Businesses today face a daunting cybersecurity challenge. With almost every aspect of the average business’s operations either partially or fully digitized at this point, a single misstep risks disaster.
To stay safe, businesses must take steps to safeguard their data and keep multiple threats at bay.
The costs of failure are staggering. In the US, the average data breach in 2022 resulted in $9.44 million in direct and indirect costs to the affected business.
For 60% of smaller businesses, the losses stemming from a single cybersecurity incident led to bankruptcy and closure.
With consequences like those, you’d think that business leaders would do whatever it takes to address their business’s cybersecurity needs.
However, like everything else, even cybersecurity spending remains subject to a risk/benefit analysis.
With that in mind, here are the main pros and cons of cyber security for businesses.
Main Pros of Cyber Security
When making the business case for cybersecurity spending, it’s often useful to spell out the direct benefits such spending creates. Here are all of the main pros of having a robust cybersecurity program for businesses.
1) Protection Against Data Loss and Theft
The most direct benefit of a robust cyber security program is the elimination or minimization of the threat of data loss and theft.
For businesses with trade secrets and other critical intellectual property (IP), this is a mission-critical effort. However, it’s important for businesses with all kinds of other data, too.
For example, a business that collects and stores customer data of any kind must guard that data carefully. The exposure of customers’ personally identifiable information (PII) can lead to identity theft, which is at epidemic levels within the US and worldwide.
In those situations, targeted businesses face the double blow of financial liability from the fallout as well as reputational damage that damages their customer relationships.
2) Compliance With Various Regulations/Directives/Standards
Another major benefit of a robust cybersecurity program is that it keeps businesses on the right side of applicable laws.
Right now, there are a variety of data privacy laws and regulations in multiple jurisdictions that businesses must adhere to. Those strictures detail how businesses can collect and use data, as well as their specific responsibility for its protection.
Businesses that handle medical information anywhere in the US, for example, must meet the standards outlined in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).
They spell out minimum standards for things like encryption, storage, and the mitigation of reasonable threats.
The same is true for businesses operating within California or Europe, where the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), respectively, apply.
In almost all cases, businesses that fail to meet their regulatory obligations face penalties ranging from small fines to the revocation of their operating licenses.
In either case, funding a robust cybersecurity program that maintains relevant regulatory compliance is both necessary and desirable.
3) Improves Customer Confidence for Your Business
With each passing year, more and more consumers get caught up in data breaches. As we’ve previously noted, many of those incidents end in identity theft.
The thing is, consumers are savvy and understand the complexity of the threat landscape. For businesses, being trustworthy stewards of consumer data offers another opportunity—the chance to boast of their cybersecurity bona fides.
Multiple surveys indicate that consumers will reward—and punish—businesses based on how responsibly they handle data.
This means businesses that choose to fund robust cybersecurity programs can also use their investment as a marketing tool, as well. Businesses can do this by detailing the lengths they go through to protect and respect customer data, which helps to build consumer trust and loyalty over the long term.
4) Ensures Business Continuity
Robust cybersecurity helps to safeguard data, but that’s not all. It also helps to ensure business continuity. The average business, when faced with a threat like a ransomware attack, now experiences 20 days of downtime.
That means a complete halt to all revenue-generating operations. It’s the kind of downtime that can threaten the very existence of many companies, or at the very least, put them in a difficult financial situation.
Since a comprehensive cybersecurity program includes complete backup and disaster recovery capabilities, it not only reduces the odds of a cybersecurity incident but also dramatically shortens the downtime involved if one occurs.
In many cases, the downtime avoided alone can more than justify the costs of the cybersecurity spending that went into the program.
5) Prevents Financial Loss
Downtime isn’t the only problem that comes with threats like ransomware attacks. Most of the time, such attacks come with a demand for ransom in exchange for regaining access to business data locked in the attack.
Most attackers pair their demands with the threat to release the business’s data or sell it off to the highest bidder if they don’t pay. That threat is enough to coerce many businesses to pay whatever ransom the attacker demands.
