When we read about cyberattacks in the news, they typically involve a well-known brand or large enterprise. The perception is the bigger the organization, the greater the impact. However, the recent attack on Microsoft Exchange Servers is expected to impact over 60,000 organisations. Indeed, this is likely to be higher given that recent research has found more than 10 different advanced persistent threat (APT) groups are exploiting the Microsoft Exchange vulnerabilities. The worst part, however, is that the most susceptible organisations fall in the small to medium-sized category.

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Why is this? Because larger businesses, with stronger and more mature security practices, have the defenses in place to keep bad actors from infiltrating their company while many small businesses do not. With time of the essence, the cybersecurity industry needs to quickly rally around SMBs to guide them in this time of need.


To give some background on the Microsoft Exchange Servers attack, the vulnerability was shared on March 2nd, 2021 with a patch to the issue made public the next day. However, this small window was enough for cybercriminals to manifest an automated attack against these servers. With estimates on the number of impacted organisations rising, we do know it is largely the SMBs that were targeted.


Therefore, it is essential that SMBs adopt a proactive stance to cybersecurity. This incident should act as a wake-up call for all businesses, no matter what size or level of their security maturity, to take action.


Recent research on security maturity and business outcomes found that there is not a dependency on company size in relation to having a strong security posture. Instead, by allocating time to strategize, plan and implement a strong cybersecurity culture, any sized business can achieve a mature cybersecurity program.


If cybersecurity is a new concept for the business, first take the necessary steps to follow best practises, as set out by the NIST Cybersecurity framework, as a minimum. Furthermore, to enhance the organisation’s overall security maturity, there are 4 key categories that need to be addressed: cyber strategy and risk, network security, endpoint security, and threat detection and response capabilities.


What is the current level of the cyber strategy and risk?

Small business owners are focussed on running their business with cybersecurity often a secondary concern. To begin with, businesses should seek consultation from industry experts to provide an assessment of the infrastructure to determine areas of concern. This will help the business plan, adapt and grow to stay competitive. It also will provide insight into how the business’ security measures stack up to the needs of the business currently and for the future.


An assessment by an external consultant can also examine whether the business is meeting compliance and regulatory requirements, which can be weaved into the security strategy. This guidance not only helps to improve the overall security posture, but also saves costs in the long run.


Protect the networks

Connected networks need the right security elements in place for protection. Network security can be conducted by one security vendor so long as the connectivity and visibility are both being protected. This will not only build trust from customers but also help the business meet compliance with industry regulations.


Endpoints must be accounted for and protected

It is crucial for small businesses to understand that endpoints are an entry point to the system that can be exploited. Smart phones, laptops and any other Internet of Things (IoT) devices that connect to the network will need protection. Small businesses should implement a solution that can provide visibility into these devices to ensure no rogue entries onto the network.


Speed is key

Cybersecurity is fast paced. Hackers act quickly and security defences need to act earlier to detect and respond to threats, ideally before they even reach a critical level. Security monitoring needs to be integrated and centralised across both cloud and on-premises environments. With that said, support is available to help with implementation, such as through professional services. SMBs should seek out providers that can deliver these services as well as integration to advanced threat intelligence for faster threat detection and response.


So, where to begin?

Small businesses should not think small when it comes to cybersecurity. The same resources, tools, and professionals that large businesses have are ready and waiting to help SMBs. You do not need to be an expert in the field; the experts can be made available to give the necessary guidance to address the security needs of the business. For those unsure of what direction to take in terms of managing the security elements, the option to employ a Managed Security Service Provider might be ideal. This approach provides 24×7 monitoring, giving business owners peace of mind to focus on business operations.


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