During National Cybersecurity Awareness Month I have discussed the types of cyber threats that we face and some of the basic steps that all computer users can take to better protect themselves. This week, I’d like to address another important dimension of this shared responsibility – the role of America’s small businesses.
As the President said in his remarks for National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, the cyber threat has become one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation. America’s competitiveness and our economic prosperity in the 21st century will depend on effective cybersecurity. This is especially true for the millions of small businesses that form the backbone of our economy. For this reason, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) at the Department of Commerce recently released a guidebook, Small Business Information Security: The Fundamentals, on cybersecurity fundamentals for small business owners. A video related to the guidebook is provided below.
As the guidebook states, “in the United States, the number of small businesses totals to over 95% of all businesses. The small business community produces around 50% of our nation’s Gross National Product (GNP) and creates around 50% of all new jobs in our country. Small businesses, therefore, are a very important part of our nation’s economy.”
However, these small businesses often do not have sufficient resources to effectively secure their cyber infrastructure. Criminals recognize this, and small businesses are more and more often becoming targets of cyber crime. The NIST guidebook helps to mitigate these risks by providing small business owners with detailed (but easy-to-understand) instructions on how to improve their cybersecurity posture.
The guidebook is divided into three sections: absolutely necessary cybersecurity practices, highly recommended practices, and other planning considerations. It includes instructions on topics such as activating and installing firewalls, securing wireless access points, and conducting online banking more securely. I recommend all business owners read this guidebook. Home users may also find many of the cybersecurity instructions useful.
John Brennan is Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism