When it comes to cybersecurity, many small business owners don't have a plan in place. Why? They operate under the misguided belief that their company is too small to get hacked.

Unfortunately, these small business owners suffer the most since they typically lack the security expertise, resources, or solutions required to protect against today's threat landscape. The truth is every business, no matter the size, needs a solid cybersecurity plan.

What is cybersecurity anyway?

Cybersecurity is a complex topic that can be broadly defined as measures taken to protect yourself from internet crimes involving unauthorized access to your computer systems and data. However, there is much more to cybersecurity than that. It's helpful to visualize cybersecurity as an umbrella term that covers many different types of security, including website security, email security, and network security.

The most effective cybersecurity plans incorporate these different kinds of security. This might seem daunting, but it's more than possible to develop a comprehensive cybersecurity plan for your small business by taking five essential steps.

Step 1: Implement cybersecurity awareness training

Cybersecurity awareness training is designed to educate employees and teach them how to protect their company from cyberthreats. Studies have shown there is good reason for companies to develop cybersecurity awareness initiatives.

According to Verizon's 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR), human error was the main cause of 21 percent of data breaches in 2018. In addition, Kaspersky Lab and B2B International found that uninformed staff contributed to 46 percent of cybersecurity incidents in 2017. These findings highlight the importance of educating your employees on basic cybersecurity awareness.

Any employee with access to a company device should be given cybersecurity awareness training. This training will teach them to proactively identify cyberthreats and take appropriate action to protect themselves and their company from any potential consequence.

Step 2: Take email security seriously

One of the main cyberthreats businesses face are phishing scams, in which cybercriminals send emails that appear legitimate but actually manipulate users into handing over sensitive information. To protect your company from phishing emails, implement a spam filtering system and educate your employees on good email security best practices. Teach them how to recognize a phishing email and report them to your IT department immediately.

Step 3: Monitor and protect your website

According to SiteLock research, websites experience 62 attacks per day, which illustrates how essential it is to protect your website. Here are a few simple but effective ways to defend your website against cyberthreats:

  • Use an advanced website scanner to monitor your website for suspicious activity, patch vulnerabilities, and automatically remove malware if detected.
  • Implement a web application firewall to block cyberattacks and to keep bad traffic off your website.
  • Install plugin and web application updates immediately to repair vulnerabilities.

Step 4: Protect sensitive company information with a VPN

These days, 70 percent of professionals work remotely at least one day a week. If you or your employees work remotely and access company information over public Wi-Fi, third parties such as cybercriminals, internet service providers, and government agencies can see your online activities. They may even steal your personal data including usernames, passwords, and the sites you visit.

To protect your company assets always use a virtual private network (VPN) when using any Wi-Fi network. A VPN establishes a secure internet connection with an added layer of encryption and helps keep your data and online activities safe.

Step 5: Establish a cyberattack response plan

All small organizations need a cyberattack response plan. A strong plan prepares your team in the event of a breach and reduces panic and impulsive decisions in the moment.

Designate specific IT employees to help respond to and resolve the breach, and tap your marketing and PR team to communicate the breach to customers and update them on the recovery efforts. Research best practices online to help you get started.

Small businesses are often seen as easy targets by cybercriminals since they don't have the advanced cybersecurity solutions of large corporations. Setting up a cybersecurity plan is the easiest step you can take to protect your small business from online threats.