SaferNet CEO Highlights Top Three Measures Protecting SMBs From Cyberattacks

SaferNet CEO Highlights Top Three Measures Protecting SMBs From Cyberattacks

Interview by Nikola Djuric
Published: November 27, 2023

In an era where cybersecurity threats loom large for businesses of all sizes, understanding the role of virtual private networks (VPNs) in safeguarding data is more critical than ever.

DesignRush sat down with SaferNet CEO Brad Hawkins to delve into the crucial aspects of the company's VPN solution and its significance in fortifying small businesses against cyberattacks.

Join us as we uncover the multifaceted ways in which a robust VPN solution can be a game-changer, including:

  • What is a VPN and how it differs from a more complex ZTNA
  • What should SMBs consider when choosing a VPN deal for Cyber Monday
  • Key measures SMBs should implement to make their network bulletproof

Who is Brad Hawkins?

Brad Hawkins is an entrepreneur whose spirit has been instrumental in the development of the software-based cybersecurity company SaferNet, where he has served as the CEO for the past seven years. Throughout his 30-year-long career, Brad has authored five books and 10 online financial courses. He has sat on the board of several companies and non-profit organizations, while he was also involved in owning, leading and operating several other successful businesses.

DesignRush: For our audience who might be less familiar with VPN solutions, could you give an overview of what these services provide and why businesses need to be protected online?

A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is a service that creates a secure, encrypted connection. It's like a protected tunnel through which your internet data travels, keeping it safe from interception and cyber threats. As you can imagine, this is critical for any business.

There are a few reasons why:

  • Data protection - Every business handles sensitive data of some kind. That could be customer info, financial records or proprietary data. A VPN encrypts this data, ensuring that even if it is intercepted, it remains unreadable to unauthorized parties
  • VPN enhances security - Cyber threats are continuously on the rise. Hacking, malware and ransomware are all serious threats to any business, and it's paramount for them to safeguard their digital assets. A VPN provides an additional layer of security, preventing criminals from exploiting vulnerabilities a business may have
  • Regulatory compliance - Businesses are becoming more scrutinized for how they handle customer data, and a lot of industries have regulations mandating the protection of this data. A VPN helps businesses comply with these regulations by securing the data in transit

Every company has its unique mission and approach. In the case of SaferNet, what are the main problems that your platform is looking to address in the cybersecurity landscape?

SaferNet aims to address several key problems in the cybersecurity landscape with its 3-in-1 cybersecurity solution including an encrypted 24/7 always-on VPN, virus protection embedded into the VPN as well as 200 internet controls to help administrators manage all connected devices within their business with ease.

One of the primary issues SaferNet is trying to address is the need for a device-level security solution.

Given the proliferation of devices used in business operations, from smartphones to laptops, there is a threat that any of these devices could become a potential entry point for cyber threats. SaferNet ensures that every device connected to a business network is protected, regardless of its location or the type of network.

We recognize that not every business has the resources for a large IT department, especially SMBs. Therefore, we've designed SaferNet to be user-friendly, with a simple dashboard that allows for easy management and deployment, even for business owners with limited technical expertise.

We understand that services such as IP obfuscation or location spoofing are common with VPNs, and can help to enhance anonymity, but very often they interfere with essential services such as banking and other security-sensitive platforms.

SaferNet is tailored to provide robust security without impeding access to such critical services, ensuring businesses can operate smoothly without unnecessary disruptions.

The thing that has become a huge talking point over the last half of the decade is data privacy, and how companies can tighten their security by complying with regulatory frameworks. Nowadays, businesses need a cybersecurity solution that not only protects data but also ensures compliance with legal requirements.

Our VPN service helps businesses safeguard sensitive data and comply with legal requirements.

Lastly, we aim to address the need for an affordable and scalable cybersecurity solution. SMBs in particular need a solution that can fit their budget as well as being able to grow with them as they succeed in their business goals.

We offer flexible plans to cater to businesses of all sizes, as we believe cybersecurity should be accessible to everyone.

Get connected with the right cybersecurity company for your project.

When we talk about network security, is it now preferable for organizations to transition from traditional VPNs to Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA), and what factors should decision-makers consider before making this decision?

