The Importance of Cybersecurity for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs)

The recent decades were characterized by the surge in the development of technological solutions that enabled businesses to utilize the benefits of various services such as mobile banking, online purchasing, and social networking for enhancing the operating strategy that organizations utilize for conducting business. While the surge in technological advancements provided numerous benefits, they have also increased the threat exposure as well as the risks and threat associated with the utilization of digital resources. Cybercriminals have long sought to exploit the vulnerabilities in less sophisticated networks and systems, which at most times were the smaller-sized businesses who had less effective IT security strategies in comparison to larger enterprises because of budget restrictions.

Due to the exponential increase in the level of investments in technology tools and solutions, the managerial level has had to quickly develop a comprehensive understanding of cybersecurity and its implications so that there is a clear structure that helps manage the processes and operations. Hence, the top-level management in the modern era cannot lack cybersecurity knowledge as the presence of technology has become ubiquitous within every operating organization. Cybersecurity has evolved from being a responsibility that is exclusive to the IT department to encompassing the organization as a whole. Through establishing governance capabilities for cybersecurity, organizations are able to secure their processes and operations as well as mitigate various risks and threats.

Since the early inception of the internet, there were numerous exemplified opportunities for organizations and institutions to leverage in order to further enhance their processes and operations. The evolution of the internet into the ubiquitous presence that we all know today provided various opportunities for businesses of all sizes to utilize the services that IT and cloud services enabled for them. Initially, IT and tech investments were perceived as exclusive to larger enterprises due to the heavy investments required for the IT infrastructure at the time. However, with the introduction of cloud computing, individuals and organizations could utilize the services provided via the cloud without the need to physically purchase them in-house.

Small and medium-sized organizations (SMEs) in the global economy, are regarded as the fundamental element that drives economic growth and stability, because of that, governments and institutions have encouraged SMEs to capitalize on the new business opportunities that technological developments provide. The development of cloud computing enabled SMEs to utilize the services provided via the cloud without the need for costly IT infrastructure purchases, this incentivized the digital transformation process which every operating organization went through in one way or another. The transition to the digital environment was a compelling journey for SMEs to seek to enhance their internal capabilities through the extensive means of communication, interaction, and engagement that were provided.   

Cybersecurity Risks for SMEs

Furthermore, the significant surge in technological investments by organizations has proven to be an effective catalyst for organizations to elevate their internal capabilities and improve their processes and operations. However, the importance of IT and cloud solutions for organizations has not gone unnoticed by cybercriminals and other threat actors who have witnessed the lucrative opportunities that cybercrime presents. The common misconception that SMEs are not a lucrative target for cybercriminals has been overtaken in recent years by the significant increase in the number of reported data and security breaches which has made it imperative that organizations thoroughly understand cybersecurity risks and treats to develop proper strategies and mechanisms for appropriately responding to them. The most common cybersecurity risks that SMEs frequently face include:

  • Malware attacks
  • Phishing attacks
  • Denial of service attacks
  • Insider threats
  • Web-based attacks

The sophistication and increase in the number of cyber-attacks have alarmed organizations and institutions in providing the necessary guidelines and instructions for empowering SMEs to appropriately develop cybersecurity capabilities in relation to the growing threat landscape. Business leaders of SMEs now face the responsibility of enhancing their security capabilities in a turbulent and dynamic digital environment which sees SMEs facing multiple cyber-attacks on their networks and systems on a daily basis. Considering the significant rise in the cost of data breaches and other related incidents, neglecting appropriate IT and cloud security measures is a recipe for disaster, as many reports have shown that the cost of data breaches can be severe for SMEs which can lead to business failure.

The Best Approach for Cybersecurity

The integration of Information and Communication Technologies in the business environment has been regarded as a serious source of competitive advantage for business organizations, and as such, has long been a topic that has been elaborated by various professionals. IT and cloud solutions have become an integral part of any business strategy, where there is an exemplified dependence on performing business processes and operations through the means and solutions provided via the digital environment. The increased dependence on IT solutions for businesses has emphasized the importance of aligning IT and business strategies for ensuring the proper continuation of business operations.

SME leaders in the modern environment must be aware that with the increased technology integrations, the staff will be looking towards the leadership for guidance and support. Managers have the responsibility of establishing a safe operating environment that protects the staff, resources, and business operations. The main risk of being compromised by cyber incidents is the potential for loss, theft, or damage to data and information, which means that access to those resources becomes impossible unless complying with the attacker’s request which usually includes a significant ransom. Placing the organization in such a compromising position disrupts business processes which then activates a chain of repercussions that hinders the business processes and operations.

Cybersecurity is one of the most complex processes for organizations in the modern digital environment. Though there have been numerous attempts at providing regulations and guidelines for SMEs to minimize the chance of falling victim to cyber-attacks, there are various constraints that increase the complexity of SMEs developing sufficient cybersecurity capabilities to deal with the increasing threat landscape. Due to the dynamics that surround the cybersecurity spectrum, SMEs must focus on developing a proactive approach that enables them to prepare for the likelihood of cyberattacks beforehand, and then develop effective action steps that would enable them to appropriately respond to cybersecurity risks and threats.

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“As a student, I am preparing for the industry that I’d like to work for. I really do not know where to start. What areas should I focus on? etc. The course gave me an overview of the knowledge that I need to solidify when it comes to the field. I am grateful once again, and I hope this would help me find the right connections and lead me to a cybersecurity job in the future. Kudos to you guys! ”

Kolapo Agunbiade
Computer Engineering StudentComputer Engineering Student,