Protecting your small business: a guide to responding to cyber-attacks

Protecting your small business: A guide to responding to cyber-attacks

Small businesses are increasingly becoming targets for cyber criminals. As business insurance professionals, at Premierline we want to help you understand the importance of safeguarding your company’s sensitive data and reputation. Cyber-attacks can be devastating, but with the right knowledge and proactive measures, you can minimise the impact and protect your business. We will explore essential steps small businesses should take to respond effectively to cyber-attacks, drawing insights from the Small Business Response & Recovery Guide by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).

Understanding the threat to small businesses

Before we delve into the response strategies discussed by the NCSC, it’s crucial to understand the threats your small business could face. Cyber-attacks can come in various forms, from hackers seeking financial gain to nation-state actors looking for intelligence. Small businesses are often targeted due to their potentially weaker cyber-security defences compared to larger organisations which can therefore mean small businesses are seen as easy targets, especially those which rely on computer systems in their business.

As with many business risks, prevention is often better than a cure which is why the NCSC recommends businesses take proactive measures to ensure that they have a solid foundation for protecting their business from cyber-crime from the outset.

Create a risk assessment

Begin by conducting a thorough risk assessment. Identify the valuable assets and data that your business holds, such as customer information, financial records, and intellectual property. Determine the potential impact of a cyber-attack on these assets and the likelihood of an attack occurring. Like any risk assessment, your cyber risk assessment should consider what steps you can take to mitigate or lower the potential risk.

Employee training

Your employees are your first line of defence. Train them to recognise phishing attempts, malware, and other common cyber threats. Encourage a culture of cybersecurity within your organisation so that everyone is aware of their responsibilities when it comes to data protection and cyber-crime awareness.

Secure your systems

Implement robust security measures, such as firewalls, antivirus software, and intrusion detection systems. Regularly update your software and operating systems to patch known vulnerabilities, doing this will ensure your computer systems have the most up to date security features available to them.

How small businesses should respond to cyber-attacks

Now that you’ve taken preventive measures, it’s essential to know how to respond if a cyber-attack occurs.

 Detection

Early detection is key to minimising damage. Set up monitoring systems that can alert you to unusual network activity or signs of a breach. This could include unexpected data access or login attempts from unfamiliar locations. Detection should lead to reporting, therefore a method for internally reporting cyber-attacks should be in place to ensure the swift activation of your cyber-attack response plan.

Containment

If you suspect a breach, act swiftly to contain it. Isolate affected systems from your network to prevent further damage. Change passwords and access credentials immediately and take any other necessary steps to ensure whatever has caused the breach can’t access any additional systems or your wider network.

Notification

Depending on your location and the nature of the breach, you may be legally required to notify affected individuals and authorities. Even if not legally mandated, transparently communicating with your customers and stakeholders is essential for maintaining trust. It’s also important that your employees are aware of a breach and should be notified about things they need to look out for to help understand if their own systems have been affected by the attack.

Recovery

Work on restoring your systems and services as quickly as possible. This may involve restoring data from backups, applying security patches, and improving your cybersecurity setup to prevent future attacks. The recovery phase may take some time depending on the scale of the attack. If you have the correct cyber insurance in place, your insurer may be able to provide guidance on what sort of claims you can make during this stage.

Learning and improvement

After an attack, conduct a post-incident review. Analyse what went wrong, what worked, and how you can enhance your cybersecurity defences. Use this as an opportunity to strengthen your policies and procedures to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. You may need to review your entire cybersecurity set up, or perhaps you discover a minor vulnerability that can be quickly fixed. Regardless of the outcome, small businesses should use this time as an opportunity to learn and improve its resilience for the future.

Cyber insurance for small businesses

As a business insurance broker, Premierline understand the importance of small businesses having comprehensive coverage in case of a cyber-attack. Cyber insurance, including cyber and data insurance, can be a valuable addition to your risk management strategy.

What is cyber insurance?

Cyber insurance can help cover the financial losses associated with a cyber-attack. It can include coverage for data breach response costs, legal fees, and other expenses related to efforts to mitigate reputational damage. Our advisors can discuss your needs and build a bespoke cyber insurance package for your business.

If your business has a website, handles the personal data of customers, employees, or suppliers, or, if your business relies on computer systems for everyday business operations then you may need to consider cyber insurance. Whilst insurance can’t stop a breach from happening, it can help to protect your business from financial losses as a result.

Cyber-attacks are a growing threat to small businesses. By understanding the threats, implementing preventive measures, and knowing how to respond effectively, you can help protect your business from the potentially devastating impact of cyber-attacks. Additionally, you should consider taking out cyber insurance to provide an extra layer of protection to your business and to your employees, customers, and suppliers.

Cyber Insurance for IAB Members

Premierline Business Insurance Brokers, a long-established insurance partner to the Institute of Accountants and Bookkeepers who understand the everyday risks faced by the accounting and bookkeeping industries.

If your business insurance is due for renewal and you’d like an independent review, or you wish to discuss Professional Indemnity insurance in more detail then please call your IAB insurance team on 0330 102 6171; email: iab@premierline.co.uk. or log-in to the IAB site and visit the Member Benefits page.