Top cybersecurity considerations for SMEs in 2021

Cisco recently published its 2021 SMB Security Outcomes Study, a derivative of its flagship cybersecurity report, 2021 Security Outcomes Study, which highlights what SMB leaders are doing to thrive in today’s ever-evolving threat landscape. The report examined how security leaders in SMBs organisations can achieve success in their cybersecurity programmes by looking at which specific practices help to enable their businesses, combat advanced threats and targeted attacks, and operate efficiently. Fady Younes, Cybersecurity Director, MEA, Cisco, discusses why historically, vendors, practitioners and the cybersecurity industry as a whole have assumed that bigger means better.

Networking solutions powerhouse Cisco has published its 2021 SMB Security Outcomes Study, a derivative of Cisco’s flagship cybersecurity report, 2021 Security Outcomes Study, highlighting what SMB leaders are doing to thrive in today’s ever-evolving threat landscape, as well as offering actionable insights on where they should focus their digitisation, security planning and cyber defence efforts in the year ahead.

The double-blind study is based on a survey of over 850 regional IT and security professionals from small (50 to 249 employees) and midsize (250 to 499 employees) organisations in 25 countries from the Europe, Middle East, Africa and Russia (EMEAR). The report examines how security leaders in SMBs organisations can achieve success in their cybersecurity programmes by looking at which specific practices help to enable their businesses, combat advanced threats and targeted attacks and operate efficiently.

Fady Younes, Cybersecurity Director, Middle East and Africa (MEA), Cisco said: “Historically, vendors, practitioners and the cybersecurity industry as a whole have assumed that bigger means better. However, agility is what makes small and midsize businesses uniquely positioned to build successful approaches to security. Our findings reveal that SMBs place higher importance on having the right security strategy in place and that they take the time to understand how this factor can best align with the Digital Transformation and growth agenda of their business. Planning for resilience and modernisation of technology remain critical factors for today’s SMBs looking to advance their security fabric.”

The survey revealed that security teams in small and midsize businesses are doing a better job in enabling the mission of their organisations. With fewer resources, 44% of SMEs say their security teams are keeping pace with the changing needs and growth of the business, compared with 42% of large enterprises.

The study identified three areas where small organisations should focus on to achieve success in their cybersecurity programmes: enabling business, managing risk and operating efficiently.

Enabling business

The study highlights three factors to achieve security outcomes:

  • Sufficient security staff
  • A secure development approach
  • IT and security collaboration

Each of these components have been shown to increase confidence and buy-in from peers and security success. For example, the probability for security success in obtaining peer buy-in increases up to 22% when small businesses have sufficient security staff and up to 17.6% when IT and security functions work collaboratively together.

Managing risk

Compliance as well as the growing threats of cyberattacks have been a driver for security adoption in SMEs. However, as more standards emerge, regulations increase and threats develop, the minimal requirements bar keeps getting notched up. To tackle this ever-shifting landscape, the study demonstrates that with appropriate investments organisations and collaborative teams can meet regulations and reduce risk.

Besides the sufficient security budget and having teams working together, the study found that SMEs that proactively and regularly upgrade to best available IT and security technologies improve the chances of mitigating critical cyberthreats and avoiding major incidents.

Operating efficiently

Enterprises large and small are budget conscious and must seek ways to streamline both IT and ensure security optimisation. According to the Cisco study, small and midsize organisations are finding success when teams understand security. Understanding how security strategy and planning can support business imperatives streamlines incident response and minimises unplanned work. Moreover, the study again emphasises the value of teams working together as this factor contributes wildly to cost effectiveness.

The study also highlights the role of establishing well-integrated technology and incident response solutions for operating efficiently in midsize companies. Ensuring these two factors helps effectively minimising unplanned work and increasing cost effectiveness.
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