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SMBs are overconfident about their cybersecurity posture.

A survey of SMBs conducted by 451 Research found that in the preceding 24 months, 71% of respondents experienced a breach or attack that resulted in operational disruption, reputational damage, significant financial losses or regulatory penalties. At the same time, 49% of the SMBs surveyed said that cybersecurity is a low priority for their business, and 90% believe they have the appropriate security technologies in place. Clearly, SMBs are not correctly evaluating cybersecurity risk.

Many of us can relate – each day we ignore obvious signs that point to a reality that is in direct contrast to our beliefs. For example, as each year passes, most of us get a little slower, muscles ache that never ached before, we get a bit softer around the middle, and we hold our reading material farther away. Yet, we are convinced we could take on an NBA player in a game of one-on-one or complete the American Ninja Warrior obstacle course on the first try. 

While it’s unlikely that most of us can make the improvements needed to compete with elite athletes, the same can’t be said for enterprise cybersecurity. The journey is not an easy one given the security talent vacuum, a lack of domain understanding at the executive level, and the complexity of implementing a long-term, metric-based strategy. But, if you are an SMB struggling to run up and down the proverbial court, here are five things you should consider when building a better security practice:

1.   Experienced staff are valuable, but expensive, assets. 

Although enterprise cybersecurity is a 24/7/365 effort requiring a full roster of experienced professionals, many SMB cybersecurity teams are underequipped to handle the constant deluge of alert notifications, let alone the investigation or remediation processes. In fact, only 23% of survey respondents plan to add staff to their security teams in the coming year. For many SMBs, the security staffing struggles may get worse as 87% reported difficulties in retaining existing security professionals. To fill this gap, SMBs are increasingly turning to MSPs and MSSPs to provide the expertise and resources needed to protect their organizations around the clock.

2.   Executives understand what is at stake, but not what action to take. 

As the threat landscape becomes more treacherous, regulatory requirements multiply, and security incidents become more common, executives at SMBs have become more acutely aware of the business impact of security incidents – most are feeling an urgency to strengthen organizational cybersecurity. However, acknowledging the problem is only the first step of the process. Executives need to interface with their internal security teams, industry experts and MSPs in order to fully understand their organization’s risk portfolio and design a long-term cybersecurity strategy that integrates with business objectives.

3.   Security awareness training (SAT) is low-hanging fruit (if done right). 

According to the 451 Research Voice of the Enterprise: Information Security: Workloads and Key Projects survey, 62% of SMBs said they have a SAT program in place, but 50% are delivering SAT on their own using ‘homegrown’ methods and materials. It should be no surprise that many SMBs described their SAT efforts as ineffective. MSPs are increasingly offering high-quality, comprehensive SAT for a variety of compliance and regulatory frameworks such as PCI-DSS, HIPAA, SOX, ISO, GDPR and GLBA. SMBs looking to strengthen their security posture should look to partner with these MSPs for security awareness training.

4.   Securing now means securing for the future. 

The future of IT architecture will span both private and public clouds. This hybrid- and multi-cloud infrastructure represents a significant challenge for SMBs that require a cybersecurity posture that is both layered and scalable. SMBs need to understand and consider long-term trends when evaluating their current cybersecurity strategy. With this aim in mind, SMBs can turn to MSPs and MSSPs with the experience and toolsets necessary for securing these types of complex environments. 

5.   A metrics-based security approach is needed for true accountability. 

In a rush to shore up organizational security, SMBs might make the all-too-common mistake of equating money spent with security gained. To be clear: spending not backed by strategy and measurement only enhances security posture on the margins, if at all. To get the most bang for each buck, SMBs need to build an accountable security system predicated on quantifiable metrics.Again, this is an area where SMBs can partner with MSPs and MSSPs. This serves as an opportunity to develop cybersecurity strategy with measurable KPIs to ensure security gains are maintained over time. MSPs can help SMBs define the most applicable variables for their IT architectures, whether it be incident response rate, time-to-response or other relevant metrics.

The strategic reevaluation of organizational security is a daunting task for any organization, but given the risks SMBs face and their tendency to be underprepared, it is a necessary challenge. These key points of consideration for SMBs embarking on this critical journey underscore the importance of building an accountable and forward-looking security system and highlight the ways in which SMBs can work alongside MSP or MSSP partners to implement the right cybersecurity system for their organizations. I hope this will be the wake-up call all SMBs need to unleash their inner cybersecurity all-star.

If you’re interested in learning more about how other SMBs are approaching cybersecurity, read my report Security Services Fueling Growth for MSPs.

Aaron Sherrill

About the Author

Aaron Sherrill

Senior Analyst, 451 Research

Aaron has 20+ years of experience across several industries including serving in IT management for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He also holds degrees in business, computer science, and an MBA, along with multiple certifications including the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) credential.

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