Cyber Security Awareness Month: Why MSMEs must step up digital efforts to secure future growth

Technology for MSMEs: For most SMEs, cybersecurity starts with a firewall and ends with an anti-virus solution. This makes it extremely easy for attackers to enter their network.

cyber security
Many small businesses so far have been looking at cyber security solutions mostly as add-on costs less relevant to the business.

Technology for MSMEs: Technology adoption has gained mighty significance for MSMEs over the past many years while Covid only reinforced the dire need for such businesses to evolve their operations technologically. Consequently, the adoption has been able to gain pace across back-end and front-end or consumer-facing operations including software for managing supply chain, sourcing of goods, managing warehouse, tracking goods delivery, automating shopfloor, customer service, websites or apps, etc.

While October is globally marked as the National Cyber Security Awareness Month to build cyber resilience, small businesses have largely been unable to build strengths in cyber security. In fact, the belief across micro and small businesses is that they aren’t big enough to be targetted by hackers or spammers. For most SMEs, cybersecurity starts with a firewall and ends with an anti-virus solution. This makes it extremely easy for attackers to enter their network. Many small businesses so far have been looking at cyber security solutions mostly as add-on costs less relevant to the business.

“Cybersecurity is often looked up as a cost center by most enterprises. CEOs need to start thinking differently and stop trying to measure the return on investment from cybersecurity investments. A cyber-attack that was prevented, cannot be measured, but the impact in terms of loss of critical business assets, IPs, sensitive Information is pretty crucial and can affect the brand, business continuity and compliance of the company,” Pankit Desai, Co-founder and CEO at cyber security firm Sequretek told Financial Express Online.

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According to a Cisco report on cybersecurity for SMEs publish in September this year, cyber-attacks had cost over Rs 3.5 crore for two in three (62 per cent) SMEs in India. In fact, for 13 per cent of these 62 per cent SMEs, which sustained cyber-attacks, it costed them over Rs 7 crore while overall 74 per cent SMEs in the country suffered a cyber-attack in the past 12 months. Business and IT leaders with cybersecurity responsibilities at over 3,700 SMBs across 14 markets in the Asia Pacific region were surveyed in the report.

In terms of the type of impact, 73 per cent of Indian SMEs claimed they lost internal emails, 71 per cent lost employee data, 74 per cent suffered loss related to intellectual property, and 75 per cent claimed financial information loss. In addition, 73 per cent of those said it disrupted their operations, 76 per cent admitted it negatively impacted their reputation, while over 70 per cent suffered a loss of customer trust.

“I see this to be very similar to proactively buying insurance to cover ourselves and our family from the unforeseen circumstances rather than waiting for a particular incident to happen. SMEs owners or CEOs should take control of their enterprise security and ask a few critical questions to the CIOs, CISOs, or IT Leaders of their enterprises that whether the company is cyber security compliant, are the technologies being used optimally, what is the organizations ‘Security Posture’, more importantly, what critical business assets do the company need to secure,” added Desai.

For many, the prime challenge has been around a lack of awareness about the right security tools beyond just anti-virus or firewall. The challenge is also around the lack of centralized cyber security management even as employees have to be made more aware of the digital security of the company’s data by avoiding unwarranted ads, pop-ups, and malware. The need for enhanced awareness around cyber security gains further prominence as data has increasingly been regarded as new oil or gold. “Today it is said that data is the new oil. I will also add that data is the new gold. Industry 4.0 is focused on data,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said addressing over 50,000 people at the ‘Howdy, Modi!’ event in Houston in September 2019.

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“There can’t be one proper way to create awareness among SMEs to secure their data. It has to be done on war-footing collectively through different mediums and channels. The biggest awareness has to be around spam messages and emails that are among the top reasons why SMEs compromise their security. Even basic measures such as password protection, caution in opening emails need to be highlighted at least among micro businesses such as local stores or small retailers, factory owners, etc. One way could be pre-call awareness messages for a certain time akin to Covid messages played out. Using cloud solutions won’t make much difference in digital security as everything is on the cloud today,” NK Goyal, President, National Cyber Security Association of India, and Telecom Equipment Manufacturers Association of India told Financial Express Online.

Haryana-based Vishnu Goel who runs manufacturing unit MMD Rail Tracks said banks can also play a great role to enhance cybercrime awareness. “Banks can do seminars separately for these small businesses through every branch in their local area. There could be monthly or quarterly awareness camps with their business customers. Also, since banks themselves adopt strong security solutions and also have a vast network, they can help create the right buzz.”

Importantly, a National Cybersecurity Strategy is in the final stages of clearance for India, national cyber security coordinator Lt. Gen. (retd) Rajesh Pant had said during the third edition of ‘ExpertSpeak’, a curated dialogue series by Microsoft with industry experts, IANS reported on Wednesday. According to Pant, around 4 million malware attacks are detected daily in India – among the most cyber-attacked nations in the world.

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First published on: 29-10-2021 at 09:00 IST