Cyber attacks are almost inevitable for any business. And as our reliance on internet-connected devices grows, malicious attackers will only continue their rampage.

In fact, over 1.5 million UK businesses were compromised by threat actors last year, costing them more than £31.5 billion…

Security incidents and cyber attacks can cost your organisation’s time, money, reputation and, ultimately, customers. But by following these seven steps and bolstering your digital defence, you can minimise the risk and save your company from being caught off-guard by insider or external cyber security threats.

1. Conduct a risk assessment

Regular risk assessments identify the threats that could affect your company’s assets, such as hardware, systems, laptops, customer data and intellectual property, and allow your business to stay on top of evolving risks.

Carrying out security risk assessments also helps to influence the security policies needed to protect your business from the inside out. Your security policy should include an identity and access management (IAM process) to specify who can access your business data, under what circumstances and with whom they can share the information.

With a successful IAM programme in place, you can implement a zero-trust approach and the principle of least privilege — giving you peace of mind that your data, resources and applications are secure and only accessible to those who need them to complete a required task.

Once your policy is in place, clearly communicate to your team why the company is following it and your workforce’s role in protecting the company and its assets. Ensure the policy is easy for your team to access and understand and that there is a point of contact should they have any questions.

2. Administer staff training

Studies show that over 68% of global breaches are caused by human error. So, to keep your organisation protected, employees should be educated on identifying potential threats, such as phishing emails, and the procedures for reporting suspected incidents.

Conducting cyber security training for your team can shift employee mindset and behaviour towards information security and demonstrate regulatory compliance.

Governments across Europe are currently introducing legislation with strict requirements, such as the NIS 2 Directive, to protect businesses from cyber security threats, so organisations must get ahead and ensure ongoing compliance in the ever-changing digital landscape.

3. Perform penetration testing

Often included as part of a security audit, a penetration test is one way a company can gain a true sense of its security defences.

Ideally, this test would use the same techniques as a hacker attempting to breach your systems. These techniques may include simulated attacks like phishing, altering data or installing malware and should be performed annually for optimum coverage of your security measures.

For example, you could conduct a phishing simulation to guard your business against social-engineering threats. This type of simulation aims to train your employees to identify and report fraudulent or suspicious emails — assessing your team’s response to find improvement areas.

4. Review password policies

These days, hackers can decrypt simple passwords within seconds with automated tools — so it is essential that your business accounts and software utilise strong passwords.

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a security enhancement used by many businesses. When logging into your business account, 2FA requests two pieces of identity evidence; something you know (a password or PIN you created for your account), something you have (a smartphone or password used to generate one-time codes) or something you are (facial recognition or fingerprint scans).

Introducing two-factor authentication is an affordable and user-friendly way to reduce the likelihood of a security breach and ward off identity theft and phishing attacks — all whilst keeping business disruption to a minimum.

5. Introduce 24/7 network monitoring

Every device your employees use to connect to the business network (known as endpoints) represents a potential risk that hackers can exploit to steal corporate data.

So, each corner of your business should be monitored, including on-premises and cloud environments. Conducting 24/7 monitoring will allow you to identify events requiring an instant response and can increase awareness of your employee’s actions.

Endpoint protection platforms should also be installed on your business devices, working in conjunction with 24/7 monitoring, to flag suspicious activity and prevent threat actors from downloading malware (either intentionally or accidentally) or using tools to infiltrate your systems.

6. Insure to ensure cyber safety

If your business creates, stores and manages electronic data online — like customer contacts, sales and credit card numbers — it can benefit from cyber insurance.

In exchange for a monthly or quarterly fee, the insurance policy transfers some of the financial risks to the insurer. It can help cover any losses in the event of a cyber security incident — which could mean the difference between staying in or going out of business.

7. Reinforce your security systems

By now, most businesses know they need efficient security systems to protect them against cyber threats. However, on top of running their organisation, keeping up with the latest safety regulations and updating security software can seem like too many spinning plates.

If that sounds familiar, it may be time to turn to the experts.

Information security specialists can do all the heavy lifting — reviewing your current processes and recommending safer practices based on your particular security needs — to keep your business safe and prevent a breach.

Are you concerned about your organisation’s security threat risk? Reach out to our team of cyber security specialists at 01252 843014 or email to discover how we can help through our consulting services.