Your Complete Guide to Building a Cybersecurity Program

Small Business

The following article first appeared in the Insights section of Whittlesey’s website. It is reposted here with permission.

Did you know cybercrime costs companies worldwide well over $1 trillion each year?

In fact, according to Smallbiztrends, small businesses lose about $80,000 yearly to cybercrime. 

For most small businesses and startups, it’s enough to run them out of business. That’s why smart companies have elaborate cybersecurity programs to keep cybersecurity threats at bay.  

A cybersecurity program is a set of protocols and plans for securing digital assets and reducing cybersecurity risks. It’s a staple for businesses and organizations around the globe.

To sidestep cybersecurity attacks, you’ll need to develop and implement a solid cybersecurity program for your business. 

However, this is easier said than done for most companies. 

Understand Potential Cybersecurity Risks

Every business or organization has its own cyberthreat landscape and threshold. 

The cyberthreat landscape defines a company’s potential cybersecurity risks. The cybersecurity threshold is how much the company can lose from cybersecurity without closing down.

That said, the first step in creating a proper program is identifying all potential risks to your organization’s cybersecurity. 

The first step in creating a proper cybersecurity program is identifying all potential risks.

This entails looking at what cyberthreats affect businesses in your niche the most. You can get this information from your competitors or business partners.

The cybersecurity threats could be anything from ransomware, Trojan horses, viruses, and phishing software. 

Take note of what cyberthreats companies in your niche are predisposed to. That way, you can clamp down on what threats your program needs to address.

Analyze Your Current Cybersecurity Setup

Once you have all your potential cybersecurity threats on lock, it’s on to the next step. 

The next step involves doing an honest and thorough assessment of your current cybersecurity setup. You can use various cybersecurity frameworks to help you gauge your company’s cybersecurity maturity.

These frameworks let you know how capable your company’s current setup is. They help differentiate cybersecurity into different categories and subcategories. 

Use the framework to determine your company’s cybersecurity maturity.

They may include cybersecurity, policies, software, technology, and incident recovery, among others.

Use the framework to determine your company’s cybersecurity maturity in the said categories.

Next, use the same framework to project where you want your cybersecurity to be in the coming years. 

Doing so helps create actual objectives and a clear vision for your program.

Develop Ways to Improve Your Cybersecurity Program

The next step entails looking at what tools and cybersecurity practices will help you achieve the said goals. 

This is arguably the most difficult step of the entire process, and it’s okay to get professional help

The tools, policies, and protocols you develop will be the building blocks of your cybersecurity program.

It’s worth noting a solid cybersecurity program will consume a considerable amount of your company’s resources. 

By resources, we mean money, time, infrastructure, and the likes. Be sure to factor in all these when crafting your cybersecurity program.

The tools, policies, and protocols you develop will be the building blocks of your cybersecurity program.

With that in mind, it’s never a good idea to skimp on your cybersecurity program. Doing so could easily compromise its effectiveness.

Spend a considerable amount on your cybersecurity strategy for the best results.

If everything checks, you can present your suggestions to top-tier management for approval. You can compile a report or present it as a letter. 

Regardless of your format, ensure the presentation is as comprehensive as possible.

Don’t forget to include details about expected results and the budget. If you get the green light, you can proceed to the next step.

Put Your Cybersecurity Program in Writing

The last step concluded with a report or memo of your cybersecurity program. That’s okay, but now you have to put the actual cybersecurity program in writing. 

That means documenting everything from the research to the intended results.

When documenting your strategy, be sure to include:

  • Cybersecurity proposals
  • Risk assessments and potential cyber threats
  • Program guidelines and procedures
  • Cybersecurity policies and protocols
  • Recommendations or further improvements

It’s worth noting that documenting your cybersecurity program is a continuous process.

Make sure you update the documents any chance you get. Also, make active participation from all stakeholders a vital part of your documentation process.

Evaluate Your Company’s Ability to Execute the Program

The final step involves evaluating whether your company can implement the cybersecurity program in question.

This evaluation centers on your current IT and data security teams. The process involves analyzing your current IT setup and financial system to see whether they align with your cybersecurity plans.

