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According to recent studies, two of the main reasons that small businesses neglect cybersecurity and end up as victims of costly data breaches are because of either a lack of resources or cybersecurity expertise.
Since the consequences of neglecting your cybersecurity generally fall into the unacceptable category, organizations who choose not to ignore the problem contract with an outside cybersecurity firm. Such firms can help provide the cybersecurity expertise they lack and the resources they need to maintain due diligence in protecting the systems and information that their businesses rely on to exist.
But what should you expect when you partner with a cybersecurity firm to make sure you are getting a reasonable return for your investment?
Here are a couple of things to look for when selecting a cybersecurity firm to augment your information security capabilities:
Just because the person you are speaking to knows more than you do about security, doesn’t mean they are the right fit to protect your organization. Many information security consultants, especially those with a more technical background, have very limited knowledge of security outside their specific area of expertise. Because your security program will be made up of a broad range of controls, both technical (e.g., firewalls) and non-technical (e.g. supply-chain security), you need to work with a firm that can provide resources with real-world experience in all of these areas, not just a few. Not only will this provide better advice on the types of issues you are likely to be facing, but it will also prevent having your security program skewed to the areas that the firm feels more comfortable providing, leaving you potentially vulnerable in other areas that fall outside of their main expertise. One red flag when choosing a partner would be if all or most of their references tend to be for the same type of work.
In addition to providing cybersecurity knowledge and advice, a good cybersecurity partner should be well-versed on the requirements of common laws, regulations, or contractual agreements that small businesses may need to comply with. Many of these are industry specific (e.g. HIPAA for healthcare) while others are broader (e.g. PCI requirements for payment card merchants). Setting up a security program that meets these requirements is easier and more-cost effective than trying to account for them after you are called upon to demonstrate compliance by a regulator or business partner.
Pay as you go options
Since providing appropriate cybersecurity is not a one-time activity, small businesses should look for affordable payment options that allow you to pay a set fee on a monthly basis, rather than paying for specific services all at once when they are performed. Not only will this allow you to spread the cost of cybersecurity protection evenly across your budget, but it also retains the firm to provide on-demand expertise should you incur a security incident or need to respond to a security inquiry from a client or business partner.
Once you select a cybersecurity partner, here are some ways to maximize the benefit you’ll receive while keeping your costs to a minimum:
Perform a risk assessment up front
An up-front risk assessment will provide you with much needed data to base subsequent decisions and activities upon. The risk assessment report will provide you visibility into where you should focus your efforts to provide cost-effective controls that reduce larger areas of risks. Armed with this information, your cybersecurity firm can help you put together a security roadmap that addresses risk areas in order of importance, which allows you to plan your resources effectively over time. Performing a risk assessment and developing a roadmap also demonstrates to your current and potential business partners that you are serious about protecting any information that they and/or their customers share with you.
Understanding your main risks will also allow you to tailor cybersecurity awareness training for your employees to help reduce risks they might introduce (e.g. phishing attacks and malware).
Leverage their expertise to train your staff
While it is tempting to make use of the on-demand resources a cybersecurity firm can provide to allow your staff to focus on what they do best, it can also sometimes be more cost-effective in the long-term to ask them to include training for your staff as part of their activities. Once trained, there are some activities that might be suitable to have performed by trained in-house staff, lowering your costs going forward.
Small businesses can benefit from partnering with a cybersecurity firm to understand and treat their cybersecurity risk in a cost-effective and budget-friendly manner, bringing peace of mind that you are less at risk of a costly data breach, and prepared to respond to security inquiries from customers and business partners in a timely manner.