Cyber-attacks aren’t letting up, with corporate giants such as Facebook, British Airways and Marriott International all hitting the headlines in the last 12 months.
Yet, despite publicity around these high-profile cases, for small businesses, it’s still tempting to think that cyber attacks aren’t something that you really need to worry about.
Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth, with research showing that 42% of small businesses were hit by a cyber attack in the last 12 months.
Smaller businesses soft target for hackers
By their very nature, small business owners are constantly spinning plates, so it’s no wonder that preparing for cyber incidents isn’t top of the to-do list. Yet, hackers have become wise to this, often seeing SMEs as a soft target, without the funds, time or knowledge to defend themselves.
Research shows that the majority of small businesses still aren’t taking the threat seriously. More than a third (37%) don’t have a cybersecurity plan in place and 40% per cent wouldn’t know who to contact if a crime was committed. With the average annual cost of a cyber breach standing at around £25,700, it is time to sit up and take notice.
Even if you have all the right technology and processes in place, sometimes you’re powerless to stop a breach. This is why an effective response plan is essential, enabling you to control the situation as quickly as possible, with minimum impact to you and your customers.
How to respond to a cyber attack
Want to make sure you’re prepared? Then, your cyber attack response plan should include the following:
Arm yourself with knowledge
Speed is of the essence following a cyber-attack. You need to know what caused the breach, with a view to rectifying the problem quickly and ensuring it doesn’t happen again.
As a small business, chances are you don’t have this expertise in house, so you should line up IT forensics experts for if and when you need them.
Your legal response
There are numerous legal issues to consider, particularly since the introduction of the GDPR last year.
These include informing the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) of the breach, defending your business against any claims of malpractice, as well as managing your approach to customers and the media. For this, you’ll need a good lawyer, ready to support you from the moment you’re aware of the problem.
Handling media queries
You could be the focus of media attention following a breach, so be ready to handle all external communications about what happened and how you’re responding.
Again, time is of the essence, so you’ll need to have statements ready to go asap. If you don’t have your own PR expertise internally, make sure you have external support – whether an agency or experienced consultant – on speed-dial.
Depending on your customer-base and the scale of the breach, you could have a lot of unpleasant phone calls to make! You’ll need to be ready with a way to handle this communication efficiently across numerous channels, including at least email and telephone.
As a small business, this communication should be as personal as possible, but your lawyer will be able to advise on what you should and shouldn’t be saying.
Make sure you’re covered
If the worst does happen and you’re facing the repercussions, your final line of defence is a watertight and specialist cyber insurance policy.
Bear in mind that policies can vary significantly, so be sure to seek specialist advice regarding the best option for your needs and how these might change over time.
Some insurance policies will also offer an immediate response plan and external expertise as part of your cover – giving you one less thing to worry about.
Finally, it is worth highlighting that the GDPR imposes the same responsibility on all businesses that handle personal data, irrespective of size. The potential impacts of a breach are great, with fines as much as €20m. So make sure you’re on top of cyber security – before it’s too late.
About the author
This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Digital Risks (www.digitalrisks.co.uk), a specialist insurance provider that focuses 100% on the needs of digital businesses.
Other types of business insurance
ByteStart has a series of practical guides to help businesses get to grips with the various types of business insurance, including;
- Which Types of Insurance Must Your Business Have?
- ByteStart’s Guide to Professional Indemnity Insurance – What You Need to Know Before Buying Cover
- What is Public Liability Insurance? – A Guide for Businesses
- What is Employers Liability Insurance, & When Is My Business Legally Required to Have Cover?
- Guide to Intellectual Property Insurance for Start-Ups and Small Businesses
- What to do if Disaster Strikes Your Business Premises and You Need to Make an Insurance Claim