Business Continuity Plans: Preparing for an SME Emergency
Last updated December 2023
71% of businesses in Ireland have been targeted by a cybersecurity attack in 2023. Irish firms are attacked as much as three times the European median. A cybersecurity attack is not a potential ‘what-if’ event, but a certainty. Ensuring that your company knows how to deal with an event such as this can help you prepare appropriate measures to limit damage and resume business operations as quickly as possible.
Scammers and hackers attack your organisation in a variety of different ways. Drafting and implementing a comprehensive plan of how to deal with these situations strengthens your cybersecurity. These plans are known as ‘disaster’ or business continuity plans (BCPs) and offer solutions for any situation arising from a cyber-attack. Disaster plans provide an in-depth process for employees to follow when an emergency happens.
In this article, we’ll examine the effects that a cyberattack can have on an SME and the benefits of implementing business continuity plans in your business.
The effects of a cyber attack
A successful cyber-attack can have a serious effect on a company. An attack which deliberately targets the finance and business processes of a company can effectively shut it down. Targeted, successful attempts are also likely to be repeated, especially if a company pays a ransom.
Two main areas where companies suffer because of a cyber-attack are financially, and as a brand. In the short-term companies may lose large quantities of money through payment diversion fraud and phishing scams. Over a longer period, any change between the brand-consumer relationship can have a drastic impact on the long-term viability of the company. Industry changes, such as digital transformation and the rise of remote working, have also led to increased risks.
Business continuity plans factor in the risks and likely outcomes of any potential cyber-attack on the business. These ‘disaster plans’ account for any and all emergency situations, and how the company can recover from them. SMEs tend to suffer more, due to a lack of awareness and a reliance on other parties for their cybersecurity, which can be prohibitively expensive.
Talk to our digital transformation experts here, and learn more about how you can implement, educate and affect a successful digital transformation change in your industry.
Successful business hinges on the trust that consumers have in a company. An organisation’s ability to successfully store and defend a consumer’s personal data, and the steps it takes following a crisis can have a drastic impact on how consumers perceive it. A cyber security attack on a business can have a direct effect on the private life of a customer.
When a company becomes aware of a cybersecurity breach, it’s their responsibility to inform the relevant stakeholders. Proactive communication is key in regaining the trust of consumers, as any delay or ‘covering up’ can only result in a backlash. This is usually an attempt to minimise potential public relations damage, but it only increases scrutiny in the long term. Full transparency and visible attempts to deal with the situation in a realistic way appeal to consumers and highlight attempts to recover from the situation.
Senior management are responsible for the cybersecurity preparedness of any organisation. Any organisation that collects or shares information from their consumers is responsible for the safety of that information. A poorly judged decision during a cyber-attack can result in a drop in stock price, customers leaving the company and even lawsuits.
Criminals target businesses for their money. Whether they get this through selling private data on the dark-web or by directly transferring funds from an organisation, this is their eventual target. Ransomware, phishing attacks and malware are designed to disrupt, destroy and hold company resources hostage in exchange for their funds. Many businesses keep reserve accounts to pay scammers a ransom through untraceable bitcoin.
Cyber-attacks disrupt normal business operations, destroy equipment and raise operating costs to high levels. For smaller businesses, it’s worth considering whether the amount spent on cybersecurity and defense justifies an increased budget. Worldwide budgets on cybersecurity increase year-on-year, with cyber awareness and security being one of the top concerns for business leaders. The security deals that larger corporations’ avail of are not accessible by SMEs, making them a prime target.
Even as cybersecurity budgets improve, the technology and methods that criminals use to target businesses improve to deal with these increased security measures. New viruses, malware, and ransomware technologies are constantly invented and improved by entrepreneurial criminals.
The benefits of a disaster plan
Disaster plans are coined appropriately. These documents include a step-by-step process a company can use to recover from a cyber-attack. Cyber-attacks cause confusion and disruption, which can delay an effective response. An effective BCP increases the likelihood of a successful recovery and limits wasteful actions that hackers can exploit further. Disaster plans should be accessible, easy to understand, and simple to follow.
SMEs are vulnerable to attacks which halt business operations due to a lower revenue stream and less savings, resulting in less cybersecurity funding. Quick and effective recovery is vital to restore cash flow into the business.
It’s important to note that a disaster plan doesn’t provide a proactive defense against cyberattacks, but rather a method of recovery. These plans work best in conjunction with active cybersecurity defenses, such as employee education, relevant software and cybersecurity policies. A BCP provides a framework for recovery against a cyber-attack, guiding employees along the correct steps for an effective recovery and promoting a deeper knowledge of company processes.
Target Integration can help lead you through the process of understanding and implementing complex systems, with experience in a whole range of products and services.
Dedicated roles and responsibilities
Assign a specific employee to have ‘ownership’ over the document, with the relevant skills and qualifications to lead a recovery effort. To ensure a quick and seamless recovery, employees need to know how to access the plan, who has it and how to use the information within it. BCPs have to contain accurate and relevant information and should be constantly revised and updated. BCPs also provide a key resource in understanding how the internal parts of a company affect each other, allowing for a more comprehensive overview of the business.
Depending on how many BCP documents your company invests in, you may require more than one individual. Ensure that any employees involved in recovery plans are connected, aware of each other’s work and know how to work together in a crisis. Employees with defined roles and responsibilities streamline the process and increase efficiency. A dedicated CTO or IT role spreads awareness of the problem and promotes safer cyber-practices across the business.
Defines critical assets
Undergo a business-wide effort to understand and define assets critical to a company’s continued operations. Areas such as communications, customer support and payroll are all inherently essential areas that are likely to be attacked.
Critical assets are the software, equipment and technology that a company needs to operate at minimal capacity. These are the most important aspects of an organisation, allowing it to keep conducting business while still fixing other problems.
Research the potential risks these assets might face and plan step-by-step procedures for recovery in case of a disaster. This can range from malware, and ransomware to phishing attacks. Companies should carefully evaluate their response to each scenario.
There are several ways a company might be targeted by cyber criminals. In a phishing attack, criminals target money, personal information, and business data, none of which generally harms business production directly. A ransomware attack, however, may result in a company having to halt work completely. These documents require enough detail to prepare for any prospective emergency.
Having a proportionate and reasonable response to each situation means that companies can deal with a crisis efficiently, without causing additional disruption. Some organisations use a system of Incident Response Plans (IRP), for events that don’t cause a business stoppage. .
An IRP doesn’t have to deal exclusively with active emergencies. Following the steps of an IRP in the event of an unsuccessful scam can have benefits for an organisation, giving the employees confidence and ensuring they know what actions to take during a genuine crisis. Regular testing of employee training and mock emergency situations provide a chance to operate under pressure and measure the results
Understanding the core benefits of a disaster plan
The most important asset that a business recovery plan provides you with is flexibility. These documents detail the complexities of a business, how it interacts together and how it can be improved. Organisations with a BCP in place benefit from increased understanding and the flexibility to deal with crisis situations. The impacts of a cyber-attack on any company can be devastating, especially for SMEs. A quick recovery time and a stable foundation on which to rebuild provides the perfect framework on which to build and prepare for a cybersecurity crisis.