Creating A Cyber Security Plan

Creating a cyber plan is an important step that small and medium-sized businesses can take to help improve cyber resiliency and reduce overall cyber risk.

You can get started by identifying valuable information and systems, understanding major threats and applying risk management best practices to your business.

The checklist below from the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security outlines the measures you should consider when developing your cyber plan.

  • Develop an incident response plan. If you have a plan, you can quickly respond to incidents, restore critical systems and data, and keep service interruptions and data loss to a minimum. Your plan should include strategies for backing up data at another secure location.
  • Patch operating systems and applications. When software issues or vulnerabilities are identified, vendors release patches to fix bugs, address known vulnerabilities, and improve usability or performance. Where possible, enable automatic patches and updates for all software and hardware to prevent threat actors from exploiting these issues or security vulnerabilities.
  • Use strong user authentication. Implement user authentication policies that balance security and usability. Ensure your devices authenticate users before they can gain access to your systems. Wherever possible, use multi-factor authentication (MFA).
  • Back up and encrypt data. Copy your information and critical applications to one or more secure locations, such as the cloud or an external hard drive. If a cyber incident or natural disaster happens, these copies can help you continue business activities and prevent data loss. Backups can be done online or offline and can also be done in three different iterations: full, differential or incremental. Test your backups regularly to ensure you can restore your data.
  • Enable security software. Activate firewalls and install anti-virus and anti-malware software on your devices to thwart malicious attacks and protect against malware. Ensure you download this software from a reputable provider. Install Domain Name System (DNS) filtering on your mobile devices to block out malicious websites and filter harmful content.
  • Train your employees. Tailor your training programs to address your organization’s cyber security protocols, policies, and procedures. Having an informed workforce can reduce the likelihood of cyber incidents.
  • Secure cloud and outsourced services. Get to know a service provider before you contract them. Make sure the service provider has measures in place to meet your security requirements and needs. Know where a service provider’s data centres are located. Different countries have different privacy laws and data protection requirements.
  • Secure websites. Protect your website and the sensitive information it collects. Encrypt sensitive data, ensure your certificates are up to date, use strong passwords or passphrases on the backend of the site, and use HTTPS for your site. If you have outsourced your website, ensure your site’s host has security measures in place.
  • Secure mobile devices. Choose a device deployment model. Will your organization provide employees with corporately owned devices or will you allow employees to use personal devices for work? Ensure employees can only use approved applications and can only download applications from trusted sources.
  • Access control and authorization. Apply the principle of least privilege to prevent unauthorized access and data breaches. Employees should only have access to the information that they need to do their jobs. Each user should have their own set of log-in credentials, and administrators should have separate administrative accounts and general user accounts.
  • Establish basic perimeter defences. Defend your networks from cyber threats. For example, use a firewall to defend against outside intrusions by monitoring incoming and outgoing traffic and filtering out malicious sources. Use a virtual private network (VPN) when employees are working remotely to secure the connection and protect sensitive information.
  • Configure devices securely. Take the time to review your device’s default settings and make modifications as required. At a minimum, we recommend changing default passwords (especially administrative passwords), turning off location services, and disabling unnecessary features.
  • Secure portable media. Storing and transferring data using a portable media device, like a USB key, is convenient and cost-effective, but they can be prone to loss or theft. Maintain an inventory of all assets. Use encrypted portable storage devices, if possible, and sanitize devices properly before reusing or disposing of them.

Are you a business owner with general questions about how you can reduce your cyber risk or about getting a cyber insurance policy? Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) can help. Contact IBC’s free Consumer Information Centre by calling 1-844-2ask-IBC (1-844-227-5422) or visit us at

Disclaimer: Insurance Bureau of Canada’s Cyber Savvy Assessment for Business Owners provides general information about cyber risk for your convenience only. This information should not be construed as providing specific cyber security advice.