Hiring a Cyber Security Consultant? 5 Questions to Ask First

Cyber SecurityHow effective have small businesses been at protecting security of their own data and accounts, not to mention the security and privacy of their customers’ information and accounts? And what steps should business owners be taking to reinforce their data security?

A guest post on the forbes.com blog from Newtek, The Small Business Authority, asks how worried should small businesses be regarding cyber security? The authors say that attacks capable of taking down large computing networks have increased by 700 percent, just this year!

And hacking, also known as cyber intrusion, has also become more widespread and brazen. If even major technology brands like Apple are vulnerable, do small businesses even stand a chance?

There’s an interesting analogy between car crashes and criminal cyber activity—the cost of, preparation for and  likelihood of being involved in. The likelihood of both is fairly high, and you should prepare and protect yourself in similar ways: Training, awareness, maintaining safety standards and even keeping insurance coverage. But for small businesses, the chances of a cyber attack are even greater. Some studies say that over half of all small businesses in the U.S. have already been involved in at least one breach, with more likely in the future.

So, the best next step may be engaging a cyber security consultant, if you haven’t already. Cyber security is so serious with so many ramifications. You can’t just rely on your bank, your own knowledge or your own internal (or contracted) general IT resources.

Since “cyber security” is everybody’s hot button, you can bet that there are varying levels of expertise among those calling themselves “consultants.” So selecting the advisor you’re going to trust with your business’ and your customers’ protection is probably the most important decision you’ll make. Security gurus The System Experts suggest that before you sign on with a security consultant for their services, there are five essential questions every business owner should ask. What you’re after here, they say, is whether a potential consultant is already expert in small business cyber security or whether they’ll be using their relationship with you and your business as OJT, or on-the-job training. You definitely want the former.

Here are the five questions geared to help you make a sound and lasting hiring decision:

    • What are the legal and/or regulatory requirements that my business should be concerned with—and how much do you know about them?


    • Have you provided similar services to other businesses in my industry, and what were the needs and services? Can we contact them as a reference?


    • Here’s our situation—how would you approach it?


    • What are your opinions on what’s happening now regarding specific cyber security issues?


    • If all seems well at this point, move on to questions about the consultant, his ior her background, the business, etc.

Overall, you’re looking for knowledge and the ability to think quickly and articulate clearly and coherently. Don’t be bowled over techno-geek speak (aka, BS!), the authors say. You need someone who can translate complicated issues into clear and simple terms. Additionally, pay attention to how you feel while just talking to this person. Hopefully, it’s a pleasant experience, because when you are actually working with a consultant, it will involve a lot of conversations, probably over a period of months.
Image courtesy of chanpipat / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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