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For ensuring compliance in your business practises, it is worth noting that it is just as common (if not more common) for bad actors to target small businesses and small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). A website can easily get hacked, an email account can be compromised, and sensitive information may even be stolen by employees. These are just a few common examples of how data can be breached.

SMEs may be tempted to put cybersecurity measures on the back burner for financial reasons, but the risk just isn't worth it. Especially when firms of any size can improve their security tenfold with a few simple steps.


Cybercrime and SMEs

As previously mentioned, many people assume adversaries only target large companies because they provide larger opportunities for blackmail and profits. They don't realize that SMEs are usually targeted by chance, not by design. Criminals may search through lists of hundreds of business names without undertaking much research into the organizations' holdings prior to planning their attack.

It should be noted that SMEs are often chosen for the following reasons we’ve listed below:

1. Financial Gain

Financial gain is the primary motivation of most cybercriminals. It is a common occurrence that profiting from an attack is achieved by receiving direct payments from victims. Ransom demands usually involve locking down assets and demanding a ransom in exchange for unlocking them (such as in the case of Ransomware).

IP (intellectual property) is one of the most valuable assets to steal. As leaked IP can cripple a small business, criminals know that SMEs will pay a lot to get it back. In addition to breached assets and data, there are many hackers that also sell these details on the black market for profit.

2. Insider Threats

Many cybersecurity attacks are competitively or politically motivated. Disgruntled former partners and unhappy employees have all been known to hijack organizational systems. These two types of attackers are known as insider threats, it is well worth educating yourself and your team on the signs and signals that are often common to observe with this type of threat actor.

In the event of a successful cyberattack by an insider threat, major damage can be caused. Data can be erased, business operations disrupted and entire business shutdowns can occur. As well as draining immediate profits, breaches of SMEs may result in compliance ramifications (including fines further down the line), especially if the breach affects consumers and other third parties.

3. Availability of Resources

A company's core resources and relationships may also be exploited in a cyberattack. It is possible for cybercriminals to attack your business as part of a larger DDoS attack, to steal customer information for financial fraud, or even to use your computer resources to mine cryptocurrency in some cases.

4. Testing New Tactics

A cybercriminal may experiment with cutting-edge strategies and attack vectors on a smaller business before targeting the biggest players. Since criminals expect SMEs' defences to be weak, they are easy targets.

5. Supply Chain Attacks

SMEs sometimes suffer from circumstances beyond their control as supply chains themselves can be infected by attacks targeting large vendors' assets. In turn, this affects customers, third parties, and even other SMEs. In spite of these unintentional attacks, businesses still may be crippled by them. Small and medium-sized businesses are not the only targets of criminals.

One famous example of a supply chain attack was The SolarWinds hack, which turned the aforementioned software into a way of gaining access to numerous government and private systems globally.

The following measures can help you improve your business's cybersecurity even on a conservative budget:

1. Multi-factor authentication must be implemented

The majority of data breaches occur as a result of leveraged credentials, such as passwords. It is possible to reduce these breaches by implementing multifactor authentication (MFA). MFA is a security method that verifies a user's identity by utilizing multiple factors. In addition to a password, MFA requires an additional form of identification. Security keys, biometric data, one-time passcodes (OTPs), and SMS notifications can all be used to further verify your identity.

2. Make sure your patch management is up to date

Known malware threats are effectively blocked by antivirus software. However, administrators are required to keep their systems up-to-date in order to ensure that they work correctly. This is why patch management is so critical. Keeping your computer, server, and operating system patched is a must. Operating systems must be patched regularly because patches fix bugs and address security vulnerabilities. With a distributed workforce (such as hybrid or even fully-remote) and a variety of devices and operating systems, manual patching can be challenging. This is where a cloud or other remote service may automatically patch devices on behalf of the user.

3. Put firewalls in place

Firewalls filter network traffic and prevent unauthorized access to networks. A firewall not only blocks unwanted traffic but also protects your systems from malicious software infections. In terms of web traffic management, they are invaluable.

Your systems can be accessed only by trusted sources and IP addresses if you have a firewall in place. There are many different kinds of firewall, each with its own structure, functionality, and traffic filtering method. Any perimeter-based cybersecurity strategy must include firewalls. Your network and devices will be protected if your firewall is correctly configured and maintained. Updating your firewall is always a good idea. You can continue reading about firewalls in our guide to why are firewalls important.

4. Strong password policies should be enforced

Ineffective password policies can undermine all your other cybersecurity efforts. You should not only encourage your employees to use strong passwords that are difficult to crack, but also encourage them to change them frequently and not to share them. As discussed above, implement multi-factor authentication to provide extra security to any passwords that could still run foul of being included in a breach or data dump.

5. Implement the principle of least privilege

As previously mentioned in this article, security risks can also be posed by employees within your organization. When people with generous access rights and unwaranted privilege abuse them, breaches are more likely to occur. Therefore, it's crucial to carefully consider who needs access to what. Protect your resources from insider threats by implementing the principle of least privilege.

6. Retaining audits logs for compliance

Being compliant often requires centralizing audit logs, as specified by many compliance regulations. For example, in accordance with the CCPA, companies must maintain an audit log of all modifications, exports, and user requests. In the event of an audit, they are then able to prove that they have complied with user requests. In addition, it is also necessary to collect, manage, and analyze log data in order to comply with the GLBA requirements.

As stated in the official documentation of the NESA UAE Information Assurance Standards, audit logs are an essential component of ensuring compliance with a variety of specific criteria. Analyzing audit logs allows users to detect, prevent, and correct instances of systems and information being misused in a way that could adversely affect an entity's security.

The official MAS TRM documentation also mentions logs as a crucial component for ensuring compliance with a wide range of standards. As discussed in control 7.5.7, logs provide valuable information for investigating, analyzing, and troubleshooting. In order to make sure that events created during the implementation of new changes are automatically logged, it is necessary for the financial institution to enable the logging functions of its IT systems.

Finally, CIS compliance requires enterprises to collect and analyze logs so they can detect malicious activity in a timely manner. There are times when only audit log records can prove that a breach has occurred. Attackers know that while enterprises store audit logs to comply with regulations, they rarely analyze them as a cybersecurity tool. In some cases, attackers are able to sustain remote control over machines for many months without being detected by anyone within the enterprise due to poor or ineffective log analysis processes.

Cybersecurity can be significantly improved without breaking the bank by taking the steps outlined above. SMEs can also streamline security efforts in a centralized platform with tools such as, which offers long-term retention of audit log data, monitoring and alerting for SME compliance.

If you found this article informative then why not read our cheatsheet to the Kibana query language or our comparison on infrastructure monitoring tools next?

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