unique service offerings attract the attention of bigger customers, it may be too late to start planning for data security and compliance. If you don’t already have a security program in place, those big customers could take their RFPs to companies that do. 

Large enterprises with hundreds of thousands (or millions) of customers can’t afford to trust their reputation to a small albeit up-and-coming company without a firm grasp and plan for security and compliance.

A documented security program is how you prove that.

WHY A SECURITY PROGRAM IS IMPORTANT TO SMALL COMPANIES

Security is critical for any company, no matter its size. Every company has data that’s valuable, and that makes every company a potential victim of a data breach. Without a documented security program in place smaller companies are leaving a lot up to chance. 

For many, though, the security of their data isn’t their only concern, or, at least, it shouldn’t be. The lack of a security program signals to larger companies—the kinds of companies these smaller businesses would like to partner with—that they can’t be trusted with this potential customers’ data. 

These kinds of security programs—the kind that you’re often asked to document on security questionnaires—can be critical for business growth. Building one now and building it to accepted security standards, like the NIST 800-53 framework, that are tiered with each tier becoming more stringent, makes growth easier. As your business continues to land larger and larger clients, those clients are going to be asking more and more complicated security questions. They are going to have bigger and more demanding security requirements. Having a documented security program guarantees for them that you are going to be able to maintain compliance and, therefore, they’ll be able to maintain it as well.

WHAT PREVENTS SMALL TEAMS FROM PUTTING A SECURITY PROGRAM IN PLACE?

Even at larger organizations security can be just another item on an overworked IT employee’s checklist. At small companies, security may not even be that. It’s often a practice that’s ad hoc, at best. For example, an antivirus package might be installed across the company as a reaction to someone’s machine getting infected. While that’s great, it only addresses one facet of the larger security problem. 

There are two things that make security difficult for smaller organizations. The first is that security done right is something that’s comprehensive. It’s not something that necessarily can be done as needs arise. It requires a plan and someone to oversee that plan’s execution. Ideally, that person is an in-house employee, but someone with the necessary expertise can be both expensive and hard to find. The second thing that makes security difficult is that it’s always changing. New threats are always emerging. Standards are evolving. Keeping up with those changes is a full-time job. If you’re only taking a part-time approach to security, how are you supposed to understand what you need to do and don’t need to do? What you should worry about and what you shouldn’t worry about? After all, every company is different.

What small company—even with brilliant engineers—can spare the time and resources to learn, develop, implement, and maintain a plan that checks the right boxes for that company? Specifically, one that hardens your systems in all the ways that matter and stays up to date with the latest applicable standards. It’s an intimidating problem.

WHY SMALL COMPANIES CAN’T REALLY AFFORD TO WAIT TO ADDRESS SECURITY

For some smaller companies, they do nothing to address these security challenges. Either it’s all too confusing or the task is too daunting. Others try to outsource the security responsibility to their own employees, letting everyone do their own thing. But this may be worse than doing nothing at all, because it can give a false sense of confidence. You’re forced to rely on the discipline of your employees to keep their own devices updated with the latest security patches, and all it takes for an issue is one device missing a single update.

The solution: move to the cloud, right? If only it were that easy. You can’t just lift and shift your database to the cloud and assume that because the cloud itself is secure, then your database is also secure. The cloud provider has agreed to secure the cloud environment. Securing your database is still up to you, and building a secure environment is just as difficult in the cloud as it is in a more traditional environment and requires .knowledge that many .small-companies lack. Also worth considering, placing your infrastructure in the public cloud can make you a more appealing target since the cloud’s IP ranges are well known and constantly scanned for vulnerable resources.

Again, a reactive, ad hoc approach is too little, too late. And that’s true whether we’re talking about a data breach or a customer RFP. That’s why security can’t wait. If it’s not a priority now, it needs to be. Deferring means you’re not only putting your data at unnecessary risk, but you’re incurring unnecessary technical debt. Because someday—and probably all too soon—you won’t be able to put it off any longer. That means spending a lot of time (and money) re-architecting infrastructures that could have already been secured. And it has to be done fast in order to meet a client’s requirements in the time you're allowed.

There’s also the opportunity cost in terms of business growth of not making security the priority it should be. Those larger clients—those clients you need if you’re going to grow your business—want to know that you’re taking security seriously. They want to know what steps you’ve taken to secure your data, and they want the evidence to prove it because if they are going to trust you with their data, they have to know that you consider your own a priority. 

GETTING STARTED NEEDN’T BE THAT HARD

There are things that you can be doing to begin the process of making security a priority. Here are four that we recommend that you can do right away.

  • Installing and updating anti-malware software
  • Training employees to recognize phishing techniques 
  • Keep your computer operating systems patched
  • Knowing what data should truly be private (and who it can be shared with)

At SecurityProgram.io, we know that these are just a few of the steps necessary to create a data security program that will not only keep your data safe but also satisfy your customers that you’re taking security seriously. We have a more in-depth checklist of security steps every company, big or small, should take. 

Of course, performing all the necessary steps on a continual basis for all your systems takes time and resources. It doesn’t scale as you grow, nor does it automatically keep up with changing standards and compliance regulations. Which is why you need a platform to help run your security program and keep it up to date. We can help.

BE READY FOR YOUR NEXT BIG DEAL WITH SECURITYPROGRAM.IO

See for yourself how securityprogram.io can provide both a platform to run your security program and a Virtual CISO to help you do all the work. And the next time that big-name Fortune 500 customer comes along, you can check all the data security and compliance boxes with confidence.

Deliver security your clients can trust

Excellent security for small companies to build a standards and audit ready cybersecurity program.
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