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Creating a comprehensive cyber security plan template for small businesses: A step-by-step guide for protecting your business from cyber attacks

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A cyber attack is disastrous for businesses. This is even more true for small businesses without the proper security strategies in place. 

Luckily, you can protect your business from unwanted threats with a cyber security plan template for small business success. 

Keep reading to learn about the importance of strong cyber security practices and find out how you can create your own plan. 

What is a cyber security plan template for small business?

A cyber security plan template for small business outlines everything you need to protect your business from cyber security threats. 

Any effective cyber security plan includes both preventative and reactionary measures for cyber-attacks and breaches.

What is the purpose of the cyber security plan template for small business?

There are many reasons behind a cyber security plan template for small businesses. Preparing against security threats is crucial to reduce risk as your company grows. 

In general, a cyber security plan takes three factors into account.

  • Technologies: Downloading protection software for your devices.
  • Processes: Educating your team and enforcing security policies.
  • Access controls: Segmenting your business information, and giving access to only those who need it.

Focusing on these three factors, a cyber security template clarifies the different kinds of security risks you need in order to protect your company.

Why you need a cyber security plan

Every day, your team relies on business data to keep operations moving. This includes:

  • Customer information.
  • Financial data.
  • Sales history.

If you lose this data to a cyber security breach, you risk losing your business.  

Unfortunately, no business is immune to cyber security threats! Even organizations at the forefront of their industry have fallen victim to this.

But it’s a lesser known fact that small and medium businesses are the prime targets for cyber attacks.

“43% of cyber attacks target small businesses.”

– Cybint, 2022.

A cyber security strategy is your first line of defense against these attacks. A complete security plan prevents cyber attacks, and provides quick solutions when required. 

The more secure your organization, the more trust customers have in your product or service. And more trust leads to more sales.

For example, companies with log-in websites often implement two-factor authentication for their users. This adds an additional level of security, as it requires more than just a password for access to your system. 

Without proper security procedures, both your physical computers and online accounts are at risk of security breaches. If you don’t take advantage of antivirus resources, for example, entire operating systems can crash on you.

Usually, companies that thrive in cybersecurity have systems in place that prevent and solve security issues. And you can achieve both with an incident response plan.

Planning for the worst saves you time and stress. More importantly, it clarifies exactly what actions you need to take in the event of an emergency. 

The more concise your plan, the better your business will be at handling cybersecurity responsibilities.

Local network security devices like firewalls are key in filtering the connection between your private network and the public Internet.

Encryption of sensitive files on your computer, or within applications, is another key factor to consider. Any file or program that contains customer data is important to protect. 

Let’s take a look at the cyber threats that can affect your business below.

Common cyber threats for small businesses

Of course, one of the requirements for creating a cyber security plan template for small business protection is to understand your business’ risk. 

To identify your possible vulnerabilities, you need to know what threats are out there. Here are the most common cyber security threats for small businesses. 

Malware attacks

Malware is the biggest cyber threat for small businesses today. 

The term itself is broad and refers to all categories of malicious software meant to harm devices or networks. 

Three common types of malware attacks include:

  • Viruses.
  • Ransomware. 
  • Spyware.

Let’s dive deeper into each one.

Viruses

In short, a virus is a piece of computer code meant to harm your technological equipment. Computer viruses affect your devices in many ways, including:

  • Corrupting or deleting files.
  • Damaging computer programs.
  • Slowing down device performance. 
  • Causing excessive pop-up windows.

In your cyber security plan template for small business, there are several benefits to highlighting the signs when a device has become infected with a virus.

What’s more is that there are several ways that your devices can catch a virus, such as:

  • File sharing.
  • Downloading harmful software.
  • Infected emails. 

Viruses used to be the only cyber threat that businesses worried about, but cyber security has evolved and now includes other attack strategies.

Ransomware attacks

Ransomware is malware where hackers access your data and hold it for ransom by encrypting it. You then pay them to decrypt your data and regain access. 

So, if your business experiences a ransomware attack, your products or services provided will likely come to a screeching halt.

A surprising statistic:

“Ransomware is the third most popular type of malware used in data breaches.”

Verizon, 2020.

This will do more than just affect your numbers. Depending on the information that the hacker gathers, a ransomware attack can be tragic for your small business. It could cost you everything to pay off the hacker. 

Unfortunately, even if you comply with the hacker, there’s a chance that they won’t keep up their end of the deal. They may ask for additional payments, or cut communications once they have what they want.

Spyware

Spyware is a type of malware that collects information from your device without your knowledge. It’s difficult to detect, and many people never know that they’ve been subject to a spyware attack!

With spyware, cyber criminals can not only oversee your business operations. Data privacy and data security become a pipe dream as well.

Since it’s invisible, once spyware has been downloaded to a device, there is little you can do to restore your network security.

