Three cybersecurity tips for SMEs

On February 5, 2021, a hacker initiated a cyberattack on a small water plant in Florida. If successful, the attack would have caused multiple health complications for the 15,000 residents that the plant provides water for. This is just an example of the disastrous consequences of cyberattacks on smaller companies. But how to avoid them? Here Neil Bellinger, head of EMEA at automation parts supplier EU Automation, discusses how small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can protect themselves against cyberattacks.

A detailed report by the CISA revealed that the water plant in Florida was using an outdated Windows 7 operating system and that the computers used in the facility were connected to the Internet without a firewall. You might think that bigger organisations might be the preferred victims of cybercriminals, but this example showcases that even smaller companies need to be vigilant when it comes to cybersecurity.

Train your employees

It might seem obvious that employees should be prepared to spot and respond to cyberattacks. However, trade magazine Unite.AI found out that 4 per cent of data loss comes from internal employees accidentally or maliciously providing cybercriminals with access to the company’s network.

Training employees on how to use strong passwords and spot malicious emails is a cost-effective and efficient tactic. For example, in the case of the Florida water supply, the attack was stopped thanks to the timely vigilance of an employee. This strategy is even more important now that many people are required to work remotely. In this case, employers should also educate employees on how to protect their home wi-fi networks.

Implement a firewall

Another effective solution to prevent external threats is introducing a firewall. A cybersecurity firewall uses a mechanism of filtering data based on a defined set of policies that restrict access to networks and applications to external users. Simply put, this solution acts like a gatekeeper that monitors and analyses all network traffic and grants access based on pre-defined security rules.

A firewall can come in the form of hardware, software or a combination of the two and its effectiveness depends on its type. According to Cisco, the best solution for SMEs is a hardware firewall with software controls, as part of a security system that includes virtual private network (VPN) support, antivirus, antispyware, and content filtering capabilities.

Apart from increased security, firewalls can also improve employee productivity by blocking access to different networks. Moreover, they can boost business resilience by preventing the disruption of business-critical applications and services due to security breaches.

Optimise your cloud strategy

Cloud-based strategies are highly accessible, cost-effective and efficient, but they are not all the same. It is very important to choose cloud platforms and applications that offer the highest level of security available and have built-in safeguards to protect against vulnerabilities.

Key considerations for any business cloud storage solution is that it needs to be accessible, traceable, and secure. Nevertheless, as experts at Forbes agree, what matters for all businesses is to device a strategy that is unique and fit for the company’s own needs.

For a small or medium company, flexibility is also key. in this sense, cloud systems are a convenient solution, because they can be easily scaled up or down to match the speed at which a company is growing. Furthermore, a comprehensive cloud strategy can take care of data back ups and disaster recovery, providing a one-off investment without further costs.

A successful cybersecurity strategy is proactive, not reactive, meaning that businesses should invest in the right solution before something happens, not in response to something happening. While small and medium businesses might not have the resources of larger companies, they too need to invest in their security infrastructure.

As businesses increasingly rely on automation technology, the potential surface attack for cyberthreats increases. However, at EU Automation we believe that the advantages of automation outweigh its potential risks. SMEs should not be prevented from starting their digitalisation journey for fear of becoming the next victim of cybercriminals. With technologies such as cloud systems and firewalls, finding the right solution to protect your business has never been easier.

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