How to Establish a Cloud Cybersecurity Strategy for Small Businesses

What are Cybersecurity strategies? As a small business owner, you have to tackle many responsibilities yourself. From marketing to sales, customer service to accounting and inventory, it can feel like there’s no end to the number of tasks you have to handle every day.

Moving business infrastructure and data to the cloud comes with many benefits – significantly lower costs, vastly improved efficiency and collaboration, and increased agility.

However, it also introduces new cybersecurity challenges that must be carefully assessed and actively addressed. Developing a thorough cloud cybersecurity strategy is an imperative step for any organization to protect its vital assets migrated to the cloud.

It is only natural that your website may not be your top priority. You put some content to appeal to your customers, but you don’t have the time or money to ensure top-notch quality.

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That being said, small business websites are significantly more exposed to cyber threats than their larger counterparts. A simple security breach can expose sensitive data, cripple your website, and damage your reputation.

The good news is that there are some basic cybersecurity strategies you can implement to protect your small business website from attacks – more on them below.


Get Executive Buy-In and Define Requirements

As with any major IT initiative, moving to the cloud should start with executive sponsorship and a clear business case.

The CISO or security team must develop realistic requirements and goals for the cloud security program based on the organization's top priorities, biggest risks, regulatory landscape, available resources and tolerance levels.

Presenting concrete success criteria and return on investment will achieve leadership approval and long-term support.

Some questions to define key criteria include:

  • What are our 3-5 most critical data sets and applications planned to move to the cloud?
  • What internal security policies, regional laws or industry regulations apply to our cloud implementation?
  • Should we use 1 provider or take a multi-cloud approach given data sensitivity, concentration risk and compliance factors?
  • What existing security controls must be maintained after shifting our infrastructure?

Documenting precise technical, administrative and governance security requirements establishes a framework for comparison across providers and a benchmark to design appropriate controls.


Understand the Shared Responsibility Model

After defining security priorities, understanding the cloud-shared responsibility model is imperative before proceeding further. With cloud computing, security obligations are divided between the provider and the customer.

Generally, providers are responsible for security OF the cloud including physical infrastructure, facilities access controls, network controls, hypervisor hardening, etc.

Customers are responsible for security in the cloud – meaning their environments, applications, identities, data and everything else they put there.

Misunderstanding this split of duties leaves dangerous gaps in defense. You must delineate your areas of control from those managed by the provider.

Cloud providers offer various native security tools and settings to fulfill the customer obligations. For example, Google Cloud Platform offers robust Identity and Access management, data encryption, VPC network controls, web application firewalls and much more.

Mapping your obligations to their offerings identifies gaps to fill with third-party or managed solutions.


Perform Due Diligence on Prospective Providers

Once the precise cybersecurity responsibilities are clear, conducting in-depth due diligence allows properly vetting prospective Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS) providers.

Go beyond cursory reviews of product security terminology and marketing claims which are inadequate for assessing risks posed to your data and systems.

Instead, issue detailed questionnaires, scrutinize third-party audit findings, review their track record on vulnerabilities and breaches, examine contractual security commitments and liability caps, etc.

This surfaces their real-world security efficacy and culture. Additionally, discussions with existing similar customers assess whether providers deliver on advertised capabilities.

Conducting rigorous diligence reduces the chances of costly platform surprises down the road.


Classify Data and Applications

While moving infrastructure and software, pay particular attention to securing sensitive information also being deployed to the cloud. Catalog all types of data – personal, healthcare, financial, intellectual property, etc.

Then classify each by sensitivity level after analyzing privacy impact, legal restrictions and damage potential if exposed. Document any geographical restrictions regarding storage locations.

By creating a data taxonomy aligned to security requirements, you can tailor access controls, encryption methods, logging detail and monitoring vigilance appropriately for each level.

Likewise, build an application risk profile catalog ranking deployment priority, criticality for uptime and functionality impact if breached. These become the foundation for migration strategies.


Implement Strong Access Governance

With remote infrastructure and so many new points of access, the principle of least privilege becomes paramount for cloud deployments.

Create a centralized digital identity provider to manage access controls across multi-cloud providers if warranted.

Enforce stringent password policies and multi-factor authentication everywhere feasible. Integrate identity management systems with HR data to automatically disable terminated employee access.

Build a system of approved authorizers and access expiry timeframes for governance approval workflows and privilege recertification. Institute robust monitoring to identify unauthorized or suspicious access attempts.


Employ Comprehensive Logging and Visibility

Maintaining visibility through detailed activity logging and system monitoring represents another cloud security cornerstone.

Fortunately, leading providers offer far more comprehensive native logging functionality capturing resource changes, data transactions, identity activities and system events than typical on-premise SIEM capabilities.

With some integration work, these cloud logs feed into security analytics platforms to establish unified dashboards and intelligent alerting for threat detection.

Focused visibility supplements more traditional vulnerability scanning and penetration testing to create a defense-in-depth monitoring strategy.


Verify Security Control Effectiveness

Beyond provider questionnaires and contractual obligations, customers should independently verify security defenses through First Party risk assessments and testing.

Conduct automated vulnerability scans across cloud assets and infrastructure to detect misconfigurations, software flaws or risky network exposures.

Execute simulated attacks to probe defenses via approved penetration tests that stop short of actual data or system compromise.

Compliance teams must run gap analyses between configured settings and frameworks like SOC2, ISO 27001 or PCI DSS based on environment scope. Such continuous confirmation ensures security controls are working as intended at the deepest technical levels while avoiding over-reliance on vendor marketing claims.


Have Response Protocols and Training

Despite applying layered security safeguards, organizations must be ready to handle incidents stemming from insider threats, configuration errors or sophisticated attacks.

