Businesses in all industries have been forced to adapt to a landslide of changes over the last few years. Company leaders scrambled to find ways to keep organizations afloat despite pandemic restrictions. Employees learned to utilize remote technology and remain productive. However, it was IT teams that likely faced the highest level of challenges. These professionals were responsible for navigating network changes while keeping employees satisfied with their working conditions and overseeing security issues.
As organizations seek a permanent solution for work in the future, SMBs (small and medium-sized businesses) in particular will be called on to navigate new work structures. For small IT teams, there will be a host of demands that will make staying on track increasingly difficult. Fully staffed teams face numerous tasks to keep company networks running efficiently. Smaller teams are stretched thin under the best of circumstances. Throw in changing technology, network growth, new security concerns, and tool sprawl, and small IT teams could quickly become overwhelmed.
So, what obstacles do SMBs face in 2023? Will modern technology offer a reasonable solution to these issues? How can smaller teams achieve the same balance as fully staffed teams for growing organizations?
This guide explores the top cybersecurity challenges for SMBs, why tools alone aren't the answer, and how small IT teams can combat modern cybersecurity dangers.
The Top Cybersecurity Challenges for SMBs
- Keeping Up With New Tech Developments
- Maintaining Compliance
- Preparing for the Post Pandemic Workplace
- Recruiting and Retaining Talent
- Managing Cybersecurity
- Preparing for Cyber Attacks
- Tool Sprawl
- AI and Machine Learning
- Aging Systems and Software
- Decreasing Budgets and Increasing Workloads
It's true that small IT and security teams are typically overseeing smaller companies and networks in comparison to on-prem SOCs for large enterprises. However, most organizations don't realize that a smaller company doesn't equate to fewer IT responsibilities. While there are typically fewer devices on a smaller company's network, small security teams are facing the same technology growth, security threats, increased dependency on endpoints, and challenges of remote work as larger teams. Yet, they're forced to manage with fewer people and often cover multiple roles at once. These are some of the biggest cybersecurity challenges facing SMBs in 2023.
Keeping Up with New Tech Developments
From the plethora of Industry 4.0 endpoints to new technology introduced when companies in all industries turned to remote work, organizations are adding more new technologies to networks than ever before. Changing workflows and using new tools creates uncertainty for employees and greater dependence on IT professionals.
SMBs often depend on professionals to take on dual roles to keep things running smoothly. When new tech is introduced, professionals on these teams are responsible for tasks like optimization, security controls, user support, troubleshooting, and testing new tools. All of these tasks are shuffled into an already full schedule placing more demand on an already overworked team.
Every business that collects, stores, or shares customer information has to deal with certain compliance requirements. These requirements vary from one industry to the next and must be updated occasionally to keep up with the changing threat landscape. Small security teams or IT teams tasked with security duties are required to know which regulations and compliance standards apply to your organization to avoid fines and penalties that can severely impact business finances and operations.
As technology continues to increase, security and IT professionals are responsible for ensuring new devices, applications, software, and infrastructure are optimized to fit within the regulations required for the industry. Recent increases in cybercrime that impacted government agencies and critical infrastructure have spurred new regulations as well. This means smaller teams will be faced with the major task of preparing organizations for new certifications and maintaining the security regulations that go along with them. Compliance maintenance can mean new requirements for existing tools and the implementation of new processes for all employees.
Preparing for the Post Pandemic Workplace
In many industries, remote work was a distant dream for employees before pandemic restrictions forced companies to find solutions. After a rocky start, companies of all sizes and across all industries settled into a new normal that offered an improved work/life balance. As businesses reopened for full-time work, many employees preferred to remain working from home for various reasons. Now, companies are looking at a very different future where over 50% of employees expect a hybrid work arrangement.
For SMBs, preparing for the post-pandemic workplace means managing a network that offers a seamless work experience for both remote workers and those on-site. As pandemic concerns and the possibility of new COVID variants remain a constant threat, IT teams will also be tasked with new technologies that implement hands-free processes and social distancing. These technologies must also be optimized to avoid potential breaches. Typically, IT professionals will have a part in identifying and optimizing the right tools for these new processes.
Recruiting and Retaining Talent
The cybersecurity talent shortage and burnout has left a shallow talent pool of qualified professionals. As a result, the recruitment of cybersecurity professionals has become more competitive. SMBs typically don't have the resources to recruit talent like large corporations. Even worse, large companies can entice professionals to leave smaller companies for better pay and benefits at larger companies. Small teams are stretched thinner and have fewer resources to offer the companies they serve.
New technology and the mass introduction of remote work provided cybercriminals with an explosion of opportunities to exploit new vulnerabilities. As the threat surface continues to increase and workforce models face new changes, new threats arise. Cyber attacks have become more sophisticated and harder to detect. The dark web offers opportunities for even those without technical knowledge to invest in cybercrime. Spearfishing attacks range from $100 to $1,000. A ransomware kit can be purchased for less than $100. Distributed denial of service attacks cost less than $500. Simply put, there are more criminals and more opportunities for cybercrime than ever before.
