Cybersecurity Program for Small and Medium Businesses

Over the past decade, our world has undergone significant transformations with the advent of connected devices, artificial intelligence, IoT, and cloud services. These technological advancements have brought about numerous benefits, such as increased efficiencies and revenue growth. However, they have also introduced a new set of challenges, with cyber threats being one of the most prominent among them.

Cybersecurity is a multifaceted subject that involves controls, user authentication, processes, policies, and adherence to an ever-expanding list of standards. Misunderstood risks can lead to significant consequences. To ensure business continuity, it is crucial for senior executives to have a fundamental knowledge of cybersecurity. They must prioritize risk management while embarking on the cybersecurity journey and provide the board with meaningful metrics to make informed decisions about cybersecurity investments.

Table of Contents

Actions to Begin the Cybersecurity Journey:

A] Governance:

Implementing good governance starts with creating a culture of security from the highest levels of the organization. Emphasize security by design, where security is embedded into every process to ensure a successful implementation of security measures.

B] Understanding Obligations:

Be aware of fiduciary risks, understanding your duty of care and confidentiality in terms of cybersecurity events. Additionally, comprehend contractual obligations based on your industry, regulatory compliance requirements, and data protection regulations before starting your cybersecurity journey.

C] Understanding Risk:

Conduct a maturity assessment or gap assessment of your facility to determine your current cybersecurity posture and desired state, based on industry standards. This high-level assessment will provide you with a risk mitigation strategy and a roadmap for your cybersecurity framework. Key concepts to understand during the risk assessment include risk appetite, risk tolerance, and residual risk.

D] Risk Registry:

Recreate a risk registry to document cybersecurity risks specific to your organization. Include essential details such as risk descriptions, likelihood, potential impact severity (high, medium, or low), mitigation strategies, and contingency plans.

E] Cybersecurity Plan/ Strategy Objectives:

The security program should define policies, procedures, and infrastructure to protect the organization and enable the following:

1. Identify top risks and control access to confidential information and critical systems.

2. Meet legal and regulatory obligations.

3. Manage risks associated with the supply chain.

4. Allocate budgets and resources based on risk assessments.

5. Identify unauthorized activity within the organization’s IT and OT environments.

6. Respond to unauthorized activity promptly to mitigate its impact.

7. Recover from unauthorized activity and restore normal operations.

8. Establish a cycle of continuous improvement through root cause analysis and recommendations.

9. Conduct periodic audits for ongoing evaluation.

Implementation Strategies as Recommended by Cybersecure Canada:

As per industry standerds recommends 13 baseline controls that are applicable to small and medium businesses worldwide. Some of these strategies include:

1. Asset and Data Defense:

Understand the scope and focus on critical assets and data for deploying applicable controls. Create an inventory list of all assets, including hardware, software, and their respective OS/firmware and software revisions. This visibility helps identify obsolete and vulnerable systems, allowing the organization to implement appropriate controls, such as auto patch management, antivirus, system hardening, and isolation of unpatchable systems.

2. Access Control & Authorization:

Implement access control measures like least privilege, password policies, multi-factor authentication (MFA), centralized authorization control systems, and limited remote access.

3. Backup & Encrypt Data:

Regularly back up data and ensure encryption for added security. Test the restore function of backups to verify their effectiveness.

4. Secure Remote Access:

Limit remote access to virtual private networks (VPNs) and use multi-factor authentication for added security.

5. Basic Perimeter Defense:

Deploy firewalls, segment networks, use secure Wi-Fi (preferably WPA2-Enterprise), and avoid connecting public Wi-Fi networks to the corporate network. Implement Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC) for email services.

6. Employee Awareness and Training:

Regularly conduct phishing campaigns, cyber hygiene training, and awareness programs for all employees to strengthen the organization’s overall security posture.

7. Incident Response Plan:

Develop a written incident response plan and designate a dedicated incident response team to handle cyber incidents effectively.


Q1: What are the best cybersecurity practices for small to medium-sized businesses?

A1: Best cybersecurity practices for SMEs include governance, risk assessment, a comprehensive cybersecurity plan, implementation of baseline controls, access control, data backup, secure remote access, basic perimeter defense, employee awareness, and a well-defined incident response plan.

Q2: What is cybersecurity for SMEs?

A2: Cybersecurity for SMEs refers to the set of measures and strategies aimed at protecting digital assets, sensitive data, and critical systems from cyber threats.

Q3: Why is cybersecurity important for small to medium businesses?

A3: Cybersecurity is crucial for SMEs to safeguard sensitive information, prevent financial losses, maintain customer trust, and protect the company’s reputation.

Q4: How can small businesses prevent cyber attacks?

A4: Small businesses can prevent cyber attacks by implementing robust cybersecurity measures, regularly conducting risk assessments, and providing cybersecurity training to employees.

Q5: What common cyber security risks do SMEs face?

A5: SMEs face common cyber risks such as data breaches, ransomware attacks, phishing attempts, insider threats, and inadequate security measures.

Q6: What is the most important aspect of cybersecurity for businesses?

A6: Employee awareness and training are critical aspects of cybersecurity as employees play a crucial role in preventing and mitigating cyber incidents.

Q7: Why are SMEs (small to medium enterprises) at risk from cybercrime?

A7: SMEs are often targeted by cybercriminals due to their potential lack of robust cybersecurity measures and limited resources, making them vulnerable to cyber attacks.


In conclusion, small and medium businesses must prioritize cybersecurity to adapt to the ever-evolving digital landscape and protect their valuable assets. By following best practices, implementing recommended baseline controls, fostering a security-conscious culture, and staying vigilant, SMEs can strengthen their cybersecurity posture and defend against cyber threats. Remember, cybersecurity is an ongoing journey that requires continuous improvement.


Deepak Malwade

I am an OT Cybersecurity Director and Co-Founder at Arista Middle East, a leading provider of cybersecurity solutions and services for industrial control systems (ICS) and operational technology (OT) in various sectors, such as petrochemical, power and oil and gas. I have over 32 years of experience in control systems, automation, instrumentation, and cybersecurity, and I hold Project Management (PMP) and Cybersecurity certifications from globally recognized organizations.

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