Listen to this article now

Cybersecurity is one of the areas of any startup that needs extra attention. The reason is quite simple: cyberattacks have gotten quite frequent over the last decade, and businesses cannot afford losses, and certainly not when their operation is still in infancy.

Since every startup needs an online presence, setting up a robust IT network and infrastructure is vital. Thus cybersecurity has become a fundamental part of a reliable IT infrastructure. Without a cybersecurity infrastructure, you cannot defend your operations from either external or internal cyber threats.

Social engineering techniques, combined with startups opting to store their data on the cloud, can be a recipe for disaster. Traditional data safety measures can fall short of protection against such attacks.

The latest studies suggest that normally startups should spend 10 to 15 percent of their budget on cybersecurity. This is the minimum amount that startups should fork out to avoid putting their company’s future in jeopardy.

This figure depends on the startup’s budget, of course. The financial and national security sectors have massive budgets, so the need for cybersecurity will be even greater. But several other factors can vary this number significantly. These can include:

  • Size of the startup
  • The industry the startup belongs to
  • The type of devices and technologies the startup is using
  • Rules and regulations regarding cyber-crime and punishment.

Why Is Startup Cybersecurity Important?

Entrepreneur making secure payment on laptop
Entrepreneur making secure payment on laptop

Cybersecurity is vital to a startup’s daily operations as it can protect its data from getting into the wrong hands. As technology advances rapidly, the techniques applied by these actors to commit cyberattacks also pick up the pace. 

Startups cannot simply rely on commercial antivirus, firewalls, or VPNs. Opting for a one-for-all commercial solution is a thing of the past now. Conventional techniques fall short of providing any safety against the techniques used by cybercriminals that have become more organized, tactful, and resilient.

Startups should always try to protect their intellectual property. This can include trade secrets, operation trademarks, company assets, and employees’ personal information. Competition has gotten so cutthroat that other organizations have started hiring proper black hat hackers to steal other companies’ intellectual property.

Gone are the days of hooded figures coding malware in poorly lit rooms asking for ransom. They have been replaced by an actual organization that prides itself in taking part in corporate espionage.

These actors do not always steal private information or personal data. They can alter the results of internal research and development data. It can cause a massive burden on the researchers who have dedicated their lives to this industry.

General Data Protection Regulation

Local data protection laws such as GDPR in the EU mean startups cannot take matters of cyber security lightly. If employees’ data gets leaked on the internet, the employer will be held responsible and it will no longer be an internal matter. Local cybersecurity laws often make such crimes a matter of national interest.

Countries that take privacy seriously often heavily fine startups that have not put proper security measures in place. These fines can financially ruin a company, especially when it is still learning the ropes.

Even if a company can recover financially, the reputation damage is often unrepairable. Even Facebook, which has an entire PR army, couldn’t undo its mistakes and tarnished image.

What Kind of Cybersecurity Threats Should Startups Be Aware of?

Entrepreneur reporting suspicious email to avoid startup cybersecurity threat
Entrepreneur reporting suspicious email to avoid startup cybersecurity threat

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a multinational corporation, medium-sized business, startup, or one-man operation, you will have some level of dependency on computers for your daily tasks. Our reliance on technology has increased ten-fold, and it’s not showing any signs of slowing down.

According to Forbes, spending on cloud security is predicted to increase by 33%, and data security will grow by 7.2%. This equals to an estimate of 123 billion dollars spent on cyber-security alone.

The rise of cloud computing, the Internet of Things, smartphones, and other smart devices have given rise to a host of security flaws that were non-existential a few years ago.

Let’s take a look at what kind of security threats startups should be careful of.

1) Human error/employee mismanagement

As they say, to err is human. Human error remains one of the most overlooked security issues when it comes to cloud computing. When we think of cybersecurity issues, it is easy to forget about the human element. We always think there must be a hardware/software issue that needs to be resolved, but it isn’t always the case.

Employees may log into the network using their smartphones or laptops, thereby unintentionally exposing the network to malware, spyware, and other types of viruses, potentially causing the network to lose its integrity. This may lead the system vulnerable to external threats.

2) Distributed-Denial-of-Service (DDOS) Attacks

DDOS attacks existed long before cloud computing ever became a reality. These attacks might be as old as the internet itself. A DDOS attack is a denial-of-service attack that a malicious party initiates to flood a network so that other users cannot access it.

