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Consumer vs. business attitude to security: how do startups know if it’s time to grow up?

By Alexander Moiseev, Chief Business Officer, Kaspersky

Leading entrepreneurship magazines are filled with stories about how people started their businesses and quickly achieved success — turning their business from a hobby or a quick and dirty idea into an actual small company. From a being a chef to founding a food startup or from working in an office as a software developer to developing their own service, or from a young mother to an owner of an online store, people can dramatically transform their careers.

Transformation from individual entrepreneurship, which is often a hobby, to a real business, occurs so quickly that sometimes newly successful business leaders do not even have time to realize the gravity of their new status. I noticed this when talking with guys from our Innovation hub — Kaspersky’s dedicated department where we scout internal and external innovative startups. They see themselves as entrepreneurs, but not yet the users of full-fledged business services (for example, messaging, videoconferencing, collaboration cloud services and storage).

The line between the two states is indeed very thin. However, if new business leaders become aware of their new status, they can make their lives much easier, solving business problems faster and more effectively.

IKEA for business

Here is a very clear example of how this can be done. Let’s use the story of Wendy and Peter. Peter works as a cook, and in his free time, he experiments with healthy desserts and sells them through his Instagram account. Wendy works as a consultant in a large firm and dreams of exchanging the office routine for something more exciting. Once Peter and Wendy know they can rely on each other’s support, why not step into the wonderful unknown world of running their own small business? After thinking it over, they decided that their resources and skills are great for opening a small café with trendy healthy desserts and drinks in a busy city neighborhood. A new business captures their imagination and they feel like pioneers who have to go to accomplishing their goal.

The business plan was written, the documents were ready, the menu was drawn up, and the right space had been found. It was time to buy furniture, accessories and utensils to turn their new space into a lovely café, so they visit IKEA. They entered as new apartment owners, striving to fill their store with new products. After having thought through the design and choosing the right products on the retailer’s website, they go around the store for a long time with their trolley, picking up cups, spoons, chairs, plants. They wasted precious hours doing this, and for entrepreneurs who occasionally combine several jobs in one at the start of business, this lost time is extremely valuable.

The fact is that IKEA has a special service — IKEA Business, which works with companies and simplifies their purchasing tasks. Through this service, as a business owner, you can choose a finished interior or individual products, order delivery and installation, and even do it all on credit. A ritual passage through the IKEA exhibition halls is not necessary; everything can be done online, saving time and effort, which means money for new business. But neither Peter nor Wendy paid attention to this service, but chose a less effective, longer journey.

Cybersecurity for maturing businesses

All the characters in this story are fictional, and any chance that this has happened to real people is just a coincidence, but it illustrates the trend that we found among small businesses, including our customers that use consumer tools instead of special offers for business.

We interviewed nearly 700 companies with less than 50 employees around the world, and a quarter (25%) of them admitted that they use products for home use to protect their business from cyberthreats. This confirms what we see through our sales analytics as well — consumer IT security products are purchased by businesses, and the share of these sales is remarkable, it is not about several occasional cases per year. Basically, these are companies that consist of several people, some of which have just recently left individual entrepreneurship, and some have had their business for some time already, with a staff of three to ten employees.

Perhaps this option seems easier, cheaper and faster for them. It is likely that they do not have full-time IT specialists, they do not need to set up special policies, analyze threat events or manage hundreds of devices. They just need to ‘set and forget’ their IT security for reasonable money. And it seems that a home-based product for family protection provides all they need.

What is wrong with consumer protection

Security tailored for consumers is a great thing and it is possible to use it for business protection. It is possible to protect several devices with one license including PCs and mobile devices. However, it still lacks some features and can’t meet all business demands, even for small companies.

What if a company has not five but 20 employees or the business is growing very fast and the number of employees is constantly increasing? Then it suddenly needs several licenses of consumer product but a person who manages protection won’t be able to manage all devices together. The business will not have the visibility it needs across all devices and the status of their protection. In addition, consumer products cannot be used for server protection, so file servers where a company normally stores all business data will not be safe.

Changing mindsets

The use of inappropriate services and products, is not necessarily fatal for businesses, and even cybersecurity is not an exception. The key takeaway from this story is the idea that companies should realize they are actually businesses.

This means they need to consider everything from a point of view that benefits the company and ensures efficiencies. Companies must find optimal solutions to solving problems — whether it’s buying furniture for a restaurant or managing the logistics of order deliveries from a store in Tokyo to Copenhagen. These small steps into a big business will not harm progress, but, most likely, will help to save money and time. Moreover, a properly organized cyber-defense will help secure all these effective business processes and the results of entrepreneurial work.