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Cybersecurity for Startups: The 2 Elements Founders Should Prioritize

The fallout from the EquiLend ransomware attack in January really reveals why startups need to prioritize cybersecurity. It took two weeks for the Wall Street trading platform to bring its operations back online, leaving its customers scrambling with manual processes in the interim. Events like this can destroy customer trust. You can just imagine the number of inbound demo requests EquiLend's competitors received in those two weeks.

These scary but true stories happen all the time. In fact, Ransomware attacks on tech companies rose a whopping 2,300% from 2022 to 2023 (with over 102.4 million records were breached in 2023). But only one-quarter of founders think cyberattacks will impact their business in 2024. This discrepancy shows that businesses must prioritize cybersecurity if they want to stay ahead of threats like ransomware and stay in business.

The good news is, this process doesn’t have to be burdensome or expensive. Let’s take a look at the most crucial elements of a company’s cybersecurity, from the human component to the necessary tech tools, and why maintaining an evergreen approach is essential.

Strengthen Your Human Firewall

Your employees are your frontlines and, unfortunately, your most vulnerable targets. 88% of data breaches are caused by human error, which is why you should start here when improving your startup’s cybersecurity.

Phishing and other social engineering tactics are on the rise, breaking records in 2023. A whopping 1.76 billion phishing emails are estimated to have been sent last year, a 51% increase from 2022. 

Picture this: A team member receives an email requesting they reset a password for a tool they use every day. The email looks legitimate enough that the employee doesn't question it and follows the instructions. Now, the hacker has an email address and a corresponding password that they'll use to try and infiltrate other company systems to launch a ransomware attack — all because the employee didn't take a moment to question the initial email they received. How can you prevent this from happening to your business?

While there are certainly tools (like behavior-based anti-malware) that can mitigate the effects of this attack, a company-wide culture of cyber awareness could have prevented it altogether. Here’s what that looks like:

  • Cyber Awareness Training: Keep your team sharp with regular training on the latest threats, with one of the many affordable solutions on the market. Look for something interactive and engaging so employees don’t tune out. And you should assign bite-sized trainings each month, to help improve retention.  
  • Phishing Simulations: In tandem with your training programs, test your employees’ knowledge and discernment periodically so you can be sure they know how to spot and report suspicious emails.
  • Roll Out Internal Security Policies: Adopt a set of internal policies that reinforce your commitment to cybersecurity. We suggest starting with an Incident Response policy and a Data Security policy. Customers and regulators will want to know that you have these in place.

If you want to go the extra mile, you can try a tabletop exercise. Havoc Shield CEO, Brian Fritton, explains how these simulations can help your employees know how to spot and respond to a potential attack.


Choose The Right Tech Stack

Next, assess which tools you need to secure your startup’s sensitive assets and data. Here are the solutions we’d recommend every company deploy: 

  • Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR): Also known as next-gen antivirus and malware, EDR can detect abnormal behavior on your devices or network and quarantine suspicious files before they become a problem.
  • Isolated, Encrypted Backups: In the event of a ransomware attack, having backups of your critical data will ensure you can get your business back up and running in a matter of hours, instead of weeks. Just make sure you’re backing up at least weekly – though daily is even better. 
  • Device Management & Monitoring: This is software that allows you to centrally manage all of your company devices, ensuring everyone has the appropriate security settings in place. It also allows you to wipe them clean in the event someone misplaces their laptop.
  • Vulnerability Scanning: Find and patch security flaws on your website and web apps before threat actors do.

Effective Cybersecurity is a Constant Process

Cyber threats are always evolving. The same technological advancements that are used to prevent attacks are also used to carry them out. For example, while AI is being used to advance cybersecurity tools, it’s also helping hackers refine their tactics. AI-generated code allows threat actors to develop stronger and faster tools. And services like ChatGPT are also being used to write more natural sounding and persuasive phishing emails

Because of all of this, it’s vital that you don’t view security as a “one and done” task. Your cybersecurity program needs to be evergreen and constantly refreshed to keep up with the latest threats. One way to do this is to conduct regular cyber risk assessments that help find new gaps in your program. We also recommend keeping up with the cybersecurity trend reports your insurance carrier or industry groups you belong to will occasionally send out..

Getting Started

We know that all of this might seem overwhelming, especially as you have your own business goals and KPIs to focus on, but it doesn’t have to be. Our biggest piece of advice is to just get started somewhere. Pick one recommendation from above and get that implemented. You don’t have to do everything all at once. 

But if you want to do everything all at once without a lot of effort or investment, fully managed cybersecurity programs like Havoc Shield are a great option. Rather than needing to research, source, implement, maintain and pay umpteen vendors yourself, you get one dedicated expert that understands your business and rolls out and runs the entire program on your behalf. It’s the fastest way to get a program in place that increases customer trust, satisfies regulators, and fortifies your business.

Start your cybersecurity program journey today by booking a free cyber risk assessment and finding out where your business is most vulnerable.

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