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A Beginner’s Guide to Cyber Protection for Smaller Businesses

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While large enterprises usually have at least some members of a cybersecurity team, smaller businesses often lack the security professionals and some of the expertise to protect themselves from cyber attacks. Other smaller businesses have experienced in-house professionals, but limited resources to augment their efforts. Without in-house cyber experts or the proper resources to support them, how can businesses know what kinds of protection and processes to put in place? What does a holistic cybersecurity solution look like, and what are the different, essential elements it should include? Let’s explore the most crucial elements of a comprehensive cybersecurity solution for small businesses and the resources available for expert cyber protection. 

What Is Holistic Cyber Protection for Smaller Businesses?

In 93 percent of cases, an external attacker can breach an organization’s network perimeter and gain access to local network resources — and the number of cyber attacks against businesses is increasing year over year. In 2021, the average number of cyberattacks and data breaches increased by 15.1%, and in 2022 we’ve already seen this increase persist.

Cyber protection is a system designed to fit within a larger, holistic cybersecurity solution that enables organizations to prepare for, protect from, detect, respond to, and recover from cyber attacks. An end-to-end cybersecurity solution secures your perimeter by providing leading tools to actively protect your endpoints, network elements, servers, and cloud. It combines endpoint detection, protecting devices such as desktops, laptops, and mobile phones, with management tools and protective DNS and, most importantly, a system to correlate security information from across your environment for maximum protection.

The Cyber Protection for Small-to-Medium-Sized Business Guide

There is a laundry list of terms and topics that fall under cyber protection, and it can be confusing to figure out where each one fits into a comprehensive cyber protection plan for small-to-medium-sized (SME) businesses. Here’s the breakdown of the most important elements for SME businesses to understand.   

What is Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM)? 

Remote monitoring and management (RMM) tools are designed to help IT teams and their managed service providers (MSPs) remotely and proactively monitor endpoints, networks, and computers. RMM can help:

  • Gather information about client software, hardware, and networks
  • Supply activity reports and status information
  • Create appropriate alerts and tickets when problems arise
  • Track network and device health
  • Monitor multiple endpoints and clients simultaneously
  • Automate scheduled maintenance tasks

RMM is invaluable to IT staff and MSPs. By using these agents, network owners and MSPs gain insight into client networks, provide the ability to keep machines maintained and up-to-date, and proactively stay ahead of issues. MSPs can also resolve these issues remotely, without the need to go out to a client’s office and experience the problem in person. When integrated into a cybersecurity solution, RMM can also become an important part of holistic cyber protection, enabling IT teams and MSPs to accelerate and enhance security incident response.

What is Patch Management?

Patch management is the process of distributing and applying updates to software. Patches are often necessary to correct software errors or address new methods of attack. Areas that commonly need to be patched include operating systems, applications, and embedded systems, such as network equipment. 

When a vulnerability is found after the release of a piece of software, patches can be used to fix the particular issue. With this in mind, patch management identifies errors that could make an asset vulnerable, ensuring that none of your applications or assets are susceptible to exploitation by cyber attackers.

Patch management is a critical step to ensure that you deploy the latest fixes across your environment, and are often facilitated in conjunction with RMM systems. Patches are provided by vendors to address critical security flaws, including ones commonly known as zero-day threats. The failure to deploy patches can create critical network vulnerabilities.

What is a Firewall?

A firewall is a network security device that monitors incoming and outgoing network traffic and decides to either allow or block certain traffic based on a defined set of security criteria and rules. Having been the first line of defense for SME business cyber protection for over 25 years, firewalls establish a barrier between secured and controlled internal networks that can be trusted and untrusted outside networks, such as the Internet.

Modern holistic cyber protection recognizes that firewalls are no longer islands to themselves. Firewalls contain critical security information that provides insights into network activity and, if properly combined with endpoint and server/cloud data, can be a key building block in the detection of security threats. 

What is PDNS?

DNS, or the domain name system, is the “phonebook of the internet” connecting web browsers to your website online. Due to the fact that DNS is the foundation of most online activity, it’s also the layer where many attacks, including malware, phishing, command and control, and domain generation algorithms, first strike. 

Protective DNS (PDNS) refers to any security service that analyzes DNS queries and takes action to mitigate threats, leveraging the existing DNS protocol and architecture. Analyzing and protecting your organization’s DNS queries with PDNS is a key and cost-defensive strategy to keep simple mistakes and exploits from becoming full-blown breaches. It is the first line of defense that all businesses should have in place.

What is X/EDR? 

Endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions continuously monitor end-user devices to detect and respond to cyber threats like ransomware and malware. Endpoint detection secures user devices, such as laptops, desktops, mobile phones, tablets, and similar hardware.

Extended detection and response, or XDR, is a service-based, vendor-specific, security threat detection and incident response tool that natively integrates multiple security products into a cohesive security operations system. XDR solutions are typically offered through a Software as a Service, or SaaS, offering in the form of a managed subscription. In essence, XDR solutions take the functionality of EDR to a higher level by incorporating security information from other areas of your network environment, not just your endpoints.

Both EDR and XDR focus broadly on:

  • Preventative approaches to cybersecurity threats
  • Rapid, automated threat response
  • Early threat identification

At a more granular level, EDR and XDR have different focuses. For example, while EDR  protects the endpoint, XDR is focused on extending a wider view to protect endpoints, cloud computing, emails, and other vulnerable areas. Many think of EDR as a subset of XDR. 

As the complexity of cyber threats continues to increase, experts recognize that XDR solutions alone do not provide the highest level of cyber protection. While XDR can expand your threat visibility, state-of-the-art solutions incorporate security information from across your network and correlate it with constantly refreshed threat intelligence feeds, advanced threat searches, and 24x7x365 AI-driven automated incident response. These solutions provide advanced security incident and event management systems coupled with threat response that is orchestrated across your entire environment. 

Get Started with SME Business Cyber Protection

Even after learning the core elements of cyber protection, it can still be intimidating for smaller businesses to know where to start with a cybersecurity solution. Cyberleaf’s end-to-end cybersecurity as a service solution proactively identifies and engages threats — because the best way to protect from cyber attacks is to prevent them from happening in the first place.

Learn more about Cyberleaf’s cyber protection for smaller businesses.