Cybersecurity isn't a project that can be completed. It's an ongoing process that requires constant implementation and upgrades to match evolving crime. For effective cybersecurity, real-time monitoring of networks and devices is an absolute must. For small security teams, comprehensive security around the clock is practically impossible.
Preparing for Cyber Attacks
In today's advanced threat landscape, it's inevitable that most companies will eventually experience a breach. Cybersecurity doesn't begin and end with perimeter defense. How an organization responds to a breach can be the most important factor in how much damage is achieved. When your security strategy fails, IT and security professionals are responsible for having a plan in place to stop an attack and mitigate damage.
Many compliance guidelines and security protocols require companies to have a response plan in place. However, a plan that has never been tested doesn't offer a great deal of security. When tech teams and security professionals strategize and run tests to determine how a plan will be carried out in real-time, they have a better chance of adequately responding to an attack. However, small teams rarely have the resources, headcount, or time to conduct such tests.
New technology and advanced tools can help businesses grow and generate improved performance and productivity. Yet, it's easy to overlook the fact that more tools generally lead to more work for IT professionals. Businesses in all industries are increasing their dependence on cloud-based applications, IoT devices, remote user devices, and other technologies. Instead of managing and protecting a central network, IT and security professionals are tasked with maintaining a variety of disconnected tools. Without the right integrations, this can mean extra tasks and processes for different devices.
AI and Machine Learning
Tools that automate services are offering ways for companies in all industries to streamline processes and create more efficient workflows. However, automated solutions require specific technology that utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Both AI and Machine Learning can improve various business processes and even streamline cybersecurity tasks. However, these tools require precise optimization for the intended results.
IT teams are tasked with optimizing new software and often training or providing support for the employees who use it. For smaller teams, this can result in long hours and daily work overload. If teams don't have the resources or time to devote to these new tools, they often won't operate as intended and end up a poor investment for the company.
Aging Systems and Software
SMBs generally hope to keep infrastructure costs low to focus on growing the business. Since technology is constantly evolving, this can result in a significant budget strain. End-of-life is a fact for all technology systems. It means that the technology will no longer be updated or supported by the provider. If an organization continues to rely on legacy systems, they are likely to present headaches and security concerns for the IT teams attempting to manage them. Without regulatory updates and mandates for outdated software and other tools, organizations are more likely to face compliance issues and lose essential certifications.
Decreasing Budgets and Increasing Workloads
All of the new challenges facing IT teams and security teams lead to continually increasing workloads. Yet, teams aren't growing to match the increased work and budgets aren't stretching to provide effective solutions. IT is an industry that requires time, people, equipment, and funding. Unfortunately, most organizations aren't capable of keeping up with such growth. Even worse, as companies invest in new technology to increase business growth, budgets for IT teams and tools are shrinking. As a result, IT teams and security teams that are shrinking are under more pressure than ever to deliver more services at a more efficient rate than ever before.
Why Cybersecurity Tools Aren't a Complete Solution
There are a plethora of cybersecurity solutions available to help security teams manage large networks comprised of the most modern elements of technology. Yet, more tools don't always equal more efficiency. Research shows that organizations are using more than 45 tools on average for improving cybersecurity. Those using more than 50 ranked themselves 8% lower in their ability to detect an attack, and 7% lower in terms of responding to an attack. On the surface, these numbers don't make sense. However, when you consider that the implementation of more tools can result in more work for IT professionals, you can begin to see how tools might become a burden.
Too many cybersecurity tools can be overwhelming in a variety of ways. Tools designed for a specific purpose don't always work without conflicting other security interests. If systems don't work together, it's impossible to get a comprehensive view of the entire network. As a result, manual work increases, and redundant reports can increase security fatigue. Overloading your small team with security tools can result in these issues.
Security Tool Sprawl
The best IT ecosystems are interconnected in a way that allows businesses to complete seamless workflows across company branches and departments. Yet, many cybersecurity tools are designed for a specific cybersecurity purpose. All security tools are designed to provide better insight into network activity and provide information about suspicious behavior. While visibility combined with automated alerts does offer increased security, spreading these capabilities across multiple tools can actually increase the time it takes to recognize and mediate threats.
A large collection of disconnected tools requires more manual upkeep from cybersecurity professionals. For small IT teams, it can become impossible to keep up with the demands. Cybersecurity tools require professionals to monitor dashboards, prioritize alerts, and respond to potential threats in real-time. When teams are stretched thin, individual responsibilities can become blurred and critical duties overlooked. When the volume of tools is simply too much for the staff to manage, tools can actually become a burden, creating redundant alerts to follow up on and multiple sources of information to monitor.
