Cybercrime costs are expected to reach record levels of $2 trillion by 2019, and tech startups are more vulnerable than most to being hacked.

The issues with tech startups are two-fold. To begin with, they possess data that can be easily sold on the black market for a profit. And the second problem is that they are startups and are therefore less likely to have a big budget or resources to dedicate to security.

But neither of those issues are excuses for not having the absolute best defenses against being hacked.

The Consequences of a Data Breach

A lot of startups struggle to justify the added costs that naturally come with trying to make sure that you don't fall victim to a data breach. The consequences of a data breach can be high. There are a lot of startups who get hacked and lose everything. These are the businesses that never reopen their doors.

And even if you do reopen your doors, you will find your reputation in shreds. Who is going to trust you when everyone knows that you are incapable of protecting data?

In some cases, a loss of data can lead to legal action. In some parts of the world, and especially in the United States, losing client data is grounds for being sued. Could your startup handle all the associated costs with defending yourself?

The Basic Defenses

There are some basics that you have to get in place before you start moving onto some of the more advanced stuff. Your company should always have anti-virus and anti-malware systems that are fully updated. Don't opt for a free version because these aren't updated often enough.

Another part of your basic defenses include making sure that you have strong passwords. A strong password is long and should consist of numbers, letters, and symbols. Without these you are making it easier for cyber attackers to uncover your password.

All passwords should be updated at least once every six months.

Limit Your Risk

The more people who know your passwords, the more likely those passwords are going to leak out. One person is always going to have a better chance of defending your company than ten people. So it makes sense to limit your risk.

Do so by only giving out passwords to those who absolutely need them. And even then, they shouldn't actually know the password. They should only be able to access a password manager, which will automatically log them into the relevant platform without them needing to know the password.

By only giving employees precisely what they need to know, you are sectioning off parts of your company.

Tech Disposal & Data Destruction

Every tech startup will have to dispose of data sooner or later. It's difficult to truly wipe an external hard-drive, USB stick, cell phone or other electronic device entirely. Smart attackers can take these devices and recover the data from within. You need a way to dispose of the device responsibly and guarantee the data is destroyed.

John S. Shegerian, a world renowned cyber security expert and co-founder/CEO of Electronic Recyclers International, said "It's unbelievable just how easy it is for cyber attackers to look through the trash or go to third world countries and recover data from discarded electronic devices. Just because your files are no longer showing up doesn't mean hackers can't easily recover them."

Calling in a company like ERI that specializes in data destruction and cyber security is the only way that you can be sure that when data is gone, it's gone forever.

Policy Mode

Educate your team on the importance of data security. Enforce a policy where work platforms may only be accessed by work devices. To some businesspeople, this may sound drastic, but it's actually a smart move. You don't know how secure an employee's personal device is, and there's nothing you can do to confirm this.

The only option is to enforce a strict policy where work can only be performed on devices that you actually own. Naturally, this means you may have to spend more initially in order to purchase the devices for them to use.

Be Vigilant

One of the best ways to protect your tech startup from hackers is to simply be vigilant. You can perform an annual security audit, where an outsider will come in to review your security arrangements. They will be able to spot weaknesses that you would have never considered.

Furthermore, get into the habit of making sure that you are keeping all software and all defenses fully updated.

Last Word

Protecting your tech startup doesn't have to be costly and it doesn't have to take up a lot of time. By making sure that you are paying attention to security, you are going to make sure your startup stays safe.

Published on: Jun 13, 2016