knob that says protection level turned to high
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There’s an old saying in the U.S. that the only two guarantees in life are death and taxes. If you own a company, you can add a third guarantee: cyber attack. There’s an average of 315,000 malware threats detected daily, and small businesses are especially vulnerable. In the past 12 months, 75% of small businesses experienced a data or cybersecurity breach.

If you think you’re too small to have anything worth stealing, consider this: On the black market, everything from cell phone numbers to email addresses has a value. Cybercriminals steal customer information to commit crimes ranging from electronically emptying bank accounts to carrying out Medicare fraud.

What cyber attacks cost businesses

After a data breach, companies often hire data security experts to repair the damage. According to a Kaspersky Lab Survey, the average cost per attack is:

  • $14K for small and medium-sized businesses
  • $126K for large businesses
  • $100K – $500K for enterprises with in-house security experts
  • $1.2M – $1.47M for enterprises without in-house IT security experts

It doesn’t end there. Add to that the cost of sending out breach notifications, public relations experts to rebuild customer trust, new software to fortify systems, training to use that new software, lost customers, and a damaged brand. It’s easy to see how the costs multiply quickly, which is why:

Establishing Your Company’s Best Defense

Much like dealing with natural disasters, the best defense against cybercriminals is being proactive. You won’t know when or how a disaster may hit, but you can minimize the damage and recover quickly if it does.

Preparation is so critical that the Small Business Administration provides a top 10 list of ways to protect a business from cyber attacks. The National Cyber Security Alliance provides tips following a 5-step plan covering how your company can identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover. It’s no coincidence that their defense plan resembles a natural disaster plan.

What if you don’t have all the experts you need in-house?

It’s a challenge to have all the top data security skills businesses need. Nearly half of companies say demand for talent outnumbers supply. For SMBs, the challenge isn’t just in finding the talent, it’s affording them.

Knowing that security isn’t a choice, most SMBs are doing what they can. A survey conducted by independent research firm, Bredin, shows nearly 8 in 10 (79%) take proactive measures. But limited by access to skills, these security measures may not be enough. Here are additional findings from the Bredin survey about how aware companies are of cybersecurity risk.

*The Upwork SMB Survey was conducted online by Bredin, a research firm specializing in SMBs, from January 16-19, 2018, and polled 503 principals of U.S. businesses with 500 or fewer employees.

As bleak as the talent situation may seem, companies still have an affordable way to get the security help they need: engage a freelance expert.

Freelance specialists can uncover vulnerable areas in your network, resolve current security issues, create detailed recovery plans, and more. Instead of having a team of experts in-house, you can access a team of experts as-needed.

Are Freelancers Safe?

It’s natural to worry about giving contractors access to your systems and sensitive data. What’s helpful to understand is that for many, freelancing is their livelihood. This means they have tremendous incentive to deliver great work and maintain a strong reputation. What’s more, freelancers rely on their skills every day, so they keep them updated.

Erik Allebest, CEO and co-founder at Chess.com, says by contracting freelancers, he can access “people ahead of the curve, even more so than people we might have been able to find locally.”

Just like hiring an employee, the quality and reliability of your talent depends on your vetting process. Freelancer websites can make the process easier because most sites, like Upwork, provide detailed talent profiles. You can judge the talent’s work experience and quality by looking at their rating system, project history, client feedback, badges, and other certifications.

According to the statistics, if cybercriminals haven’t hit your company yet, they will. Instead of becoming a victim because of budget or talent shortages, shore up your defenses with freelance help. More than filling in skills gaps, freelancers can help you prioritize data security programs that are important to your organization.