Often, when you read about cybersecurity, the advice appears to be ‘one size fits all’. People recommend the same things, regardless of if the business is two people in a home office or a global group with 100,000 employees. In some ways, the underlying concepts of cybersecurity are the same for all companies. However, the way that you put the strategies into action are often very different based on the size of the organization.

Biggest cybersecurity differences between large and small businesses

Whether you are securing a large or small organization, it’s important to understand the differences. That way, you can most effectively use appropriate tools and strategies. Here are the four biggest differences:

  •  In-house expertise – Most large organizations have dedicated cybersecurity workers with specialized expertise. Some even have entire departments for it. At smaller organizations, cyber defense is often one of many tasks that the IT department – who may even be a single employee – is responsible for. Often, smaller IT departments possess less specialized skills.
  • Agility – Larger businesses often move at a glacial pace when it comes to change. That’s a detriment when it comes to cybersecurity. On the other hand, smaller ones can much more quickly make decisions and adopt new strategies and techniques. They have fewer decision-makers and a more streamlined process for change.
  • Volume of vulnerabilities – Fewer devices and employees also mean that smaller organizations often face fewer vulnerabilities. Employees’ cybersecurity hygiene, such as poor passwords or clicking on phishing links, are often the cause of attacks. So, fewer employees also reduce the number of potential vulnerabilities.
  • Risk of a targeted attack – Cyber criminals see larger businesses as better targets both for financial and notoriety reasons. They may overlook small businesses thinking that the benefits of the attack are not worth the risk. However, this has been shifting some in recent years as small businesses have been targets more often.

Regardless of size, many of the same strategies are effective for all businesses. However, the way that you’ll implement them is different. Here are three things that you should consider.

Culture of cybersecurity

Do your employees see cybersecurity as the IT department’s job? The most secure companies are those where every person feels that they have a stake in it. How do you create a culture of cybersecurity? Infuse training into meetings, events and emails throughout the year instead of having ‘check the box’ style training once a year. Creating contests between departments, such as days without an incident or finding a planted phishing email, can also help create this culture.

In this area, smaller companies actually have it easier. At smaller companies, employees are used to wearing many hats and may be less likely to view something as someone else’s job. Plus, small companies often have less decision-makers and a ‘flatter’ structure, making it easier to get leadership buy-in. The pace of change is slower at larger ones. Creating a culture change can take longer and be less successful. Smaller groups should focus on this strategy because it can quickly make a big impact on reducing risk at a low cost.

Zero trust

With a zero trust model, organizations of all sizes can move from securing a perimeter to controlling access from any location or device. It all starts from the assumption that any request is not authorized. With this approach, organizations can use several tools and strategies, such as micro-segmentation and privileged access management. A remote and hybrid workforce remains the workforce model for many organizations. So, zero trust provides security for organizations that no longer have a true perimeter.

While zero trust can be an effective strategy for small businesses, it’s becoming more important for large ones, too. Even with a limited number of devices and locations, yesterday’s mindset no longer works. Smaller businesses may not have the technical expertise needed for deploying a zero trust framework. Instead, they can turn to a trusted partner to help provide both the skills and tools needed.

Supply chain vulnerabilities

Vendors are an equal problem for both small and large businesses. However, large organizations often have a formal approval process. A single person may make vendor decisions in a small business. Regardless of size, businesses should have a vendor management program that includes a cybersecurity review before doing business with a company. Things to consider before working with a vendor include disaster recovery, client data retention, privileged access management processes and attack response procedures.

In addition to the supply chain, consider the software supply chain, which includes SaS apps and infrastructure. Criminals are now embedding malicious codes and links into app downloads and updates. Carefully screen app vendors to ensure that they are not opening you up to ransomware or viruses each time you download a new release. One new and popular strategy is adversary simulation engagements, which can help your team learn real-world tactics and test their readiness.

Outsourcing opportunities for small businesses

While outsourcing is often the right solution for large organizations, small businesses should also consider it. It takes increasingly specialized skills to understand the wide range of risks, vulnerabilities and attacks. The ability to successfully secure a small business from today’s dangers is often out of the expertise and budget for small businesses.

Instead of being at risk for attacks, small businesses should take a careful look at how outsourcing cybersecurity can actually save money when compared to the costs of a breach. Think both in terms of business disruption and reputation damage. A key area to consider outsourcing is risk assessment. By hiring a third party to review your vulnerabilities, you can get a neutral opinion about your current risk and then create a plan to reduce or mitigate those risks.

Take the time to understand what cybersecurity strategy and advice is best for the size of your business. That way, you can provide the most security at the scale and cost that works for you.


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