One of the most common ways spyware hackers install spyware is through phishing emails. 

Phishing scams

Unlike the other attacks on this list, phishing isn’t software. Phishing is a technique used to gather sensitive information through deception. 

The act of convincing someone to disclose information to a hacker is called social engineering. 

The most common case of phishing involves sending emails with links that lead to a website infected with malware. These scams can affect consumers and businesses alike.

A common social engineering strategy is to trick recipients to reply to emails with personal information by pretending to be a credible source, such as a colleague. 

Cyber criminals often claim to have management roles in the businesses they target. A similar strategy involves impersonating a company that has a strong reputation.

It’s important to include strategies to prevent phishing attacks in your cyber security plan template, most of which surrounds employee education (more on this later).  

The state of your cybersecurity hinges on making a plan. Let’s jump into how to create a cyber security plan for small business.

How to create your business cyber security plan

Creating a security plan requires you to look at your current business processes to figure out your vulnerabilities. 

From there, you can put together a plan to eliminate those vulnerabilities and reduce your risk. 

You might think as a relatively unknown “small biz” that you’re safe against cyberattacks. In reality, it’s small business cybersecurity that cybercriminals target most. This is because a small organization tends to have much weaker cyber security than a larger enterprise.

It’s a good idea to use a cyber security plan template for small business through this process. Templates for your business’ cybersecurity plan are useful tools as they eliminate internal confusion over protocols and best practices.

To guide you, here are 5 key steps to creating your plan. 

1. Identify your biggest threats

Of course, protecting your company from cyber threats requires more than just filling out a planner. 

Creating a cyber security plan is similar to setting your sales goals. For example, both involve taking every aspect of your business into account.

You can’t create a line of defense if you don’t know what you need defending from. 

This is why the first step in creating a cyber security plan for small business is to understand your business risk.

The most common threats for small businesses include:

  • Malware.
  • Ransomware.
  • Phishing.
  • Weak passwords. 

Identifying your risks helps you find ways to prevent these risks from happening. This includes solutions, such as:

  • Antivirus software.
  • Newer devices with updated security features (i.e., fingerprint scanning).
  • Password parameters. 

If you have an IT team, this is a job for them. If not, consult an IT professional to identify your exposure and create a plan.

2. Prioritize your assets

Cyber security asset assessment involves identifying your IT assets and potential security risks. Your assets include traditional devices as well as digital assets. 

Here are some examples of common business assets to consider:

  • PCs and mobile devices.
  • Networks and servers.
  • Cloud-based data.
  • Financial data.
  • Customer information.

In reality, any part of your IT infrastructure is at risk of cyber security threats, so be sure to create a comprehensive list.

From there, decide which assets are the most important. That way you can determine the most vulnerable ones to begin creating your security plan. 

3. Set your goals

The goal of your security plan is to protect your small business. However, several smaller goals play into this larger objective.

In a perfect world, creating a plan to prevent cyber attacks, and including a network security device like a firewall, would be enough. However, solely relying on prevention is unrealistic. 

As much as you try to prevent cyber security attacks, there’s always a risk of cyber attackers getting through your defense. So, your goals should also include optimal readiness to respond to threats. 

If you’ve already made the plans to handle unauthorized users in your system, then you’ll greatly reduce the amount of damage they can do.

Of course, malware detection is the first step once your cybersecurity is breached. So planning the ways to detect threats is as important as planning how to deal with them.

Better yet, you should have a goal for your recovery time to minimize your exposure and damage to your assets. 

4. Document your plan

Once you’ve determined your current cyber security risks and created a business plan to improve your response readiness, it’s time to document your plan. 

Documenting is easy if you use a cyber security plan template for small business, as you just have to fill in the sections in the template.

There are several reasons why documenting cybersecurity plans is important. 

For starters, you don’t want anything to slip through cracks when it comes to a cyber security plan for small business. It only takes one small slip-up for a hacker to access your information. 

Thoroughly documenting your plan minimizes the risk of overlooking an aspect of your business, and removes the possibility for any intrusion into it.

Sometimes, you’ll have conversations with your customers that are difficult. But nothing’s harder than explaining that your cyber security has been compromised. A well-documented plan softens the blow and reduces a breach’s impact.

What’s more, employee training plays a huge part in your cyber security strategy. So, document your plan in a way that’s easy to understand. 

5. Do a test run

Once you have the proper cyber security infrastructure in place that your employees are trained on, test your plan.

Don’t forget to test your employees’ ability to recognize threats by sending test phishing emails. You can also simulate a ransomware attack through encryption of your own files.

It’s important to note that cyber security is always evolving. Once you confirm that your new plan works, set up a schedule to conduct regular tests to ensure up to date strategies.

Now that you know how to create your plan, let’s explore what to include in your template. 

