If you’re running an online business, you run the risk of being attacked by cybercriminals at any time.
Whether they’re hungry for profit or vengeance, they have their eyes set on the prize — your business and customer data.
As an executive in your company, you must initiate and guarantee your business’ cybersecurity.
That is why business leaders are key to effective cybersecurity. Your designation and your influence as an executive can make a mountain for a difference in your company should you decide to bolster your cybersecurity.
As such, you need to arm yourself and your workforce with the right cybersecurity strategy at the onset — a strategy like the Cyber Essentials.
What’s Cyber Essentials and Why Apply for Certification?
Cyber Essentials is a UK-based cybersecurity certification scheme for UK industries and websites.
It underlines the need for businesses to be safe from the most prevalent cyber threats through five technical controls (more on that later).
When you successfully maintain these controls and prove your cybersecurity, you can then apply for certification.
To be certified, you must pass the external vulnerability scan, shared service assessment, and 52 questions about your upkeep of the technical safeguards.
If you’re wondering why you’d want to get certified, the answer lies in the Cyber Essentials benefits.
Besides being compelled to protect your business, you earn a Cyber Essentials badge once you pass the evaluation.
You can showcase this badge on your site, app, and marketing collaterals.
When your clients see it, they feel confident transacting with your business, resulting in increased sales, conversions, investment, and more.
Cyber Essentials and Data Protection
At the heart of Cyber Essentials is business and customer data protection.
A Cyber Essentials badge, after all, tells your customers that you take their security seriously. These controls, when applied, keep cybercrime at bay and your and their data safe.
Along with Cyber Essentials, your business will do well to have an outsourced DPO or data protection officer.
A DPO is adept at data protection laws and mechanisms. He can help you in creating relevant policies about data storage, permissions, transmittal, and general management.
A DPO will also advise you on the right protocols so you can avert risks that compromise your data privacy.
Five Technical Safeguards
Cyber Essentials highlights setting up five technical safeguards for you to protect your customer and business data.
Firewalls shield your internal company network from the remainder of the Internet. They act as your first line of defense against unwanted external users, especially cyber hijackers.
They block malicious code, spam, viruses, and other undesirable traffic intended to steal and corrupt the data in your devices.
Firewalls also prevent you from visiting unauthorized and potentially harmful and malware-laden sites.
When malware enters your networks, it can disable your systems and devices, damage your files, provide access for cybercriminals to hack, and much more.
That is why Cyber Essentials prompts business owners and executives like you to set up firewalls as part of your security mechanisms.
Cyber Essentials advises that you establish firewalls correctly not only on a few devices or networks but across your whole IT ecosystem.
Without firewalls, your sensitive business and customer data are in danger of being stolen and viewed with no permission.
As executives, you aim to do all you can to stop hackers and malicious objects from penetrating your network.
However, if they successfully get into your first few defenses, don’t panic yet. There’s still a way to protect your business and customer data — and that is through access control.
Cyber Essentials includes access control as an integral protective measure. It calls you to limit data access only to staff with directly related tasks.
For example, interns can’t access top-level company plans; graphic designers don’t need to view business analysts’ elaborate Excel sheets.
In this sense, you and your business analysts are cybersecurity experts as well, along with your other department and project heads liable for private, relevant information.
That is because you employ cybersecurity protocols to restrict permissions. You protect data from virtual threats as you engage with partners and clients online.
By doing so, access control lessens the risks of compromised data privacy. It even allows you to trace possible liable persons and loopholes should breaches occur.
Cyber Essentials lists patch management as a critical part of preserving your cybersecurity.
Unfortunately, unpatched and outdated software is among the pitfalls that cybersecurity experts and penetration testers usually uncover.
Patches like firewalls and anti-virus programs, however, must be frequently installed and updated.
Patches repair your security gaps and vulnerabilities to prevent cybercriminals from implanting malware and files hazardous to your business data.
Cyber threats and attacks also become more sophisticated over time as hackers innovate their methods. Updated patches, though, can help protect you from data breaches.
It can be ransomware, which locks your files and prohibits you from accessing them until you wire the demanded amount of money.
It can be adware, which comes from clicking fake and malicious online ads. It can even adapt to the digital environment, so it’s unnoticeable.
Hackers can also distribute malware when you fall prey to social engineering tactics, evil botnets, and connect to rogue networks.
Unless your cyber defenses are updated, you never know how malware can permeate your network and devour your business and customer data.
That is why Cyber Essentials integrates malware protection among the vital technical controls.
Aside from updated anti-virus firewalls and software, malware protection also comes by educating your staff and other executives.
Training includes recognizing social engineering attempts like phishing and whaling, suspicious activities, websites, messages, files, links, and more.
Awareness will train them to be vigilant and outsmart cyber hijackers. They can steer clear of threats and report incidents to your IT personnel for proper action.
Security configuration is among Cyber Essentials’ safeguarding controls.
Security configuration includes removing bloatware, encrypting your website, creating robust passphrases, identity authentication, and many other mechanisms.
No organization is perfectly hack-proof. But as a business handling customer information, it is imperative that you establish the most active security defenses possible.
If you’re planning to expand your business, you will need to configure your security to the optimum even more.
A growing business involves an increase in customer and business data that will be handled and recorded.
After all, more data means you attract more hackers and perhaps become even more susceptible — unless you install the best security configuration settings.
It is, hence, best as executives to enforce those settings no matter the size of your business now and in the future.
Whether you’ve experienced cyber threats already or not, it’s not too late yet. If you haven’t, that’s good. But don’t wait for the cybercriminal to strike before you get moving on your feet.
Don’t let cyber hijackers exploit your network’s weaknesses. Patch them up and fortify your defenses.
With the help of your outsourced DPO, safeguard your business and customer data with Cyber Essentials. In this way, you prove to your clients that their security also matters.
Did you find value in this post? Share this guide, along with your thoughts. Cheers!