If the math doesn’t add up, consider hiring new staff members to expand your IT team.

Also, purchase any new software or hardware for the program, if necessary.

Lastly, don’t forget to plan adequately for the future.

In that regard, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you envision any largescale, or major projects in the future that your IT team will handle?
  • Are there any mergers, acquisitions, or huge product launches in the foreseeable future?
  • Are you making any massive workstation upgrades in the coming years?

These questions will help you in making sufficient preparations for the future.

They will ensure your cybersecurity program grows with the company and is adaptable to drastic changes.

Common Business and Organization Cyberthreats 

The internet is a hotbed of cybersecurity threats for businesses and organizations.

That’s why cybersecurity for business is way different from personal cybersecurity.

Although the threats are somewhat similar, here are the most common cybersecurity threats businesses face.


Malware is a blend of two words, malicious and software, and that’s all there is to it. Malware is a malicious program that disrupts or damages computers or their servers.

There are many types of software, but the common ones include:

  • Worms
  • Keyloggers
  • Spyware
  • Trojan horses

These are only a few examples of the dozens of malware available today.

Malware compromises your computer systems, rendering them ineffective. They can also destroy your data or gain access to confidential information.


Phishing attacks are among the most common cybersecurity threats for businesses and organizations.

Phishing involves gaining unauthorized access to company information by masquerading as someone else.

Most phishing attacks come in email form but can also come as text messages. In some cases, hackers may use phishing software for their attacks.

Most phishing attacks come in email form but can also come as text messages.

They dupe you into installing the software by claiming it’s something else. The software can then obtain crucial login credentials and gain access to sensitive data.

Phishing attacks can also gain a company’s payment and banking credentials.

This makes it possible for hackers to withdraw lots of cash from your company’s reserves.


Just like malware, ransomware is also a combination of two words, ransom and software.

Ransomware is software that blocks access to your computer resources unless you pay the perpetrator some money.

Another form of ransomware threatens to expose sensitive company information unless you do the same.

The software holds your resources or information ransom until you pay the specified amount.

As you’d expect, the culprits behind ransomware attacks don’t always play fair. Some may fail to lift the software even after you pay the full ransom amount.

Insider Threats

Insider threats are a tough nut to crack because they come from within the company.

Insider threats are actions from employees, former employees, and associates that compromise your cybersecurity.

Most insider cybersecurity threats are intentional. Internal threats are a product of malice and are often ill-intentioned.

For instance, former employees wanting to get back at the management for firing them. Some employees may do so to steal from the company they work from.

Internal threats are a product of malice and are often ill-intentioned.

Competitors may have paid out other employees to sell their company out.

Insider threats cause companies massive financial losses each year. It’s usually hard to pinpoint the individual behind insider threats.

Companies need to instill a culture of vigilance and awareness to keep insider threats at bay.

A proper employer-employee relationship is also vital in reducing insider cybersecurity attacks.

What Will a Cyber Attack Cost My Business?

As mentioned above, cyber attacks cost companies trillions of dollars every year.

While that much is clear, how much will a cyber attack cost your company?

In 2019, the average cost of a business cyber attack was about $1.1 million, according to a report by Radware.

While the people behind the attack may not make away with a million dollars, you’ll still have to pay for:

  • Repairing and replacing your IT infrastructure
  • The incidence team to analyze and solve the situation
  • Ransom money in case of ransomware attacks
  • Attorney fees from lawsuits arising from the attacks

Cyber attacks cost a lot more than it seems on the surface.

Develop a solid cybersecurity program to avoid paying through the nose after a cyber attack.

A Cybersecurity Program Is Non-Negotiable

Having a concrete cybersecurity program is not up to debate for any company worth its name.

Now that you know how to develop your own, it’s time to get to work.

Remember, you can always ask for professional help if neeed.

About the author: Chris Wisneski is an IT security and assurance services manager in Whittlesey’s Hartford office. He specializes in HIPAA, PCI, Sarbanes-Oxley, GDPR, and FFIEC.


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