While the U.P. serves as a safe haven for its residents, businesses face the same cyber risks as the rest of the nation

Did you know that there is a proven correlation between emotionally charged events and increases in cyberattacks?

Following a year of dramatic elections, social movements and a tough pandemic, it is no surprise to cybersecurity experts that over 36 billion records were exposed to data breaches during the first half of 2020. Several U.P. businesses, municipalities, hospitals and nonprofits were included among those records.

The lifestyle benefits of living in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula–safe neighborhoods, friendly neighbors, extremely low crime rates, close communities, and the pureness of the landscape–keep the people who live here separated from the world outside. It’s easy for Yoopers to feel complacent and safe, but businesses across the region are turning their attention to cybersecurity to protect their livelihoods against bad actors.

Toward the end of last year, InvestUP and Northern Michigan University (NMU) attracted Northcross Group (NCG) to use Marquette as a new office location and a feeder for new talent development. The engagement started with an academic partnership between NMU and NCG.  The academic partnership features an internship program for Northern students, cybersecurity awareness and collaboration in advancing skill development for digital economy careers, such as security and risk management, throughout the U.P.

In addition to bringing jobs to the region, the company’s President, Chris Bender, has looked to build relationships with the local business community, offering his advice to other businesses to prepare and protect themselves against attacks. Bender says, “Cybersecurity is not something any business can leave to chance—no matter its size or industry.” He continued, “Technology is such an intricate part of the economy and how we interact with others. A strong understanding of the risks that apply to your business is essential.”

Bender offers three pieces of advice:

  1. Every business, no matter the type or size, should take cybersecurity seriously.
    Every business relies on technology in some capacity. This means that every business is vulnerable to an attack. Cybersecurity is fundamental to any business structure and should be treated in the same manner as things like accounting, legal and HR.
  1. Understand how your business operates in the digital space.
    The first step to protecting your business is understanding what you need and how your business will operate digitally. Start by answering questions like:
    • Where is our data?
    • What systems are we using?
    • How will we protect our data?
    • Who will be working with our data?

    Knowing the answers to these questions, you can create a cybersecurity plan that fits your business. Your cybersecurity plan is something that should grow and evolve as your business does. You should use it as a resource to make prudent decisions and set priorities. If you need technical or programmatic assistance, reach out to a security or advisory firm as needed. There are also excellent free resources available online for businesses, like the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

  1. Be prepared for an attack
    Determining how to deal with a cybersecurity incident while it is happening is not ideal, so it’s important to be prepared. Having a plan of action, setting expectations of who does what, and knowing how to engage assistance is important. As with almost everything else, practice and testing of your plans is important. Also, remember to keep your plan current and reflective of your current operating environment.

Protecting your data and systems is just the same as protecting any other type of business asset.  It is an ongoing activity that needs to be part of how things are done on a day-to-day basis. 

Other cyber-related resources for Upper Peninsula include:

  • State of Michigan – Provides cybersecurity information and resources for individuals, businesses and government/educational organizations

About InvestUP
InvestUP is a private sector-led economic development organization keenly focused on driving economic growth across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Founded by the region’s leading private sector businesses and the region’s universities, its mission is to deliver business and job growth across the peninsula.
www.investupmi.com

About Northcross Group
Northcross Group (NCG), with offices in Maine, Virginia and soon Marquette, has been successfully leading the charge for enhanced security in large and small companies through systems integration and cybersecurity for the past fifteen years.
www.northcrossgroup.com

About Northern Michigan University
Northern Michigan University (NMU), located in Michigan’s unique Upper Peninsula, is a dynamic, four-year, public, comprehensive university which offers 170 degree programs to nearly 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students.
www.nmu.edu

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