Define cloud-specific response protocols detailing roles and responsibilities, communications procedures, investigation playbooks, mitigation steps and more.

Conduct tabletop simulations with IT staff and leadership to prepare for coordinated containment and recovery.

Emphasize preserving digital forensic evidence unique to cloud deployments and training administrators on fundamentals.

Preparedness translates directly into minimizing breach impacts.


Invest in Specialized Security Skills

Effectively securing cloud environments relies heavily on rooting security programs in targeted skills training, best practice certifications and dedicated leadership.

While technical controls are imperative, their administration equally requires developing or hiring talent focused exclusively on modern cloud platforms, evolving threats and unique defense paradigms.

Consider a dedicated cloud security team or leader distinct from customary IT staff to provide appropriate focus alongside third-party assessors and managed security partners.

Cross-train with vendor solutions architects and support engineers. Cultivating strong human cyber skills makes technical controls operationally stronger.

Just like securing any environment, safeguarding the cloud first requires understanding unique risks.

This entails updating strategy and control frameworks to account for blended operating models, distributed data and platforms, and shared governance. Our recommendations provide a launch point to build robust cloud data protection tailored to your organization’s needs.

Following this comprehensive approach supports securely harnessing the cloud’s potential while avoiding preventable compromise of critical systems or information.


Constructing Robust Cloud Security

Migrating systems and data to the cloud can enable tremendous efficiency, collaboration, and innovation gains. However, it also surfaces new cybersecurity challenges that organizations must address through updated strategies and controls.

By clearly defining security requirements, thoroughly vetting providers, implementing strong access governance, expanding monitoring visibility, verifying control efficacy via testing, and investing in specialized skills and partners, companies can build a robust framework tailored to their unique risks.

While the cloud offers revolutionary advancement, securing it requires a parallel revolution updating paradigms, tools, and processes.

These recommendations provide a comprehensive checklist so organizations can confidently pursue cloud initiatives knowing critical assets and sensitive information remain protected.

With proper diligence and preparation centered on understanding modern threats and responsibilities, the strategic and economic advantages of the cloud undoubtedly outweigh the risks.


Use Strong Passwords and Two-Factor Authentication

One of the most important cybersecurity strategies for small businesses – or online security in general – is to use strong passwords. A strong password should be at least 12 characters long and include a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.

It is also essential to avoid using easily guessed words like “password” or easily accessible personal information like your birthdate.

Moreover, you should enable two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever possible. 2FA adds an extra layer of security to your accounts by requiring you to enter a code from your phone in addition to your password. This makes it much more difficult for hackers to gain access to your account, even if they have your password.

Answering questions like “how to identify single points of failure” or “how to conduct a risk assessment” are significant first steps in securing your organization, but you won't be able to achieve much if you lose access to your whole infrastructure.

Cybersecurity Strategies – Keep Your Software Up to Date

Keeping your software up to date is one of the simplest and most effective cybersecurity strategies for small businesses. Software updates often include security patches that close vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit. By staying on track with updates, you make it much more difficult for hackers to gain access to your website or data.

Similarly, up-to-date software will also run more smoothly and be less likely to experience glitches. Outdated software is often the root cause of technical issues like website crashes, slow loading times, and lost data. On top of that, you may miss out on the latest features and functionality that would improve your business operations.

Implement Anti-Malware and Anti-Virus Protection

Another essential cybersecurity strategy for small businesses is to implement anti-malware and anti-virus protection. Malware is a type of malicious software that can infect your website or computer and cause serious damage. Viruses are similar to malware but are specifically designed to spread from one computer to another.

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Anti-malware software can detect and remove malware from your system, while anti-virus software can prevent viruses from spreading in the first place. By implementing both types of protection, you can significantly reduce the risk of cyberattacks on your small business website.

Educate Your Employees about Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity education is often overlooked. It's easy to assume that everyone knows how to protect themselves online, but that's not always the case. Many employees are unaware of the risks of clicking on malicious links or opening attachments from unknown senders. As a result, they can unintentionally expose your business to cyber threats.

By providing cybersecurity education to your employees, you can make them aware of the dangers of cyberattacks and teach them how to protect themselves – and your business – online. There are many free resources available online that you can use to create an employee training program.

Alternatively, you could hire a professional trainer to come in and deliver an interactive workshop.

Perform Regular Backups

Regular backups are essential for any small business website. If your site is hacked or experiences a technical issue, you can lose all of your data. By performing regular backups, you can ensure that you have a copy of your website and data that you can restore if necessary, ensuring business continuity.

There are many different ways to perform backups, but the most common method is to use a backup plugin. Backup plugins create a copy of your website and data and store it on a remote server. Alternatively, you could use a managed WordPress hosting provider that includes automatic backups as part of their service.

Avoid Using Public Networks

When working on your small business website, it is vital to avoid using public Wi-Fi networks. Although modern devices provide you with significantly more effective security measures, attacks such as man-in-the-middle are still possible.

If you need to use a public Wi-Fi network for some reason, there are precautions you can take to reduce the risk of attack. First, avoid accessing any sensitive data or websites while connected to a public network.

Second, use a VPN to encrypt your traffic and make it more difficult for hackers to intercept your data. Lastly, use HTTPS whenever possible to ensure that your data is encrypted end-to-end.

To Sum Up

As a small business owner, you have enough on your plate without having to worry about cybersecurity. However, it is important to remember that small business websites are just as susceptible to cyber threats as their larger counterparts – if not more.

By implementing the strategies listed above, you can significantly reduce the risk of attack and keep your business safe online. Perform regular backups, use a VPN whenever possible, and educate your employees about cybersecurity. The most important thing is to get started today – the sooner you start working on the security of your online presence, the better.


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