There’s a problem with that, however. First, around 80% of businesses that pay ransoms to regain access to files end up getting re-victimized a second time. Plus, a staggering 92% of targeted organizations don’t regain access to all of their data even if they do pay.
The result is a never-ending spiral of financial losses. A robust and well-executed cybersecurity program is the best—and only way—to eliminate the possibility of that happening.
6) Protection of Intellectual Property (IP)
For modern businesses, innovation is the lifeblood of bottom-line success. It means succeeding at developing new products, services, or workflows that competitors can’t imitate.
All of that innovation, though, generates trade secrets— critical IP—that businesses must protect at all costs. However, businesses, particularly in the US, struggle with doing that.
One of the key reasons for that is the fact that most IP these days is digital. Gone are the days when a single engineer might keep the secrets of an industrial machine or process in their head.
Instead, that data’s stored in digital form, where it’s vulnerable to theft and inadvertent disclosure.
This makes a comprehensive ongoing cybersecurity effort an absolute must for businesses of all kinds, lest they lose control of their critical IP or other intangible business assets.
Main Cons of Cyber Security
Of course, if maintaining cybersecurity were simple or cheap, every business would do it. Here are some of the main cons that dissuade businesses from making critical cyber security efforts.
1) Cost To Implement and Maintain
The main drawback of business cybersecurity programs is cost. It’s not cheap to purchase, integrate, and maintain all of the hardware and software systems required to safeguard data and infrastructure assets.
Nor is it inexpensive to pay for the expertise required to defend against well-armed threat actors.
When weighed against the costs of a successful attack, of course, the costs are insignificant.
That doesn’t free the business, however, of the need to make major capital expenditures upfront. And when cybersecurity investments succeed in their aims, the losses they prevent remain theoretical, making justifying those investments difficult, at best.
2) Difficult To Find Cyber Security Experts
Since cybersecurity’s a critical concern for every business all over the world, there’s intense competition for cybersecurity experts within the labor market.
In addition, there’s a persistent shortage of qualified cybersecurity experts available to hire. Worse still, the shortage keeps growing.
In 2022, the so-called cybersecurity skills gap grew dramatically, with a reported 26.2% gap between available cybersecurity positions and the number of qualified applicants worldwide.
It’s a situation that often leads businesses to engage in costly bidding wars over top talent. And when they win, their reward is higher-than-expected overhead.
And when they lose, they end up going without the critical skills needed to safeguard their data and digital systems.
3) Makes Business Operations More Complex and Difficult
Another disadvantage associated with having robust cybersecurity measures in place is that it makes business operations more complex and difficult.
The need to control which employees can access which data and which systems can connect to which parts of the public internet makes barriers to use all but inevitable.
Also, maintaining cybersecurity means educating employees on common threats and best practices.
That’s the only way to try and make certain they don’t end up circumventing the business’s carefully-constructed digital defenses. Those efforts, although critical, are often time-consuming and can harm productivity in both the short and long term.
4) It Requires Constant Monitoring
The final major con associated with business investment in cybersecurity measures is that there’s no set-it-and-forget-it type of solution available.
Cybersecurity software and hardware requires constant attention and monitoring and isn’t the kind of thing that the business can buy once and use forever.
With a constantly-evolving threat landscape to deal with, cybersecurity specialists have to remain vigilant at all times.
This includes making adjustments to the business’s cybersecurity posture and defensive measures as necessary.
And although there’s a fair amount of automation technology making its way into current-generation cybersecurity solutions, it’s unlikely that there will be any performant hands-off cybersecurity solutions available anytime soon.
At the end of the day, businesses don’t have the option of ignoring cybersecurity unless they don’t plan to remain in business for very long.
However, they do still need to balance the costs of the cybersecurity measures they undertake against the specific risks they face and any security obligations imposed on them by law.
By understanding the relative pros and cons detailed here, it should be far easier to have productive discussions on the topic.
It should also help decision-makers to come up with reasonable accommodations that take both sides of the cybersecurity equation into account.
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