GRC Viewpoint

Why More SBEs Need to Embrace Access Controls

Implementing access controls can seem challenging, especially for small businesses with tight budgets. However, by following a few basic best practices, small businesses can implement adequate access controls and protect their assets from data breaches and other cyber threats.

Access controls protect organizations of all sizes from data breaches and other cyber threats by preventing unauthorized access to data and systems. Unauthorized access can easily lead to a data breach and result in loss of revenue, legal fees, ransom payments, reputational damage, etc. The litany of bad outcomes stemming from unauthorized access is another topic altogether.

Many of these controls are inexpensive to implement. Instead, they require a different kind of buy-in from decision-makers and team members. Securing this buy-in can be a challenge. Of course, cost justification can occasionally be an issue. But it’s a less common obstacle than simple motivation (or lack thereof): “Why jump through hoops when we’re not even big enough to be worth attacking?” Or perhaps: “We’re a small, tight-knit group. We don’t see the need to restrict access.”

Why should small businesses care about access controls? 

In short, unauthorized access leads to bad outcomes, and a small business is just as vulnerable as a Fortune 500 company—if not more so. Access controls are fundamental to any organization’s threat management strategy. Small businesses are no exception.

There are other benefits, too. Access controls can also help small businesses comply with applicable regulatory requirements. They can also help small businesses gain a competitive edge in their industry and even a leg-up in their marketing. Whether a company operates in the B2C or B2B realm (or both), customers and clientele are increasingly conscientious of and concerned about data security. In the coming years, small businesses demonstrating a commitment to threat management principles will become more attractive to savvy buyers.

The benefits of implementing access controls far outweigh the costs and energy required, especially when you follow a few basic best practices.

Best Practices for SMEs Implementing Access Controls

1. Implement Role-Based Access Controls

Role-based access controls (RBAC) effectively manage access to sensitive data and IT systems. RBAC allows access based on the user’s role within the organization. For example, an HR manager may access employee data, while a sales manager may access customer data. RBAC helps prevent unauthorized access by ensuring users only have access to the data and IT systems necessary for their job function.

2. Implement Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is an additional layer of security that requires users to provide more than one form of authentication to access IT systems and data. MFA is a low-cost practice that yields significant gains in safety and peace of mind for a small business.

3. Enforce Strong Password Policies

Strong password policies are an essential part of access controls. Password policies should require users to create strong, unique passwords. Users should use unique passwords for each account and change their passwords regularly.

4. Conduct Regular Access Reviews

Regular access reviews help ensure that access controls are functioning correctly. Access reviews should identify users with access to sensitive data or IT systems and confirm that access is still necessary for their job function. Revoke access for users who no longer need it or have left the organization.

5. Limit Privileged Access

Privileged access grants users access to sensitive data or IT systems essential to the organization’s operations. Admin privileges, for example, should be restricted to team members who require them for their job function. Audit these access privileges regularly as part of your regular access reviews.

6. Monitor Access Logs

Monitoring access logs can help uncover unauthorized access and evidence of potential data breaches or cyberattacks.

7. Provide Access Control Training for Team Members

Educate team members on the importance of creating strong passwords, safeguarding login credentials, and recognizing social engineering attacks like phishing emails. Team members should also understand the importance of access controls and the potential consequences of unauthorized access.

Access controls are an essential investment in any business’s long-term sustainability and success. It can be tricky, however, for cybersecurity professionals to explain the importance of access controls to small businesses. And it can be equally challenging for small businesses to justify embracing them.

The bottom line is that access controls help keep small businesses safe, stable, and operational. Considering the escalating frequency of cyberattacks launched against small organizations, smaller companies need adequate access controls now more than ever.

By Jeff Robinson, President and CEO at Tier 3 Technology Solutions

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