SunTrust Bank Shines Spotlight on Cybersecurity for Small to Mid-size Companies

Kim Wade

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

October was National Cyber Security Awareness Month, and while the annual campaign aims to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity on a national level, we are becoming more aware each day that the local level is just as susceptible to cyber threats. 

Jay Murray, Augusta market president for SunTrust Bank, says most businesses in his area have a preparedness plan for disasters like hurricanes. “They all spend time and effort to make sure the plan is right and suits their overall needs as a business.”

So, it was surprising for his team at SunTrust Bank to learn that more than 50 percent of middle market companies do not have an up-to-date cybersecurity plan and 30 percent have no plan at all, according to a National Center for Middle Market survey. 

Through a SunTrust cybersecurity survey of middle market and small businesses, his team found that more than 90 percent of businesses believe a cybersecurity event would impact their bottom line, and two-thirds say it would be significant. 

The reason? “Many middle to smaller market businesses don’t know where to start to build a plan,” Murray explains. “Most likely, they may not be budgeting for that monetary investment to build a cybersecurity plan.”

That’s where Stuart Smith, executive security advisor at SunTrust Bank, comes into the plan. He has more than 17 years of professional experience in the information security field working in the Department of Defense and the private sector. As part of SunTrust’s “Lighting the Way to Financial Well-Being” campaign, experts in different areas of business safety and security are recruited as part of SunTrust’s overall team to educate clients and help businesses stay up-to-date in all areas of business security.

“From a general cybersecurity perspective, we see these threats change all the time,” Smith says. “Some businesses have trouble keeping up with that. The biggest fear we see from our clients is the theft of customer data. And we know that can also lead to more crimes down the road. Cyber fraud has an immediate impact on a business.”

Smith lists several threats to businesses: ID theft, destruction of data and ransomware—all of which he says can be catastrophic events.

His advice?  “It has to start from the top down,” he explains. “Making cybersecurity a priority has to start with the leadership of a company. Then, you have to have dialogue with your employees to set the tone and direction for the company. Without the guidance from leadership, it is difficult to make sufficient change in your security.”

He also states that individual accountability is important as well. “You have to ask, who is responsible for insuring each duty is taken care of? Then, make sure that individual has the tools needed.”

He adds that employees also need to understand security awareness.

“Don’t be afraid to get help. It’s likely you may need outside help to build or improve your cybersecurity measures.”

But making those preparations are not free, and Murray says that’s where SunTrust comes in. 

“At SunTrust, we are a purpose-driven financial institution and we are committed to ‘Lighting the Way to Financial Well-Being.’ We see cybersecurity as another tool in our toolbox to help light that way.”

“You say you can’t afford to add cybersecurity to your business plan? That’s where we can step in with bank loans, opening lines of credit and showing you where you can possibly cut back to reallocate funds for a robust cybersecurity plan. We can help develop that financial plan, and we can connect you with resources like Stuart.”

“Business owners are so focused on running their business that it’s hard sometimes to take a step back to explore long-term concerns that don’t seem imminent and figure out the necessary plans.”

Smith adds that even with these highly publicized data breaches we’ve seen in the news this past year, some small to mid-size companies still wonder if they are targets as well.

“We are all targets in one way or another,” he explains. “Bad guys are always looking to steal data.”