Building Robust Digital Security: Navigating Cyber Threats for MSMEs

Check Point

India, 11th July – In many countries across the world, Micro, Small, and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs) are the backbone of their local economy, contributing significantly to employment and GDP growth. According to the International Finance Corporation (IFC), this subgroup of businesses accounts for 70% of total employment on average, and 50% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) worldwide.

In India, it has been reported that there are a total of 633.9lakh MSMEs with the rural areas having the majority of such businesses consisting of 324.9lakh whilst urban areas have 309 lakh businesses. Despite their key role in driving innovation and fostering inclusivity, the journey for MSMEs is not without its challenges. Worsened by global economic shocks and worldwide conflicts, one of the most pressing issues facing this group is the increasing risk of cybercrime.

MSMEs are often seen as easy targets by cybercriminals due to their perceived lack of robust security measures. A breach can result in severe consequences, including financial loss, reputational damage, and even business closure. While an attack could be detrimental to MSMEs themselves, it also poses a risk for bigger organizations if they operate as part of a supply chain. We have seen high-profile examples of this type of incident with Colonial Pipeline in the US and more recently with NHS hospitals in the UK.

MSMEs are susceptible to most types of threats including phishing attacks, ransomware, data breaches, and malware infections. Despite these risks, many MSMEs struggle to prioritize cyber security due to budget constraints, limited technical know-how, or a general misunderstanding about the severity of the problem. According to the 2022 CNBC | SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey, the smallest of small businesses (0-4 employees) are the least concerned about cyberattacks at 33%, compared with 61% of those businesses with 50 or more employees.

With the United Nations even celebrating International MSME Day 2024 on the 27th of June each year, we must acknowledge the fight that these businesses face against cybercriminals, and look to give them the tools they need to help them stay guarded against growing cyber threats.

Successful Strategies and Solutions

There is inequality in cyber security, with MSMEs facing more obstacles than bigger enterprises. If you are a smaller business and wondering where to start, here are some cost-effective solutions that can help you enhance your security posture within your existing capacity:

Leveraging Managed Security Services

Many MSMEs are unable to employ in-house IT experts with limited budgets spent on daily operations. However, that should not mean you have to sacrifice your cybersecurity. Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs) could be an effective alternative to provide you with continuous monitoring, threat detection, and incident response leveraging solutions such as Check Point’s Quantum Spark advanced security gateways which feature AI/ML-powered threat management for proactive protection, scalable infrastructure to handle diverse client needs, and customizable security policies for compliance. With a lack of skilled resources, MSMEs require centralized management and monitoring to receive a comprehensive view of threats and network performance and integrated reporting remote configuration, and maintenance capabilities, such managed security services can help ensure you can focus on building the business while the experts safeguard your digital assets.

Investing in Endpoint Protection

You may think cybersecurity platforms are prohibitively expensive, but there are options available to support smaller businesses. With the rise of remote work and more businesses operating online, protecting endpoints has become crucial. Endpoint protection solutions can provide you with comprehensive security for laptops, smartphones, and other devices used by you and your remote workforce. Features such as antivirus, anti-malware, and intrusion detection systems can also help against advanced cyber threats and can be inexpensively purchased online.

Implementing Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

One of the weakest links in cybersecurity is poor password management, in particular the reliance on weak or overused phrases and words that are easy to crack. Rather than rely on passwords alone you must introduce additional authentication methods to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information. By implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA) such as biometrics or 2FA across all systems and devices, you can ensure that even if your passwords were compromised, unauthorized users would still be unable to access your systems.

Regular Security Audits and Updates

To make the most of your cybersecurity budget it is important to know where the vulnerabilities are in the system to address them, which is why regular security audits and updates are essential. According to the Verizon 2024 Data Breach Investigations Report, there has been an astounding 180% growth in the exploitation of vulnerabilities, almost triple that of last year. While most organizations tend to conduct annual reviews, smaller businesses should do this monthly or quarterly and promptly apply necessary patches and updates immediately to prevent attacks. This proactive approach helps you stay ahead of potential threats and maintain a secure network environment.

Embracing Cybersecurity Training

Building your information security policies and executing training on those guidelines can be highly effective for creating a security culture within your organization. There are various ways to create this and keep it top of mind. One example might be phishing where you could run a contest to see who can report the most accurate phishing emails, using gamification to generate interest and enthusiasm.

MSMEs could also consider low-tech tabletop exercises where scenarios are demonstrated effectively. For example, an exercise where teams are tasked with responding to a scenario in which an intruder has gained access to the network during the night shift. By challenging them to determine the next steps: who to approach, which supervisor to inform, and so on, you can reinforce the importance of security. This in fact would be the start of developing a well-defined incident response plan, by outlining roles, responsibilities, and procedures for handling various types of cyber threats and preparing your team for real-world situations.

The Role of Policy and Support

Governments and industry organizations play a crucial role in supporting your cyber security efforts. Initiatives such as cyber security grants, training programs, and information-sharing platforms can provide you with some much-needed assistance. For instance, the Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) offers resources and tools tailored for small businesses to enhance their cybersecurity resilience.

Continuous Improvement in MSME Cybersecurity

As MSMEs continue to digitize their operations, cyber security must remain a top priority. While the challenges you face are significant, the strategies outlined above should be considered the minimum protection you can put in place. By investing in employee training, leveraging managed services, implementing advanced security measures, and staying proactive with audits and updates, MSMEs can significantly bolster their cyber security defenses and ensure long-term success and stability.

Sundar Balasubramanian, Managing Director India and SAARC, Check Point Software Technologies stated, “As cyber-attacks evolve in sophistication and reach, cyber security is no longer a luxury but a necessity for MSMEs. The threats, especially supply chain attacks on big companies via these smaller vendors, are becoming as sophisticated as those targeting larger enterprises, but the impact can be even more devastating. By prioritizing cyber security through training, advanced security measures, and strategic partnerships, MSMEs can protect their digital assets, company data, and industry branding to ensure business continuity. It’s about creating a resilient security culture that can adapt to evolving threats.”

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