Small and midsize businesses have limited IT resources. Here are some ways they can stretch their security dollars

Dark Reading Staff, Dark Reading

June 13, 2013

4 Min Read

The following is excerpted from "10 Ways Small Businesses Can Save Money on Security," a new report posted this week on Dark Reading's Small and Midsize Business (SMB) Security Tech Center.]

When it comes to technology and company size, many things are relative. The smaller the company, the smaller the need for, say, servers and software licenses. In at least one area, however, all things are not relative: security.

Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) face the same kinds of threats and security breaches that their bigger brethren do, but they typically lack the budget and in-house expertise to deal with those problems. And it's not like SMBs can just throw up their hands and forgo security.

Rather, they have to figure out how to do security smartly -- that is, they have to determine the best and most effective ways to apply the resources they do have.

Stretching security dollars is a tricky proposition because the stakes are so high: Do it right, and no one will likely even know. Do it wrong, and you put your company's crown jewels -- and reputation -- on the line. But there are ways that SMBs can approach technology, business practices and training, among other things, to get the most bang for their security buck. It's not about cutting corners. Rather, it's about doing security smart.

SMBs are challenged not only by their limited security budgets, but also in their ability to spend that budget. That is, when it comes to products and services, there's an enormous amount of choice out there. SMBs often don't have the staff or specific know-how necessary to effectively and efficiently prioritize problems, determine the kinds of products that will solve those problems and then evaluate those products in order to choose the right one for the organization.

For this report, Dark Reading spoke with security experts about the scope of the problems that SMBs face and came up with 10 ways in which they can tackle those issues using low-cost -- and sometimes no-cost -- products and practices.

1. Set Priorities
While the items in this top 10 list are not ordered by importance, setting priorities may be the most important thing an SMB can do to save money on security. It's certainly the first thing a small or midsize business should do. Experts agree that no company -- no matter its size -- can hope to be completely secure. All companies, therefore, need to decide what areas and assets are most in need of protection, and to focus resources there.

Ask questions such as:

* What corporate asset would cause the most pain if it were to be stolen or breached?

* What kind of attack would be the most embarrassing?

* Which customers are at risk?

* What risk do company employees pose?

* Which regulatory compliance mandates is my organization required to meet?

All companies will have a long list of things they would like to lock down; the difference between big companies and SMBs, in this regard, is that a larger company may be able to protect more things farther down on its priority list.

It's important to note that IT managers should not attempt to set these priorities on their own -- one man's crown jewels is another man's costume jewelry, after all. Get input from people who can speak with authority (and perspective) from different corners of the company.

2. Be Realistic
Just as you can't expect to protect everything, you can't hope to protect against everything.

"If handling payment cards is your business, then there's a narrowly defined set of controls on which you can focus," the 2013 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report states. "If your IP is a hot commodity, you've got your work cut out for you, but knowing the attack patterns [and sharing them] can make that work more fruitful. Take steps to better understand your threat landscape and deal with it accordingly."

Indeed, there are lots of threats and vulnerabilities out there, but not all of them are necessarily threatening to your particular company in your particular industry. A risk assessment can help companies in their overall security prioritization efforts. And, as with determining what's most valuable to the company, the process of determining what's most threatening to the company shouldn't be performed in an IT vacuum.

To read eight more tips on how SMBs can reduce security costs, download the free report.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add a Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

About the Author(s)

Dark Reading Staff

Dark Reading

Dark Reading is a leading cybersecurity media site.

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