Is Your Business Below the Cybersecurity Poverty Line?

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Implementing robust cybersecurity tactics is vital in today’s tech-driven world. Anyone — from small businesses to the most important CEOs — is at risk of a hack from the globe’s ever-growing network of cybercriminals. The rate they can launch attacks is astounding, as well. A new threat occurs every 39 seconds, and 30,000 websites experience a hack daily. The cost of these attacks was $6 trillion in 2022, but experts believe that number could jump to $10.5 trillion in 2025.

The evidence is clear — for companies, experiencing a cyberattack is not a question of if but when. You must prepare to ward off or combat these costly threats before they significantly risk your organization. However, some might have difficulty affording the often-costly recommendations of IT professionals. This is known colloquially as the “cybersecurity poverty line,” but there are ways to improve safety without breaking the bank.

What Is the Cybersecurity Poverty Line?

The term cybersecurity poverty line was created in 2011 by analyst Wendy Nather. It refers to companies that cannot afford more IT staff, have no IT workers at all or can’t purchase strong cybersecurity software. Like the economic poverty line, the significant gap between those who have the spending power for digital defenses and those who do not creates large disparities.

A business that can’t afford an IT team will often rely on a third-party vendor to get its cybersecurity up to . However, this analysis isn’t one-and-done — it will have to pay monthly for hosting, threat prevention and continued improvements. That spending makes it difficult to earn enough money for in-house IT staff. That company also relies on one vendor with many other clients to carry its entire cybersecurity plan.

Tips for Improving Corporate Cybersecurity on a Budget

If you’re in the same situation, there are plenty of avenues to build better cybersecurity and not spend too much. Nothing beats a dedicated IT team, but being proactive and constantly vigilant can help safeguard you until your organization can surpass the cybersecurity poverty line. Consider these four ways to improve digital safety for your business, employees and customers.

1. Secure Your Email

Phishing is a considerable cybersecurity threat because it’s so easy. All a hacker has to do is input a link to a fraudulent website and hope someone skims the message too fast to realize they’re under attack. Cybercriminals can access credentials, customer information or even corporate monetary accounts.

The most basic yet critical cybersecurity tactic you can implement is to keep yourself and your workers aware of the threats they face from email. For example, in 2021, Google reported more than 18 million daily pandemic-related email scams, and a recent survey also reported that 71% of organisations across the globe were victims of cyber attacks in 2022. Whether they work remotely or in person, keep everyone on the same page regarding what you will never send in a digital message, such as links or login information requests. 

It could be beneficial to create a document outlining what a phishing attempt looks like, what content they will see in emails from you and how to stay vigilant.

2. Always Update Software

Digital applications and computers always seem to need an update at the most inopportune time. Whether it’s before a big meeting or right as the workday is starting, you groan at the notification and hit “remind me later.” Some might actually get back to the update, but others put it off indefinitely. However, missing out on those updates opens you up to various security loopholes since they may patch dangerous bugs or problems hackers can exploit.

Make it a policy to update your software when it needs it. You could be missing new antivirus features or leave yourself vulnerable to cybercriminals who can corrupt old or buggy applications. If the update comes at a bad time, ensure everyone downloads and installs it before the end of the day. Making hardware updates can also help, but keeping critical software updated until the money is available is better.

3. Get a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Getting a subscription to a VPN is well worth it if your company does a lot of work online. The VPN will encrypt you and your team’s internet connection, keeping it safe from those who could capture the data. It can also keep your information secure if the cybersecurity or workflow apps you use undergo an attack. Additionally, remote workers can use them to connect to public Wi-Fi without putting themselves — or the organization — in danger.

Buying a VPN sounds expensive, but many cheap options cost about $10 per month or $100 for three years. Some VPNs are even free, but they often come with limits on how many devices you can connect or how much data you can use daily. When searching for a virtual private network, check its security features and if the service will fit your needs before subscribing. If the one you’re assessing provides a free trial, use it and see how it meshes with your workflow.  

4. Offer Employee Training

Your workers are your primary defense strategy. They have the greatest opportunity to make or break your cybersecurity strength, as demonstrated by research from Stanford University and Tessian. A massive 85% of corporate hacks are caused by human error, with employees citing various reasons for their lapses. The need to respond quickly, stress and exhaustion were top reasons why they opened themselves up to risks.

Offering cybersecurity training can help reduce their chances of accidental breaches. If you can’t afford to train everyone at once, take smaller groups so you still have some employees operating on the floor. Additionally, break the information up so they can avoid burnout. Teaching them what to do to prevent an attack and what to do if one happens could help you reduce the downtime a cyber incident incurs without the help of an IT team.

How to Keep Your Business as Secure as Possible

Maintaining robust cybersecurity is no longer something only large organizations have to worry about — anyone could be a threat. However, some companies struggle below the cybersecurity poverty line without proper defenses. You must find low-cost ways to strengthen your safety so you can keep your business in line with the cyber-secure one-percenters.

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