What to include in your cyber security plan template for small business

Making a cyber security strategy is no small task. There are two points to remember about your plan:

  1. It’s a document your team regularly references.
  2. The security of your business depends on it.

Organizations that acknowledge these points always have the most robust security strategy, making them the most cyber secure. To address these two factors, you want to ensure that you include as much detail in your plan as possible. 

Using a cyber security plan template for small business simplifies the process and ensures that your plan captures every aspect of your business. 

Since this plan will be included in the core employee resources of your organization, a template ensures that you’ve covered all your bases in a way that’s still easy to follow.

Here’s what to include in your template. 

Your objectives

To kick things off, your cyber security plan for small business protection should open with your goals. 

Your goals guide your plan, so clearly stating them at the start gives context to your proposed strategies. 

As a result, the reader sees the bigger picture and better understands the importance of cyber security strategies.

Common threats

To fully understand your cyber security strategies, you need to outline your business’ security threats.

Make sure that your plan describes each threat to your business. This means associating each common threat with an asset. 

For example, one common threat to small business security is password hacking, and one of the assets at risk is your company’s data. Knowing this, you can strengthen your employee passwords to prevent data breach.

Identifying threats specific to your business is a crucial step in protecting your staff and your customers from cyber attacks.

Security policies

Cyber security policies serve as the framework of your plan. 

Policies outline how you expect your team to protect your business assets. Some basic security practices include:

  • Limiting who accesses information. 
  • Restricting internet browsing on your network. 
  • Implementing a plan of action for suspicious emails. 

There are also companies that offer products or services, like antivirus software to ward off security threats.

Your security policies are mainly preventative, so you should consider how to react to security breaches. 

Breach response plan

Prevention is the best tool to protect your business, but it shouldn’t be your only tool. If your business does become the victim of a cyber attack, you should have a plan of how you’ll react.

When unauthorized users infiltrate your business systems, panic sets in. It becomes difficult to think clearly and act accordingly. 

Without an established breach response plan, you’ll lack the tools  to quickly restore your business.

A breach response process allows you to identify an attack and shut it down as soon as possible. This reduces damage to your business data and ensures that you’re back up and running in no time. 

Your breach response plan should include clear steps and a timeline of how long you have to shut down an attack before your business is at risk. 

Employee education plan

You can have the tightest cyber security policies in place, but if your employees don’t know them, your business is still exposed. 

So, it’s important to implement a system that educates your employees. A cyber security plan for small business isn’t complete without employee training.

To be successful, your employees need to be up to speed on your business’ cyber risks and security policies. Design a cyber security training program to walk your employees through these.

A complete employee education plan results in your employees:

  • Creating strong passwords.
  • Recognizing phishing emails.
  • Resisting other social engineering techniques. 
  • Knowing what to do if they accidentally disclose information.

Highlight your training plan in your cyber security plan template for small business. 

For best results, conduct a cyber security training at least once a year and test employees’ knowledge monthly. 

Wrap up: Cyber security plan template for small business success

The truth is that if you don’t have a solid cyber security plan for small business, you risk losing your business completely. 

With this in mind, it’s important to prioritize cyber security policies and implement them into your business process. The applications of this plan will guarantee longevity for your business.

The key content of a complete plan includes:

  1. Clear goals. 
  2. Potential threats.
  3. Security policies.
  4. A breach response plan.
  5. Employee training. 

The health of your cyber security depends on these five factors for a number of reasons. Establishing each of these now means that you can quickly shut down unauthorized user or activities within your business down the road. 

The quality of your product or service means nothing if your cyber system is unsecure.

With the support of a template, your cybersecurity plan is clear, concise, and comprehensive. It allows you to draft and organize all the content that your plan requires.

Free cyber security plan template for small businesses

Protect your business from cyber attacks by drafting a robust cyber security plan.

If you don’t see the download form, download template here.

Brush up on other technology trends for your small business in this blog!

Cyber security plan template for small business FAQs

How do I implement a cyber security plan for small business?

To implement a cyber security plan for your small business, the most important step is educating your employees. Once your plan has been created, the hard part is done. 

Make your cyber security plan customary and accessible so that your employees know about your business’ strategies in the event of a cyber threat. 

If you’re unfortunate enough to experience a cyber threat, remind your staff of your plan– then follow each step closely.

How do I choose the right cyber security products for my small business?

To choose the right cyber security products for your small business, first identify all your company’s potential cyber threats. Once those are established, there are many security products to choose from.

There is not a one-size-fits all solution to cyber security. You can choose which products suit your needs, but it’s important to note that you can never be too secure.

Many cyber security companies offer free trials, so consider experimenting with different products to find the perfect fit for your business.

Where can I find a cyber security plan template for small business?

For a comprehensive cyber security plan template for small businesses plus more, simply:

  • Follow this link.
  • Fill out your business’ basic information.
  • Click download.

Keep your data more secure with a free trial of Method:CRM.

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