A startup’s first days are a mix of terror and excitement! Everyone involved is brimming with enthusiasm, chasing that elusive combination of great ideas and good luck that has the potential to become the next game-changer. However, the fervor of creating a new business isn’t an excuse to neglect one of the fundamentals to improving its odds of success.
This article discusses the essential measures startup founders should implement to safeguard their businesses from the start. It then examines the careless attitude many founders have towards cybersecurity. Also, it emphasizes why such negligence could lead to disaster for startups at any stage of development.
How Should Startups Approach Cybersecurity?
While lack of knowledge and resources are also at play, neglecting cybersecurity is clearly a mindset problem in the startup world. Founders who realize and work around this will put their businesses in a much stronger long-term position competitively and financially. Besides, implementing core cybersecurity measures is neither resource- nor time-intensive.
A Crash Course in Startup Cybersecurity Essentials
Cybersecurity boils down to protecting the integrity and accessibility of data. Startups need a comprehensive plan that lays out how they’ll enforce it. Founders should start developing that plan as the startup takes shape and add to it as their venture expands.
The safest way to secure data is via encryption. Encrypted documents aren’t immune to theft. Still, they don’t pose a security risk since their contents aren’t accessible without the proper encryption key.
Backing everything up is equally essential and the best defense against ransomware. The 3-2-1 strategy ensures three copies of files exist, two being in different formats and one off-site. This is also an excellent countermeasure against natural disasters.
Always keeping operating systems and all software up to date ensures they can’t be breached via old exploits. Every company device should have antimalware protection. New devices need vetting before receiving access to sensitive company networks.
Even the most advanced measures become useless if hackers gain access by exploiting careless or ignorant employees. Cybersecurity training imparts skills & practices like learning to recognize social engineering and using strong passwords that will shore up what is otherwise the weakest part of any cyber defense.
Apart from these basic measures, savvy startups also use VPNs.
How Does a VPN Benefit Startups?
Using a VPN means you’re doubling down on the encryption aspect of data protection. Specifically, the VPN creates encrypted connections through all incoming and outgoing traffic. That means employees can access company resources from anywhere without compromising system integrity or data security.
That alone would be a boon for startups since it makes working from home or collaborating with colleagues from other parts of the world easier & safer. They can share files & openly discuss ongoing research or future marketing campaigns without fearing outsider detection.
Some ISPs throttle access to specific sites. Since you can get an IP address in any location, startups can enjoy unrestricted access to geo-blocked websites, as there’s no way for the ISP to tell what their online activities are. With IP trackers, you can see the exact location details of an IP address.
Any half-decent VPN provider will offer worldwide server locations with its own set of benefits. For example, startups interested in foreign markets can use the VPN to connect to a server in a targeted country. This way, they can observe whether their marketing campaign is going to be planned.
Moreover, some valuable information for advancing the business could have geographic restrictions. That’s no longer an issue with a VPN.
Choosing the right VPN depends on several factors. Taking a look at this Reddit user’s detailed & up-to-date VPN comparison table will help you evaluate your options more easily.
As data is of major interest, startups need a VPN with the most sophisticated encryption. The VPN provider should also have a no-log policy. That means they don’t keep activity logs and are unaware of your online activity while using the VPN.
Robust VPNs include extra features like two-factor authentication that prevents unauthorized account access through compromised credentials. It’s also useful to have activity restrictions so employees can’t access sites that either waste time or could be malicious.
User-friendliness is no less important. Even the least tech-savvy employee should be able to use the VPN intuitively. Its UI needs to be simple yet informative, while advanced users should get access to broader settings and analytics. Finally, a dependable business VPN needs competent round-the-clock support that deals with issues quickly and professionally.
Why Are Startups Especially Vulnerable to Cyber Attacks?
Startups are dynamic companies that either adapt & grow or fail. With so many improvements on the line, founders often focus entirely on core operations like developing their products or attracting investors. Cybersecurity isn’t a concern due to the impression there’s nothing to steal.
Since fledgling startups usually employ a handful of people, hiring a cybersecurity specialist isn’t a top priority. Other employees might not be too tech-savvy if that’s not the focus of the startup’s niche. This creates a climate where cyber threats aren’t perceived as such or are ignored outright. And it works until it doesn’t!
The problem with this mindset is it doesn’t account for the unpredictability of success. Your startup could become famous and swamped with orders literally overnight. It might not have been on hackers’ radars before, but they’ll be taking notice now. Integrating cybersecurity into your startup’s growth strategy from the get-go means it will be far more capable of handling cybersecurity challenges whenever they appear.
What are the consequences of neglecting cybersecurity?
A single cyberattack can be the death of a startup.
If you think this is a bit too dramatic, consider how 90% of startups fail at some point. 20% do so within the first year, most likely due to a lack of funding or poor market research. Even if everything is going well, cybersecurity has a vital role in preventing disaster.
Data breaches and ransomware happen with increased frequency. Their creators don’t discriminate based on company size. If anything, startups are less capable of dealing with them than established companies. On the one hand, there’s a nonchalant attitude towards such threats. On the other, employees who lack cybersecurity awareness create a broad attack area for cyber crooks to exploit.
Not securing data and access to it has diverse negative consequences. For example, a startup that carelessly stores its source code or other intellectual property can find itself without a product if hackers steal and sell the information to competitors.
Many startups offer services for which users need to create accounts. The signup process can demand varying degrees of personally identifiable information. It’s common for startups to hold databases containing thousands of real names, addresses, and CC numbers. Failing to secure such a database puts everyone who signed up at risk. Do we even need to point out how it can irreversibly damage the company’s reputation?
Disruption of everyday operations is also a major pain point. A startup experiencing a data breach or DDoS attack can’t function. That leads to further trust erosion, financial loss, and customer dissatisfaction.
Few outside investors will want to cooperate with a startup that handled past cyberattacks poorly or doesn’t have a strategy to deal with future ones. Past cybersecurity blunders can also point to a company’s disregard for rules & regulations, which seasoned investors won’t want anything to do with either.
What makes a strong foundation for a startup? Most people would mention a killer idea, enthusiasm, and enough seed money & leave it at that. Cybersecurity is an equally important part of the startup success formula; we hope anyone who reads this article will never again dismiss it.