SMB IT Question of the Month: How Much IT Security Protection do I Really Need?

Hacker Stock PhotoThe old Mad Magazine aphorism – What me, worry? – summarizes the approach many organizational leaders take when it comes to small business IT. Consulting experts can vouch for the fact that few SMB leaders actually insist on formal IT security protection. Yet, as we explain below, there are several very good reasons why small and medium-sized businesses should adopt strong security for their IT systems.

Why It’s Important to Have IT Protection for your Small Business

IT consulting experts provide these and other reasons for maintaining strong IT security in small and medium-sized businesses:

1. Criminal entrepreneurs, or “crimpreneurs,” don’t discriminate between large, medium and small businesses.

In the 80s, hackers were young, bright engineers with a future and an eye for mischief. Today, they are some of the largest white-collar criminal syndicates and criminal entrepreneurs in the world. Industry experts and research firms are quick to highlight the fact that computer hackers don’t exclusively target large enterprises. Sure, now and then a unified group of crimpreneurs will come together in a cause to take down a giant name. We hear about these attacks because they make a “stickier” news report, but as technology consulting firms know, the truth is that most hacking jobs are indiscriminate as far as company size is concerned.

Crimpreneurs simply want to attack people who are digitally connected to many other people, so their malware programs can spread to many machines. In this era of instant information sharing via Facebook, intranets, and Twitter, even sole proprietors and two-person companies are therefore susceptible to hacking.

2. Security breaches are costing small businesses more and more money every year.

According to the Ponemon Institute, the average cost of a security breach has risen every year since 2007, when the average cost for a single breached record was $198 per record. (For a company with 1,000 records – say, invoice records – the cost of a breach would have been $19,800.) In 2010, the average cost rose to $214. Companies must address a variety of costs around security breaches – and that includes both large and small businesses. IT consulting, investigation, oftentimes legally mandated notification of those who may have been affected, fines and legal fees are some of the many costs businesses must cover following a security rupture. Customer churn is another common fallout of security breaches. Consumers become frustrated by security snafus and are likely to leave brands that can’t protect their personal information.

If you’ve never actually faced a security breach, it can be tempting to see your firm as immune. However, considering that, as the Ponemon Institute and technology consulting firms reiterate, first-time security breaches are more expensive than later security fallouts, it’s best to protect your small business now before a problem starts bleeding away your liquid capital.

3. You can enjoy a competitive advantage with proper security systems for your small business.

IT consulting experts at Symantec paired with the National Cyber Security Alliance to report on small business internet security practices. They found that just 52 percent of small businesses have a plan in place to protect themselves against cyber threats. And yet, as Symantec bloggers have noted, many crimpreneurs are now specifically targeting small and medium-sized businesses. Protecting yourself against IT security threats can help you stand out from an ocean of competitors, first in providing exceptional security for your internal and external customers, and second in guaranteeing continuous operations should a hacker target and attack your organization.

[ Photo by: devdsp, via CC License ]

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