There have been several high-profile cyber security attacks since the start of 2023 with Royal Mail, JD Sports and Arnold Clark experiencing severe disruption. But it’s not just large corporations that are at risk, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are also on the radar for hackers.
With smaller budgets for IT infrastructure, these businesses are increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks and data breaches which can be devastating to their operations and reputation.
For SMEs, becoming Cyber Essentials certified is a solid foundation for ensuring staff have the tools to recognise potential threats. Cyber Essentials is a government-backed certification scheme that helps businesses of all sizes improve their cyber security posture. It provides a set of guidelines and best practices that SMEs can follow to reduce the risk of a data breach.
By becoming Cyber Essentials certified, SMEs can demonstrate to their customers and partners that they take cybersecurity seriously and are committed to protecting their sensitive information.
The Risks of Cyber Attacks on SMEs
Small and medium-sized enterprises are particularly vulnerable to cyber threats due to their limited resources and cybersecurity expertise. Cyber attacks can have a devastating impact on these businesses, leading to financial loss, reputation damage, and even bankruptcy.
Common cyber threats that SMEs face include phishing scams, malware attacks, ransomware, and denial-of-service (DoS) attacks. Recent statistics show that 43% of cyber attacks target small businesses, and a staggering 60% of these businesses go out of business within six months.
The consequences of a cyber attack for SMEs can be severe, which is why it’s crucial for these businesses to invest in robust cybersecurity measures to protect their assets, employees, and customers.
What is Cyber Essentials?
Cyber Essentials is a scheme designed to help organizations protect themselves against cyber attacks by implementing basic cyber security measures. The certification provides a clear definition and explanation of the controls that organizations need to implement to mitigate risks to their systems and data. It’s a cost-effective way for SMEs to demonstrate their commitment to cyber security.
The benefits of the certification include increased confidence from customers and stakeholders, improved cyber security awareness, and reduced risk of cyber attacks. In addition, Cyber Essentials can help SMEs to win contracts from larger organizations, as many now require their suppliers to have this certification.
By achieving a Cyber Essentials certification, SMEs can ensure that they have the fundamental security measures in place to protect their business and their customers from cyber threats.
Cyber Essentials Certification Standards
The Cyber Essentials scheme addresses the most common internet-based attacks that use widely available tools and that need very little skill for the attacker to use. The controls covered as part of the certification include:
- Use a firewall to secure your Internet connection – create a barrier between your IT network and other networks to check if incoming traffic should be allowed on your network.
- Use secure settings for your devices and software – changing passwords and removing unused accounts and software.
- Control who has access to your data and services – manage access to administrator accounts.
- Protect yourself from viruses and malware – using properly configured anti-malware software and only allowing trusted applications.
- Keep your devices and software up to date – using patch management to protect against vulnerabilities.
At San-IT we provide comprehensive and personalised assistance for your Cyber Essentials accreditation, from initial assessment to the final certification. We follow a five-step process to ensure your organisation is equipped with the knowledge and tools to gain accreditation quickly and with minimal impact on day-to-day business.
Our audit process will simplify the requirement definitions against your infrastructure and provide us with clear information as to what infrastructure changes are required to achieve the accreditation.
We do this by utilizing a smart Cyber Essentials agent that is deployed across the IT infrastructure of your business to retrieve and centralise the required technical information.
The process will also consist of identifying what platforms and systems are to be documented within the ‘boundary scope’, which simply means whether the responsibility of the infrastructure is up to you or a third party.
Our audit process will have clearly defined what system and user changes are required to achieving the accreditation and our approach to implementing the changes for you.
We will document this within a proposal and clearly outline the brief, output and business policies that will be produced during the implementation.
Our teams will work with the business to successfully implement the required changes documented within our scope and keep you updated throughout the process.
We will outline clear timescales and provide you with the output along the way.
Following the implementation of the technical changes, we are ready to submit the information to the certifying body in which the accreditation will be issued.
Here we ensure the changes implemented are clearly documented within the standards required and work with the body to provide clarity on any aspects required.
Ongoing Compliance & Policies
The Cyber Essentials accreditation is renewed annually, we will ensure the appropriate policies and processes are implemented to make the re-certification a smooth process.
We will assist the business is remaining compliant by carefully monitoring the IT infrastructure through our usual managed services and cyber security offerings.
Importance of Cyber Essentials for SMEs
Smaller businesses remain alluring targets for cyber criminals for several reasons, including their relatively weaker security measures and easier accessibility compared to larger enterprises. Moreover, SMEs provide cyber criminals with the prospect of obtaining smaller sums of money from multiple sources rather than riskier high-level attacks.
The percentage of smaller businesses being targeted by cyber criminals has climbed steadily in the last few years. An earlier study from Symantec found that 43 percent cyber attacks hit businesses with 250 or fewer employees.
Social engineering attacks, which involve tactics like phishing, baiting, quid pro quo, pretexting, and tailgating, exploit human interaction and psychology to persuade targets to ignore or bypass security protocols. Statistics reveal that small businesses are especially susceptible to these types of attacks. Cyber criminals tend to target top executives such as CEOs and CFOs, along with executive assistants who possess access to the accounts of high-ranking members of the company.
Protect the Future of your Business
While Cyber Essentials cannot guarantee 100% protection against all cyber threats, it provides a strong foundation for cyber security that can be built upon as a business grows and evolves. SMEs that invest in Cyber Essentials can enjoy greater peace of mind, knowing that they have taken proactive steps to protect their business, their customers, and their reputation. Research from the National Cyber Security Centre shows that certified businesses are 60% less likely to need to make a cyber insurance claim.
Overall, Cyber Essentials is a smart investment for any SME looking to improve their cyber security posture and protect their business from online threats.
Contact us today for further information on how we can support your business with Cyber Essentials.