Most people don’t think their business is a target for hackers, which is a dangerous mindset to have. If you use computers anywhere in your business, you should include IT security in your business risk analysis.

Often, companies are a target of opportunity rather than a direct target for attackers. Hackers regularly scan the Internet for vulnerable systems. If they find one, they will compromise the system to see what other systems they can find.

Know the scenario

In the best-case scenario, your network might become part of their botnet—hackers commonly use bots to infect large numbers of computers—or be used as a jumping off point to launch other attacks.

Worst-case scenario? Your customer data, intellectual property, sales data and other sensitive corporate information could be stolen. Also, the brand damage from an attack can significantly undermine consumer confidence in your company, resulting in lost sales.

Next steps

Once you understand the impact a security breach can have on your business, what should you do?

Start by making IT security an executive-level priority. Even if your IT department is only one IT person, start the conversation now and make it known that IT security is a business-critical priority. Would you leave your offices unlocked and open to anyone walking in from the street while no one is there?

Unfortunately, this is the IT security strategy of many corporations and small businesses. Many companies don’t make it a priority until after they have been attacked and the damage has been done. Being proactive can help you avoid being an easy target.

Threat analysis

One way to think about your security posture is to consider how you are positioned against internal versus external threats.

"Your investment in defensive and responsive technologies should align with the impact your business would feel in the event of a security breach."

If you store financial data or personally identifiable information (PII), you are more likely to be a direct target of external threats. For example, banks and credit unions are usually direct targets for attackers because of the type of information they deal with. If you are not a direct target based on your industry, you are likely an indirect target, which means your security strategy will differ from businesses that are direct targets.

Internal threats are difficult to manage. Sometimes they are malicious; sometimes they’re unintentional. Despite concepts like ‘defense in depth,’ most businesses still have a soft, gooey inside. Employees have access to customer data that can easily be stolen and sold or used by competitors.

Companies without a dedicated security department might find it difficult to monitor their network and staff to make sure people don’t abuse their privileges. One of the easiest ways to minimize the risk of abusive insiders is to grant employees access to only the systems they need.

Worthwhile investment

Your investment in defensive and responsive technologies should align with the impact your business would feel in the event of a security breach. If you properly evaluate the risks, you can make smart investments in people, tools, and processes to mitigate those risks.

Ensuring the security of your IT systems requires effort, but it is possible by creating a realistic plan for your business.