Cybersecurity tools designed to complete a specific task often perform as expected and even do it well. If an organization had only one cybersecurity concern, the one tool would likely meet the needs of the company. However, cybercrime is a continually growing landscape that forces organizations to field a variety of different threats. Often, security teams find that one cybersecurity tool fails to meet the full scope of the organization's needs. As a result, additional tools are added to the company's security stack for comprehensive results.
Unfortunately, these different tools are often not designed to work together. They complete some of the same tasks in different ways, and sometimes interrupt each other, inhibiting the performance of one or more tools. As a result, IT professionals receive more false alerts because many of them contain redundant information supplied by different tools that do not communicate with each other. Since security tools require certain access to systems or network traffic to run, tools that don't communicate with the same data exchange language can limit the functionality of data collection, decreasing the performance of security tools.
Multiple tools that don't speak the same language can even create headaches for end-users. Since effective cybersecurity hygiene depends on the behavior of users, extra steps must often be taken to complete tasks common to daily workflows. Whether this means applying labels, using strong passwords, or requesting authorization to share data, multiple tools can require users to complete the extra steps multiple times for a single task. As a result, production suffers. Frustrated users may search for a work-around that presents vulnerabilities or require more support from the already overworked IT team.
Many cybersecurity tools are complex systems that import data, detect different types of behavior, and provide automated responses. To complete these complex tasks, these tools utilize machine learning and artificial intelligence. However, each organization using such tools has unique workflows, compliance requirements, types of sensitive data, and responsibilities. For cybersecurity to be effective, it must be customized to meet the needs of an organization. This means that cybersecurity and IT professionals are tasked with telling tools which information to collect and where to collect it from. The tools will need further refinement to clarify which actions represent a real threat to reduce false alerts. Testing must also be completed routinely to ensure optimum performance.
This process is called optimization. For a tool that depends on machine learning to work properly, optimization takes time and continual fine-tuning. Successful optimization requires security professionals to identify and group data, weed out unimportant information, conduct tests, configure alert responses, and integrate the processes with other tools. Small IT and security teams must incorporate tool optimization into the daily workflow, often leading to rushed processes and poor optimization. As a result, tools don't perform as intended.
The Human Factor
An effective tech stack is only half of the cybersecurity puzzle. AI and modern security tools provide many benefits, but they're not a complete cybersecurity solution. Cybercriminals are intelligent individuals who keep up with the pace of changing technology and continually devise new ways to exploit potential vulnerabilities. To stay ahead of threat actors, IT and cybersecurity professionals must think creatively and predict the human behavior behind specific attacks. There is no way to introduce the creativity of humans into machine learning.
A small IT team or cybersecurity team depending on a massive group of tools faces inadequate manpower to effectively use the tools on deck. As a result, professionals are overworked, tools fail to perform properly, and all too often, tools provide a false sense of confidence that leads to overlooked threats. Lack of security headcount simply can not be overcome by tool use.
How SMBs Can Increase Headcount without Building a SOC
In today's environment, increasing security headcount is a challenge for any size organization. SMBs typically don't have the resources to offer top cybersecurity professionals the same benefits and pay as large businesses. As a result, smaller IT teams face bigger challenges attempting to grow. Even worse, large companies hoping to increase IT headcount can entice professionals from smaller companies to leave their current position, making small teams even leaner. Since increasing internal headcount within a small security team is often impossible, many businesses need a way to increase cybersecurity headcount without changing their internal team.
For many businesses of all sizes, the answer to a successful cybersecurity solution will be an investment in outsourced services supplied by a top cybersecurity provider. Outsourced services provide organizations of all sizes with cybersecurity services tailored to the company's needs. These services often include highly sophisticated, modern cybersecurity tools as well as core services from cybersecurity professionals who act as an extension of your team. As a result, organizations reap the benefits of streamlined cybersecurity workflows generated by a layered, integrated system and increased cybersecurity headcount without changes in the internal team.
At BitLyft, it's our goal to provide organizations with the most comprehensive security solutions available. For this reason, we take BitLyft AIR® beyond traditional MDR services to provide a fully integrated suite of tools along with 24/7 accessibility to our expert team of cybersecurity professionals. We offer a full security team with 24/7/365 monitoring to our clients for less than they would spend for a single full-time analyst. These services address the pain points of small IT/security teams by providing increased headcount from outside your company. Our professional team evaluates your cybersecurity needs, supplies necessary tools in a singular integrated solution, and assists with overall organizational cybersecurity posture as well as emergency response.
Lack of security headcount cannot be overcome by tools. The more tools that you use that don't speak to each other just means another dashboard to view, and time spent away from the required tasks necessary to protect the organization. Hiring a vendor that is people-focused can help increase your security team without needing to hire in-house talent. Learn how managed detection and response services from BitLyft can address the crucial issues facing your small security or IT team and help you keep your cybersecurity goals on track.