Cyber threats may be the last thing on the mind of aspiring business leaders looking to grow their startups. However, the current geopolitical landscape and increased use of digital technologies are calling for an adequate reaction.
This article will explain why startups are vulnerable to cyber threats. It will also go over several steps they can take to minimize risk.
Why Are Startups Vulnerable to Cyber Threats?
Startup leaders may think they are too small to be targeted by cyber threat actors. Some may not think they’re even on their radar.
However, this report from late 2021 indicates that smaller companies white three times more likely to experience a cyber incident. Contrary to popular belief, hackers don’t just look at a potential gain when selecting their victim. Perhaps an even more significant factor is how easy it will be for them to gain access.
Cybersecurity insights show that only 14% of SMBs have adequate measures to prevent cyber incidents. Once hackers identify vulnerabilities, they will dedicate their resources to exploiting them. They won’t mind whether their victim has a market cap of $10 billion or $10,000. As long as they get something out of it, they are happy.
Who Do Hackers Target Within a Company?
Threat actors may not be too selective about the companies they target. But are there specific positions and accounts they focus on once they identify a victim?
According to the same report, CEOs and CFOs are twice as likely to be targeted than other employees. Threat actors know that these accounts come with the most access privileges. They can effectively access the entire business if they can breach that account.
Note that these statistics are only related to spear-phishing, a popular social engineering technique. But that’s just one weapon in a hacker’s arsenal. Regular employees can also be targeted in phishing campaigns or exploited due to system vulnerabilities.
With all of that said, are startups helpless in the face of this threat?
7 Steps to Secure Your Startup
Eliminating 100% of cyber risk is impossible. Hackers constantly use new exploits, vulnerabilities, and attack techniques to get into systems. But that doesn’t mean you should give up and hope for the best. By taking some pretty simple steps, you can significantly reduce the risk your startup faces:
Change default passwords.
Default passwords are publicly available and easily accessible to hackers. It’s best to use strong passwords for each account. The problem is that humans tend to want to take the easy way out. They’ll either set an easy password they can remember or use the same one for each account. Password managers are an excellent tool for easily creating strong passwords and storing them securely.
Mandate the use of MFA.
Nowadays, passwords aren’t enough for solid cyber security. You need multiple authentication factors to prevent unauthorized access. Multi-factor authentication is an authentication method where a user has to provide more than one verification factor to gain access. Authentication apps are gaining popularity as an easy-to-use yet effective 2FA method.
Update systems regularly.
Outdated systems are very risky and filled with vulnerabilities. Ensure your startup updates its systems and software to the latest version. These updates fix the known vulnerabilities and bugs or security lapses that hackers can abuse. Along with the cyber security benefits, updates can also significantly improve program features and compatibility.
Train employees on phishing techniques.
In all its forms, phishing is the most common attack vector for cybercriminals. 90% of cyber incidents start with a phishing email. Everyone in your startup is a target, including you. Ensure your employees get the proper training to recognize phishing emails. If your budget is limited, you can at least ask employees to watch some short YouTube videos to become more cyber-resilient.
Use the least privilege model for data access.
The principle of least privilege is a security concept where users are given the minimum access needed to complete a required task. Cloud storage solutions make data storage and account management pretty straightforward. You can assign roles within your organization and give employees access based on the data they need to do their job.
Cloud storage is also great for easily creating data backups. Backups are important because they can store and protect your data from human error, system failure, cyber-attacks, and more. With ransomware, attackers will attempt to lock you out of your data and demand a ransom to give it back. If you have backups of your data, their efforts will be pointless.
Hide the software name and version when possible.
Across your internet-facing applications, you may share information that hackers can use to hack into your system. This includes the operating system, system versions, programming language, etc. All of this information is valuable when crafting a cyber attack. Hide this information whenever possible, especially from your website.
Several sources indicate that startups are more likely to experience a cyber incident than larger organizations. The reason is that startups are less likely to have the proper cyber hygiene practices to prevent a breach. This makes them an easy target for threat actors. Taking some simple steps can significantly improve your startup’s security posture.