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Is your small business overdoing cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity stress

Cybersecurity is likely at the top of your priority list as a small business owner. This decision would make sense because criminals launching cyber-attacks frequently choose small businesses as their targets. Small businesses tend to be poorly protected, and to appear to attackers as attractive, low-hanging fruit.

While it’s a bad idea to take cybersecurity lightly, however, it’s possible as well to focus so extensively on it as to make it detrimental to the health of your business. Overzealous focus on cybersecurity can be wrong for your business in two ways:

  • IT (information technology) staff for cybersecurity can become overworked.
  • Small businesses can try too hard and waste time and resources attempting to secure themselves against nonexistent threats.

How do IT staff become overworked?

Small businesses often train their IT staff exclusively on cybersecurity awareness. Still, they are soon tempted to treat them as all-purpose IT staff who take care of everything to do with computer security around the company. Soon, these staff may find themselves responsible for securing just about everything that employees around the company do on their computers. Document security is an example; if your employees are allowed to delegate document security to the dedicated IT staff, they will soon find themselves responsible for all information your business generates.

Recent research by LastPass, for instance, has uncovered that small business IT staff often find themselves responsible for securing data, securing new technology as it is brought on board, helping lower risk, and managing identity and access management. While all of it is security-related, it can be an excessive workload for a staff of one or two workers.

Balancing your security needs with the need for business agility

Small business owners reading about how frequently cybercriminals target such businesses sometimes become paranoid about the risks they face. They begin worrying excessively about their risk levels and attempt to enforce new security rules every month to the point that they begin to stifle the ability of the business to be agile and innovative.

Businesses that need to adopt new databases, systems, and staff each month can find themselves tempted to bring on new security measures just as quickly. The risk of becoming overburdened with security policies is particularly relevant to new businesses that are in the midst of rapid expansion.

It’s important to understand that every new security policy a business considers for adoption must be balanced against the cost that it exacts in agility and competitiveness. Companies can get caught up in the security game to the point that they forget why they are in business in the first place, focusing on security for the sake of safety. The result, in the end, is a set of inflexible operating practices that slows the entire company down. Each time a new security policy is considered for adoption, it’s essential to study it closely to determine how it benefits the business versus how it slows them down.

Aiming for a solution

There is an approach to cybersecurity that works for small businesses without slowing anyone down or overburdening them — businesses need to distribute responsibility for cybersecurity across every employee in the company. In practice, businesses can achieve such burden distribution by training every single employee in the skills needed to identify and avoid the risk of cyberattacks. Cybersecurity is too large a responsibility to hand to any individual or group.

Avoiding phishing attacks, the most common kind of cyberattack is a good example. If your company has the bad luck of being victimized in such an attack, your reflexive response may be to try to address the vulnerability with technology. You could ask your IT department to install restrictions on employee computers to make it harder for them to open attachments. While such a move may make your company safer, it could also get in the way of the ability of your staff to function. Instead, it could be better to offer training to your employees to help them understand what phishing attacks are, how to recognize them, and what kinds of consequences they can have for the business if employees aren’t careful.

Certainly, evolving a culture of cybersecurity can be a challenge for any company. Small businesses, however, are at an advantage because they tend to have fewer employees to work with to improve current processes and security posture.

Reconsider your priorities

When most small businesses don’t take cybersecurity seriously, it can be hard to recognize that when you’re the one company that takes it too seriously, burdening your staff with unnecessarily strict security protocols and rules. Cybersecurity should be a part of everyone’s list of responsibilities. It should be everyone’s job to understand how cybersecurity is often compromised and to be careful. Rather than making cybersecurity a separate role for someone to take care of, it would be a good idea to make it a part of every role in the company.