As small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are increasingly looking at ways to digitise their businesses in order to expand and remain competitive, it has become essential for business owners to view cyber security as a priority. Just last year, almost half of all cyber-attacks reported worldwide were targeting smaller-sized enterprises with less than 250 employees.
This is according to David Morobe, executive general manager at leading SME financier in South Africa, Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS), who refers to the 2019 Official Annual Cybercrime Report released by Cybersecurity Ventures. “Once a cybercrime has been committed, the damage can be irreparable for SMEs, because they are often ill-equipped to deal with the severe financial implications compared to large corporates.”
To prevent growing South African businesses from falling victim to cyber criminals, Morobe provides three key tips for business owners to mitigate any potential risks and financial losses relating to cybercrime.
Introduce stringent password policies
As passwords are typically the primary barrier between a cyber-attacker and the information which they seek, Morobe urges business owners to implement and enforce strong password policies across all levels of their businesses.
“As cyber criminals now have programs that can decipher passwords, including those that have non-alphabetical symbols, it is advisable for businesses to encourage their workforce to employ strong passwords and use them properly. This should be combined with other protection methods such as locking out a user after a certain amount of password attempts, multifactor authentication, and encouraging password changes on a regular basis.”
Ensure all cyber security programs are up to date
Added to this, Morobe says it is vital that all malware, spyware, and firewall protection programs are regularly updated to ensure the business is well protected. “Cyber criminals often exploit back doors that exist in older software, after having been patched up in later versions. It may seem expensive to constantly update your system, but a cyber-attack can end up costing the business much more.”
As a solution to our clients, at BUSINESS/PARTNERS we offer interest free technical assistance loans together with our business loan finance – from a cyber security perspective this technical assistance can be used to procure products and training to cyber secure their businesses.
Implement an IT security awareness programme
Lastly, a very important cyber security tactic to implement on a continuous basis is a comprehensive security awareness programme for business owners to educate themselves and their staff to identify these attacks, says Morobe. “The employees who are not educated in the many forms of constantly evolving cybercrime are often the ones who are identified as the weakest link and targeted by cyber criminals.
“Ultimately, in light of this ever-growing and evolving criminal trend, local business owners should adopt a ‘prevention is better than cure’ mentality when it comes to cyber security in order to ensure that their business remains up to date and safeguarded in every way possible. This is the only sure way to avoid the cost and reputational damage caused by cybercrime,” Morobe concludes.