Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Cybersecurity: Getting Serious About Safeguards

Attacks on large companies make headlines, but smaller companies, too, suffer cyberattacks. Here’s how to protect your business.

Chuck Provini knows he has a bright red bulls-eye painted on his back. As CEO of startup Natcore Technology, he hopes to develop technologies that will render the use of silicon crystals to make solar energy panels obsolete. Provini’s Rochester, New York-based company, which works with U.S. Department of Energy research labs, among others, to develop new technologies, represents a threat to China’s solar energy industry.

China’s position in solar energy is based on silicon, and the Chinese are targeting solar energy as a strategic industry of the future. The Chinese show no hesitation in trying to crack open the IT systems of American companies and government agencies to obtain proprietary information—despite President Xi Jinping’s promises to the contrary.

“Try to create several boxes that people cannot access and keep as many things away from the Internet as possible.”

“Small companies do not typically have the budget to build all the great and wonderful things that bigger companies do, and they still get hacked,” says Provini, who dealt with top-secret issues while serving in the U.S. military. “So you try to create several boxes that people cannot access and keep as many things away from the Internet as possible.”

One of his large shareholders in the cyber intelligence business was the first to recommend that Provini keep his secrets in different modules not connected to the Internet. “That’s what you learn—to keep modules that are independent and accessible only on a need-to-know basis. Sometimes the simplest mechanisms are best.”

Not everyone can follow Provini’s example. In fact, the vast majority of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) don’t have that option. Trends in the business world demand that smaller companies establish computerized supply chain connections with their larger customers and more connectivity, rather than less. This connectivity, in turn, creates vulnerability.

The hackers who breached Home Depot and Target won entry through suppliers. It is precisely because of their connections with larger companies that SMB companies get targeted.

“A lot of smaller company CEOs are saying, ‘It won’t happen to me,’” says Devon Nevius, executive vice president of Upward Technology in Portland, Oregon, which provides Internet security for about 50 small companies in that region. “They’re saying, ‘It’s more of a Home Depot thing.’ But that is naïve.”

Cloud computing, or the use of large company server farms to store data and use software on demand, is a hotly debated piece of the emerging debate about cybersecurity at SMBs. Some smaller company CEOs believe that basing crucial information in systems managed by Amazon Web Services, IBM or Microsoft makes their data and intellectual property safer because the big IT providers boast the latest technologies and the best brainpower. Others argue that the systems those big companies use to store the data of thousands of companies makes them an increasingly
attractive target for cyber villains and that it is only a question of time before they get hacked.

Many smaller companies use a hybrid form of cloud computing, meaning that some data and some functions are based in the cloud while others are located on-premises. Trying to understand the security implications of hybrid systems can be difficult as well.

Other technological trends also open doors for the bad guys. Many SMB CEOs haven’t realized that doing something as simple as outsourcing a call center creates an opening because of the application program interface (API) used to link the call center company and the customer. It can be attacked and employed as an entry point into all the company’s systems. Elsewhere, the trend called the Internet of Things (IoT)—the massive linking of sensors, cameras and computers—promises big productivity gains but will only intensify the security challenge.

Cybersecurity 2


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.