Cybersecurity: The Secret to Business Growth

In the late 80’s, my dad founded a small landscaping company in southern Arizona. Very little has changed in that office environment since. I have childhood memories of toddling around the ‘back room,’ a space dominated by large filing cabinets with every email, invoice, work order, and contract over the decades, meticulously printed and filed away. When I took on a secretarial role there at the age of 16, I finally got acquainted with this labor-intensive style of record-keeping.

I asked my dad, “Why can’t we keep client info on the computer?” Why did we need a hard copy of even the most mundane email threads? “Because,” he would reply, “I don’t trust computers – I walk in here one day and everything crashes or everything is hacked, I lose all that information – what can I do? Nothing. My business would be sunk.” These days, the fear that a computer will spontaneously fry the contents of its hard drive is a little outdated – but, he had a point. I’d argue that this paranoia actually benefits his business in other, considerable ways.

For all the shortcomings of this system – in which I, as his secretary, drowned in a tsunami of copy paper – you have to commend its one shining benefit: my dad’s business was IMMUNE to viruses, hackers, and cyber attacks. (Not even the CEO of Target could say that. Remember the credit card hacking debacle in 2013?) Well viruses don’t infect filing cabinets, that’s for sure.

While I don’t endorse a comprehensive print-and-file system (on behalf of secretaries everywhere) – business leaders would actually do well to adopt a component of his ‘paranoia,’ and apply it in their mindset toward cybersecurity. Cybersecurity, after all, is an industry founded in a kind of paranoia. If you aren’t perpetually on the offensive about malicious attempts toward your business’ privileged info – you’re doing it wrong. For the growth, productivity, and well-being of your company, you need to think like my dad. But rather than combating the threat with filing cabinets, do it with an ironclad cybersecurity strategy.

Why Cybersecurity Should Be Priority #1 For All Businesses

An increasing number of businesses are moving toward a “digital center” – meaning anything that can be digitized, will be digitized. While this is certainly a positive move where efficiency is concerned, it renders businesses far more vulnerable in the capacity that my dad was so animatedly afraid of. It prompts the need for a paradigm shift in how CEOs and business owners think about cybersecurity and its central purpose.

Many assume the sole function of cybersecurity is to reduce risk and eliminate the threat posed by viruses and hackers. However, it will immeasurably benefit your business if you reposition cybersecurity as what it really is: a growth enabler. And, when not properly tended to: a growth inhibitor. Industries must adapt in accordance with this move to a digital center, and a great deal of that adaptation hinges on their ability to combat the unique challenges of conducting business in a digital environment, ergo, the quality of their cybersecurity strategy. Countless consumer products have become digital offerings, and you, as a business owner, must have measures to ensure nothing will threaten the successful delivery and execution of these products and services. And if you aren’t headed toward a digital center, you need to be worried.

Almost every business is tasked with managing the personal/sensitive information of its clients in some form or another. The prevalence of security threats means that businesses with airtight cybersecurity actually have a competitive advantage in their respective market (and can advertise as such, not only to consumers, but potential business partners).

According to a study conducted by Cisco (linked above), “71% of executives said that concerns over cybersecurity are impeding innovation in their organizations.” Almost 40% of executives polled agreed that “they had halted mission-critical initiatives due to cybersecurity issues.” As digitization expands, cybersecurity is becoming the critical foundation on which business models and offerings are built, it is no longer positioned as a mere ‘cost of doing business.’

Over 89% of executives correlate cybersecurity with business success. Despite this, less than half of executive boards participate in the construction of security strategy, according to Forbes contributor William H. Saito. By positioning cybersecurity as an IT expense, companies are poised to spend the bare minimum, and, according to Saito, this “short-changes the growth potential of business. Doing cybersecurity the right way is a must, and it has to be done at the highest levels of an organization because it affects the whole entity.” Jim Poole, the Vice President of Global Ecosystem Development at Equinix adds one particularly gleaming point on the need for improved cybersecurity: “Preventing breaches not only saves millions of dollars that can be better invested in growth, it saves the time and effort required for mitigation and remediation. It can also give companies more confidence when moving ahead with mission-critical initiatives involving potentially vulnerable or sensitive information.”

A small sampling of the components of a cybersecurity strategy include:

  • Employee use of sensitive information/what devices they may access company information from
  • How data outside the cloud will be managed
  • How data will be shared with third parties and suppliers
  • Configuration of firewalls
  • Creation of governance policies
  • User/device verification
  • Vulnerability assessments/provisions of vulnerability tests
  • Response in the event of a breach

In reiteration of Poole’s most powerful point for business owners who are serious about growing their companies: as commerce itself moves cloud-ward, “cybersecurity as a distinct function should disappear, and become completely embedded into the business.”

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