When engineering a cloud network, the IT team must have gone over the potential of DDOS attacks several times and taken extreme steps to prevent such nefarious tactics. But still, these attacks pose a threat due to several devices being internet-connected, IoT, for example. This opens the network for potential DDOS attacks.

3) Data Loss Due to infrequent Data Backups

This is one of those cloud computing security mess-ups that is entirely avoidable if the cloud provider pays more attention to their customers. Backing up data takes time and effort, and not to mention computing power, all of which cost money. Cloud service providers who offer their services for cheap are usually the ones at the highest risk for such types of security flaws. They compromise users’ data to save a few dollars.

4) Social Engineering

Social engineering is still the biggest threat to any startup’s security, especially the financially-incentivized cyberattacks, like ransomware. These attacks stem from spyware infected on employees’ devices such as smartphones or laptops.

Remote work has also contributed a lot to such attacks. Employees who previously worked on company-issued devices accessed the internet via their company’s secured infrastructure. Now, they have to work on their devices over unsecured Wi-Fi connections.

Many startups are using employee monitoring apps to monitor their employees’ online activity and social media habits. These measures can prevent actions that are against company policy and can prevent employees from communicating with external threats. This can stop intellectual property leaks.

An example of a good employee cell phone monitoring software is XNSPY. This app can increase employee efficiency and ensure your teams are following security guidelines and policies set up by you. Since a majority of cyberattacks occur due to human negligence, it is vital to minimize human errors.

With XNSPY’s software for employee cell phone monitoring, you can monitor emails, so there is less chance of employees accidentally opening suspicious links containing malware. It can also view outgoing emails and text messages, call logs to monitor any suspicious behavior. 

How to Set a Budget for Your Startup’s Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity expert working for startup on laptop
Cybersecurity expert working for startup on laptop

Setting a budget for a startup, regardless of its size, is always a challenge. But it is always better to prevent a cyberattack from occurring than to repair the damage it caused, financially speaking. Public scrutiny and government intervention can vastly affect a startup’s business.

Despite the constant threat of cyberattacks, many startups cannot assign a feasible budget to cybersecurity. 

1) Start by Making a List of Assets Your Startup Owns

Try to identify your startup’s size, the kind of data used in its daily operations, the devices used for communication and work, and what industry your startup belongs to. Check what local cyber laws exist in your area of operation. It is a good stepping stone towards setting a proper cybersecurity budget.

2) Identify Your Daily Operations and Tasks

Next, you will need to identify your organization’s daily operations. Check how your data is being processed and stored. Identify the chain of data transmission internally and externally. This can make it easier for you to track any vulnerabilities when your data is transmitted. Monitor how your employees are using your data and the emails they are sending.

3) Hire a Cybersecurity Expert

A cybersecurity expert can streamline the cybersecurity budgeting process. They can help you identify the vulnerabilities in your operation, give you options that can improve cybersecurity, and tell you the cost of each. The expert will estimate the cost for deploying each option and assess your staff’s cybersecurity knowledge.

4) Train Your Staff on Cybersecurity

The majority of cyberattacks occur due to human error. Negligence is inexcusable when it comes to a startup’s security and return on investment. Sadly, human errors cannot be eliminated; they can only be minimized. Mistakes are a result of a lack of awareness of cyber threats. 

Employees can be targeted by phishing schemes which could let intruders into their systems by not using strong enough passwords. A small investment of time and money on employee training can produce substantial results.

5) Estimate Sustainable Loss in Case of a Cyberattack

A quick way to set aside money for cybersecurity is to estimate how much you’re willing to lose when an actual cyber-attack occurs. This can clear up a lot of confusion during budgeting. 

The need for cybersecurity is greater than it has ever been. DDOS attacks, phishing scams, and human errors can lead to financial losses. Governing bodies and data protection agencies can intervene. This can be bad for your business and reputation. 

Startups need to ask themselves, “What’s our IT budget?” “What are our security needs?” “How do we conduct our daily operations?” If startups can set aside 10% to 15% of their budget for cybersecurity, they can save a lot of time and money in the long run.

Does your startup have a cybersecurity plan? Let us know down in the comments.

This article originally published on GREY Journal.