Cybercrime is quickly becoming the number one threat that businesses face today. However, according to a report by KPMG, over half of SMEs do not think that cyber threats pose a danger to their businesses. This is alarming, given that over 60% of SMEs that experience a cyber breach do not recover.

Apart from internal risk, cyber threats pose a big threat to businesses due to noncompliance. It doesn’t matter if a company can weather the storm when their data is in the wrong hands; regulators are actively punishing those who mishandle customer data. This means big fines and penalties for companies operating in the United States, the EU, and other jurisdictions that have adopted data protection laws.

The New Form of Cyber Attacks

In today’s connected world, criminals recognize the importance of data to businesses. Attackers are coming up with new and sophisticated ways of infiltrating businesses, and are holding their data at ransom.

From ransomware to remote access, phishing to social engineering, businesses need to be on guard now more than ever. Even older attack methods like DDOS and cross-site scripting are getting more sophisticated.

Why Take Cyber Protection Seriously

Companies are losing trillions of dollars each year as a result of data breaches and other cyberattacks.

The Online Trust Alliance (OTA) reported that businesses lost over $45 billion to cyber attacks in 2018. Accenture reports an expected 72% jump in the cost of cybercrime over the next five years.

These losses represent actual money lost to cybercriminals, as well as those spent in settling fines and penalties by regulatory bodies. To be safe, businesses need effective data protection and compliance management systems in place.

Here are some ways of protecting your data from cybercriminals and other threats in 2020 and beyond.

1. Install Antivirus Solutions and Firewalls

Not many SMEs take cybersecurity seriously. Studies show that most businesses don’t invest in enterprise-level antivirus products or robust firewall solutions.

Having an up-to-date antivirus solution is a business’s first line of defense against common online threats. Today’s antivirus products are sophisticated and can detect and prevent advanced malicious programs. Antivirus software can flag malicious devices and files, prevent users from accessing infected web links, protect your network, and quarantine all malware detected in your systems.

An active firewall is like a perimeter fence that keeps threats at bay before they reach your local network. Robust firewalls have active and passive network and device monitoring modules that stop cyber threats on their tracks.

Firewall rules can be set to prevent insiders from accessing critical data storage assets or high-risk websites. Using an enterprise-level firewall solution is essential for businesses looking to protect their data.

2. Active Threat Monitoring and Identification

Part of the data protection process is being able to detect threats early enough and stopping them. This can be done using various monitoring tools, implementing strong access policies and logging systems, among other measures.

Install commercial network monitoring tools to detect threats before they are executed. Some of these tools come embedded in antivirus and firewall systems.

3. Use VPNs and Encryption

Most businesses today work with remote teams. These teams may need to access data in the company’s internal systems, such as CRMs and ERPs, remotely. Remote access is also the favorite attack method used by cybercriminals. If you require any form of remote access for your business systems, use virtual private networks (VPNs).

A VPN offers end to end data encryption, thus keeping would-be attackers from performing MIM (man in the middle attacks). Encrypted data going through a VPN is almost impossible to crack.

Internal encryption of databases and files should also be considered since most attackers look for loosely secured data.

4. 2FA And Continuous Authentication

With increased computing power, criminals are finding it easier to crack passwords. Therefore, relying on passwords alone is not good enough for data protection. New and sophisticated authentication systems such as 2FA, biometric access, and AI-powered continuous authentication systems can add an extra layer of protection.

Also, implementing robust password policies for your organization, such as mandatory password changes after a predetermined duration, can help to reduce the risk of data breaches.

5. Training and Awareness

There is a need for non-technical staff members to understand the data protection policies of your organization and how they affect them. This way, the staff will know how to identify and prevent social engineering attacks. IT staff should also keep abreast with happenings in the cybersecurity landscape, as they are your first line of defense.

Cyberattacks targeting small and medium-sized enterprises are becoming more common. It’s time for every business to take a proactive approach to data protection. If recent events are to go by, more companies will be at the receiving end of regulatory fines due to non-compliance. Will your firm be among them?