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Protecting your small business: A guide to responding to cyber-attacks

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20 October 2023    |   By: Joe Sharpe
Small businesses are increasingly becoming targets for cyber criminals. As business insurance professionals, at Premierline we want to help you understand the importance of safeguarding your company's sensitive data and reputation. Cyber-attacks can be devastating, but with the right knowledge and proactive measures, you can minimise the impact and protect your business. In this article, we will explore essential steps small businesses should take to respond effectively to cyber-attacks, drawing insights from the Small Business Response & Recovery Guide by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).

Before we delve into the response strategies discussed by the NCSC, it's crucial to understand the threats your small business could face. Cyber-attacks can come in various forms, from hackers seeking financial gain to nation-state actors looking for intelligence. Small businesses are often targeted due to their potentially weaker cyber-security defences compared to larger organisations which can therefore mean small businesses are seen as easy targets, especially those which rely on computer systems in their business.

As with many business risks, prevention is often better than cure which is why the NCSC recommends businesses take proactive measures to ensure that they have a solid foundation for protecting their business from cyber-crime from the outset.

Begin by conducting a thorough risk assessment. Identify the valuable assets and data that your business holds, such as customer information, financial records, and intellectual property. Determine the potential impact of a cyber-attack on these assets and the likelihood of an attack occurring. Like any risk assessment, your cyber risk assessment should consider what steps you can take to mitigate or lower the potential risk.
Your employees are your first line of defence. Train them to recognise phishing attempts, malware, and other common cyber threats. Encourage a culture of cybersecurity within your organisation so that everyone is aware of their responsibilities when it comes to data protection and cyber-crime awareness.
Implement robust security measures, such as firewalls, antivirus software, and intrusion detection systems. Regularly update your software and operating systems to patch known vulnerabilities, doing this will ensure your computer systems have the most up to date security features available to them.
Early detection is key to minimising damage. Set up monitoring systems that can alert you to unusual network activity or signs of a breach. This could include unexpected data access or login attempts from unfamiliar locations. Detection should lead to reporting, therefore a method for internally reporting cyber-attacks should be in place to ensure the swift activation of your cyber-attack response plan.
If you suspect a breach, act swiftly to contain it. Isolate affected systems from your network to prevent further damage. Change passwords and access credentials immediately and take any other necessary steps to ensure whatever has caused the breach can’t access any additional systems or your wider network.
Implement robust security measures, such as firewalls, antivirus software, and intrusion detection systems. Regularly update your software and operating systems to patch known vulnerabilities, doing this will ensure your computer systems have the most up to date security features available to them.
Work on restoring your systems and services as quickly as possible. This may involve restoring data from backups, applying security patches, and improving your cybersecurity setup to prevent future attacks. The recovery phase may take some time depending on the scale of the attack. If you have the correct cyber insurance in place, your insurer may be able to provide guidance on what sort of claims you can make during this stage.
After an attack, conduct a post-incident review. Analyse what went wrong, what worked, and how you can enhance your cybersecurity defences. Use this as an opportunity to strengthen your policies and procedures to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. You may need to review your entire cybersecurity set up, or perhaps you discover a minor vulnerability that can be quickly fixed. Regardless of the outcome, small businesses should use this time as an opportunity to learn and improve its resilience for the future.
As a business insurance broker, we understand the importance of small businesses having comprehensive coverage in case of a cyber-attack. Cyber insurance, including cyber & data insurance can be a valuable addition to your risk management strategy.

Cyber insurance can help cover the financial losses associated with a cyber-attack. It can include coverage for data breach response costs, legal fees, and other expenses related to efforts to mitigate reputational damage. Our advisors can discuss your needs and build a bespoke cyber insurance package for your business.

If your business has a website, handles the personal data of customers, employees or suppliers, or, if your business relies on computer systems for everyday business operations then you may need to consider cyber insurance. Whilst insurance can’t stop a breach from happening, it can help to protect your business from financial losses as a result.

Cyber-attacks are a growing threat to small businesses. By understanding the threats, implementing preventive measures, and knowing how to respond effectively, you can help protect your business from the potentially devastating impact of cyber-attacks. Additionally, you should consider taking out cyber insurance to provide an extra layer of protection to your business and to your employees, customers and suppliers.

Joe Sharpe
Article by
Joe is an account executive at Premierline with over 8 years’ experiencing providing insurance solutions for a range of business customers, from SME to larger clients. Joe is passionate about providing customers with high-quality technical advice on insurance products and services that can help protect UK businesses. By keeping ahead of the trends and investigating the goings on within the insurance market, Joe enjoys writing content to share with Premierline customers to keep them informed on the insurance products that matter to them.
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