Why You Need a Security Consultant — and What to Look For
Security Consultant – For years now, security experts have warned small businesses: You are a target for cybercriminals. While the news media focuses on the major security breaches affecting millions of individuals, what’s often overlooked is that smaller businesses are not only victims of hacking more often, but that they are also often a key piece of the puzzle when investigating larger breaches.
In short, the simple fact is that small businesses are at risk for cyber-attacks, and even if you think you are too small to be of any interest to hackers, you might want to think again.
The problem for many small and micro businesses is that they simply do not have the resources to fully protect their business and their data. While it would be great to hire a full-time, dedicated cybersecurity professional (or even an IT person, in many cases) most smaller companies don’t have the money in the budget to do so.
As a result, they piecemeal security solutions together: They secure their Wi-Fi, use antivirus software, set up firewalls, etc. These are all important steps, but while they may be enough for the average home network, they represent only the beginning of the protection necessary for business.
Since most entrepreneurs aren’t well versed in the latest cyber-protection methods —and don’t necessarily have the time to learn — there is a growing number of security consultants who specialize in small businesses and designing security protocols to protect their valuable data. For a fraction of the cost of hiring a full-time employee, businesses can implement the security measures they need to keep their data safe, remain in compliance with industry security regulations, and stay ahead of emerging threats.
What Will a Security Consultant Do?
If you cannot bring a dedicated security professional onto your staff, a security consultant is the next best thing. However, it’s important to understand a few key considerations before you sign a contract.
First, it’s very important that you hire an independent consultant. Many security companies, particularly security software vendors, will offer consulting services for “free.” However, these consultants are typically employees of that software company, and the recommended solutions for your security issues are likely to be limited to the products and services offered by that company.
That’s not to say the advice isn’t relevant and valid, but you want to make sure that you are receiving the unbiased evaluations and recommendations to ensure that all of your bases are covered and that you aren’t purchasing products and services that you don’t necessarily need.
It’s also important to understand what a consultant will do for you. In most cases, the consultant will conduct a thorough risk assessment and evaluate your current security set-up to identify potential problems, and identify solutions to minimize risk. From here, consultants will either do the work themselves (or through their team) or recommend qualified vendors to implement security solutions for you.
Most security consultants work on a project basis. Some offer ongoing service and support, but most will leave the ongoing implementation up to you. These are points that you will work out in the contract, but understand that usually, your consultant is there to assist with a specific project and not to fill the role of a staff IT security professional.
What to Look for in a Consultant
Finding the right consultant involves more than just choosing someone who works independently of a specific company. Ask a few important questions, including:
What is your background? Choose a consultant with an advanced educational background, ideally with a degree in information security and experience within your industry. Some consultants have even earned the Chartered Security Professional (CYSP) designation, indicating a high level of knowledge and experience within the realm of cybersecurity.
Do you have experience within our industry? Different industries have different needs in terms of security. If you are bound by regulations such as HIPAA or PCI, does the consultant have the knowledge and experience required to incorporate those regulations into your security plan?
Who will perform the necessary work? If you are working with a consultant who will implement your security upgrades, be sure to determine who will be actually doing the work. In some cases, the experienced principal of the firm conducts the analysis and makes recommendations, and then sends less-experienced individuals to conduct the work. Know who you will be working with and their qualifications from the start.
Of course, cost is always a factor, but as with anything, the least expensive option is not always the best option. Keep in mind that you will be trusting this person (or team) with your most valuable and sensitive data, and select a consultant who has both the technical and the project management skills necessary to ensure your business is fully protected.