As a small business owner, you know that your company is at risk of cybercrime, but how seriously do you really take the threat? The fact is that many hackers go after your small companies and e-commerce stores because they know that you don’t have security as your top priority. This isn’t to say all small businesses are lax, but the numbers show that 69% of small businesses do not have any plans for cybersecurity or how to prevent an attack.

So how much should you be putting into cybersecurity? You don’t have to dedicate half of your budget, but you should put some money towards protection and security for you and your customers. Let’s look at why you are at risk and how much you should realistically spend on this cause.

You Are At Risk

Dedicating resources to cybersecurity is not optional because all companies are at risk, especially smaller businesses. The sad fact is that, according to the University of North Dakota, hackers attack individuals and companies every 39 seconds, and as of 2019, 43% of data breaches were against small organizations. Hackers are going after small businesses because they know that they have a better chance of success due to minimal security.

When contemplating a cybersecurity budget, think about the potential costs that are associated with a beach. On average, a cyberattack costs a business around $9000, but that is still on the low side. Some studies show that cyberattacks can cost upwards of one million dollars in recovery efforts and lost business.

These costs are important to think about. It isn’t just the money you’ll lose. Consider the headlines you’ve seen of major corporations that have had data breaches and the stories of customers jumping ship for fear that their data may be stolen next. You don’t want to be the next statistic, and you don’t want to lose customers because you short-changed the budget.

How Much Should You Spend?

So what are the threats that we’re discussing here? Some hackers use special programs to find the password to your systems and force their way in through a brute force attack. In contrast, others use DDoS or “Distributed Denial of Service” attacks that spam your website until it gets overloaded and crashes. There is also the use of ransomware that allows a hacker to gain access to your data and won’t release it back to you until you have paid a hefty ransom.

These are just a select few of the many methods that hackers use, so you need a dedicated professional to keep watch and prevent these attacks. Because most data is kept on computers and you likely have an online presence, you need to have a budget allocation for IT costs. Most businesses spend about 4-8% of these annual costs on cybersecurity protection. Of course, these costs may depend on the size of your company. If you only have a couple of employees, the cost would likely be less.

Part of this budget can be spent on hiring a tech pro who focuses solely on cybersecurity, or at least an IT team member that dedicates some time each day. There is also the time that must be spent on educational materials that will instruct your staff on how to watch for scams and malicious phishing emails. You will also need to pay for valuable firewall and antivirus software that will protect your systems.

Free Security

It is important to note that while cybersecurity is a necessity, there are many precautions that you can put into place without spending much money. It starts with passwords. Make them complex with numbers, letters, and special characters and have them updated regularly. Passwords for backup servers and other essential points should only be given to those who need it.

Back up all data on servers with passwords and encrypt that information so it cannot be used if stolen. Consider adding multi-factor authentication, which is an additional code or fingerprint that is used with the password for extra protection. Also, restrict the staff to only work-related websites so they don’t stumble onto dangerous sites where a click of a link can result in dangerous malware on your system.

Finally, be careful when you are working in public places to do your best to avoid man-in-the-middle attacks. Essentially, these are artificial networks set up to take your data once you connect. To protect your information and your business, always ask the owner of the establishment for the correct code, so you avoid falling victim.

Your business should understand the value of cybersecurity because there is too much at stake to just stand by. Put some money aside now, and you won’t be sorry later.

Noah Rue is a journalist and a digital nomad, fascinated with the intersection between global health, personal wellness, and modern technology. When he isn’t frantically updating his news feeds, Noah likes to shut off his devices, head to the beach and read detective novels from the 1930s.

Cybersecurity stock photo by BeeBright/Shutterstock