SMB Network Security Essentials

It started with WarGames. That was one of the first blockbuster movies to tackle the idea of network security. By today’s standards, the plot is downright quaint. After all, Matthew Broderick’s character accidentally hacked a government defense computer.

In the years since, Hollywood has revisited the delicate subject of network security more than a few times. In 1995, audiences were “treated” to both Hackers, starring Angelina Jolie, and Sandra Bullock’s turn as a wayward programmer in The Net.

A few years later (after the non-event that was Y2K – remember that?), Travolta, Jackman and Berry headlined Swordfish. More recently, we’ve seen Eagle Eye, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and The Fifth Estate.

Over the years, films about cyber attacks have drifted from whimsical, feel-good romps to gritty explorations of the darker side of network security. Why is that?

Serious business.

According to Cybersecurity Ventures, the total economic impact of cyber crimes will exceed $6 trillion by 2021. The same report estimates that businesses will spend more than $1 trillion between 2017 and 2021 fighting cyber crime. Last year, Forbes reported huge increases in the number of cyber attacks via everything from the Internet of Things (up by 458%) to mobile devices.

Cyber crime is a real threat. Real enough that even fictional accounts have taken on a different tone. And the impact is far-reaching.

According to the research firm CyberEdge Group, 75.6% of organizations have experienced at least one successful cyber attack in the last 12 months. That means three out of four businesses have had their network security compromised in the last year.

Given that the cost of a single direct attack can be as much as $40,000 per hour, this is something you can’t afford to take lightly.

Network security for SMBs.

Most likely, you have some form of network security already in place. Even if yours is a small operation, we trust that you’re running an antivirus program on your workstations at the bare minimum. While that’s certainly better than nothing, it’s hardly enough.

When you hear about a headline-making data breach at a huge company, like the ones suffered by Target and Yahoo in recent years, it kind of makes sense. Big business means big money. Of course that’s going to hold a certain appeal for cyber criminals. What you may not know is that small businesses are alluring, too.

In fact, 43% of all cyber attacks are aimed specifically at SMBs. As an article in CSO speculates, one likely explanation is that small businesses are simply easier targets. Because SMB owners don’t expect attacks, they frequently drop their guard. Even basic precautions, like regular system updates, aren’t handled in a timely manner.

If that description applies to you, consider this. 60% of SMBs that fall prey to a cyber attack close their doors permanently within 6 months.

Tough choices.

Network security is deceptively complex, particularly for small businesses.

Just because your company is smaller doesn’t mean your network is safer. But you don’t have the same kind of funds Fortune 500 companies have for network security. You may not even have a single IT professional on staff.

And even if you do, managing cybersecurity is a full-time job. It’s not something a small IT department can handle in addition to everything else it takes to support the business.

That leaves you with a couple of options.

Despite the stakes, you can take a DIY approach. Frankly, a lot of SMB owners go with this option. It’s budget-friendly, and that’s a lot of the appeal. But it’s also a sizable gamble. It only takes one hole in your network security defenses, and all your hard work could slip away.

But there’s a second option. You can call in the pros.

While professional network security isn’t free, we believe the comparatively modest cost is well worth it. This is what it takes to protect your business in the increasingly dangerous world of cyber crime.

Either way, there are a handful of essential components for solid network security. Whether you do it yourself or contract with a third party, each of these should be a part of your network security plan.

Network security must-haves.

All the anti’s.

We’re talking the anti trifecta – antivirus, anti-spam and anti-malware. These are basic, necessary components of network security. You almost certainly have this kind of protection on your computer at home. You need it at the office, too.

Firewall protection.

Firewalls have been a standard part of network security for more than 25 years. In simple terms, a firewall is the thing that stands between your network and the entire internet. It monitors inbound and outbound traffic, only allowing for communication it deems safe.

If that sounds like an important thing to have, that’s because it is. Firewalls come in two forms: hardware-based and software-based. You want both. It’s best to leave the setup of your firewall to an IT professional who can configure it to allow for fast, secure data transfer without exposing your network to security risks.

Upgrades & updates.

This is one of those areas where a lot of SMB leaders fall short. You know that pesky little notification you get alerting you to update Windows or some other piece of software on your computer? Those are more important than you might know.

Not every update is a security patch, but many of them are. In fact, when there’s a significant security threat, hotfixes and emergency patches are one of the ways software manufacturers help protect their clients.

Don’t ignore updates and upgrades. Take care of them as soon as they’re available.

Backup and disaster recovery.

Backup and disaster recovery (BDR) is a critical solution in its own right. Without BDR, a single event could wipe out all the data your business relies on day in, day out. That kind of setback is more than enough to shut down a business of any size.

And yet, three out of four SMBs don’t have a BDR plan.

BDR is a safety net. If a cyber attack (or natural disaster, or faulty hardware, or human error . . . ) compromises some of your data, your BDR plan kicks in and saves the day. You need this, pure and simple.

Employee training.

Email remains a prime delivery method for malware, including viruses and ransomware. Phishing emails are especially common.

Phishing emails look like legitimate messages from trusted sources. Cyber criminals like them because people trust them at face value, happily clicking links without taking a closer look. And that’s all it takes to infect your network.

What does that have to do with employee training? 85% of organizations deal with phishing attacks, and 30% of the time phishing messages get opened. That’s a huge security weak point. But you can shore it up by educating your employees.

That’s just one (particularly poignant) example of the importance of employee training.

Routine audits, health checks & monitoring.

No network security system is perfect. Additionally, cyber criminals develop new forms of attack on a weekly basis—literally. The only way to make sure your network security is up to snuff is to audit it routinely.

And we recommend going one step further. For the highest level of security, you also need 24/7 monitoring. That way security issues get caught as soon as the first bit of evidence pops up.

Of course, unless you have a robust, dedicated IT staff in-house, you probably can’t do 24/7 monitoring. As luck would have it, we know someone who can.

Network security with PCX Technologies.

The network security professionals at PCX know what it takes to keep your network safe. We have years of experience working with SMBs, and we can provide all the tools you need for top-tier protection. Not only that, but we’ll keep you engaged in the process.

After all, we’re protecting your baby. The strategy for your network security should be rooted in your business needs.

If you’re ready to get serious about network security, we invite you to give us a call. We’ll be happy to explore how our team can help protect your business, now and for years to come.