ZTNA operates on the "never trust, always verify" approach and can be the best option for many businesses. However, it's not a one-size-fits-all approach by any means.

A ZTNA approach is more complex to implement than a traditional VPN. If a larger business has a complex IT infrastructure and a large IT administration team, a ZTNA may be able to provide more effective security.

Still, implementing ZTNA can be resource-intensive and requires a more substantial upfront investment compared to traditional VPNs. However, SMBs with a simpler network would find traditional VPNs more than adequate and much more cost-effective.

In choosing a ZTNA over a VPN, a business needs to carefully assess the needs, resources, security requirements and future growth plans. It is best suited to large corporations, businesses directly involved in banking or those that are deeply embedded in institutes such as hospitals.

Ultimately, the key is to balance security needs with practical considerations to find the most suitable solution, as it may not be necessary or cost-effective for every organization.

What should consumers consider when choosing a VPN service in terms of features, security and pricing for Cyber Monday?

There is a slew of VPN services available, and without a doubt, there will be an abundant amount of deals and promotions available on Cyber Monday.

It's only natural to go for the "best deal," but consumers need to keep in mind quite a lot when selecting the best one:

  • Security Protocols and Encryption - Look for a VPN that offers strong encryption standards, such as AES-256, as well as a great and trusted security protocol, like OpenVPN
  • No-Log Policy - This means that the VPN provider doesn't record or store your information, or only does so for a limited time for the customers' benefit
  • Speed and Performance - One Achilles Heel of many VPNs is how they affect internet speed. Look for reviews on how a specific VPN maintains a good speed
  • UI and Accessibility - A great VPN should have an easy install process and a simple, intuitive interface
  • Compatibility - Ensure a VPN is compatible with all your devices and operating systems
  • Customer Support - Having a provider that is available through several communication channels is critical if you want to address your issue with ease
  • Pricing - A common complaint when a business signs up for a service during a sale is that they are unable to get their money back. A money-back guarantee provides users with peace of mind, allowing businesses to test the service risk-free. Keep the price of the service in mind too, as often you get what you pay for in terms of quality

When choosing a VPN for your future cybersecurity, a simple VPN is only a part of your cybersecurity concerns. This is why SaferNet has included all other cybersecurity tools that are needed to keep a small business safe.

Adding virus protection to a VPN is a unique strategy that is not found in other VPNs, as this prevents a user from using a VPN and winding up a bad website that is trying to get viruses inside your network. Without virus protection integrated into the VPN solution, users could see viruses storming directly into their network.

Is there a way that users can mitigate the issue of slower internet speeds when browsing with a VPN, especially in connection-dependent industries?


SaferNet, through our use of advanced technology and infrastructure, has been tested to show no speed loss. In fact, users may experience faster browsing speeds with SaferNet due to our ability to block trackers, which can slow down browsing by continuously sending and receiving data in the background.

To address the broader question of mitigating speed loss, it's important to understand how a VPN interacts with your internet connection. Concerns about speed loss stem from extra steps in data routing and in the encryption process.

At SaferNet, we've focused on optimizing these processes to ensure they don't impede internet speed. We use advanced encryption methods that secure data without significantly impacting speed, which is beneficial for industries where real-time data exchange is crucial.

The logo of the VPN provider SaferNet

Considering the magnitude of the recent DDoS attack on major tech companies, what are the top three measures that are most effective in protecting against modern cyber threats?

Employee training and educationare the ultimate protection against all cyber threats.

Attacks often exploit human error rather than software error, such as using weak passwords or clicking a phishing link. Therefore, a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy that includes regular employee training is crucial.

Employees should be educated about the latest cyber threats and best practices for digital security, such as recognizing phishing attempts, using strong passwords and securing their devices.

Phishing attempts in particular are one of the most popular attack vectors, and SaferNets anti-phishing features can significantly help cases where human error has occurred.

Businesses need to adopt a robust network security infrastructure.

This includes advanced firewall systems, regular audits and tools to monitor unusual traffic patterns. SaferNets "Entourage" feature, which detects background visitors to your network, can aid in monitoring this traffic.

For larger companies with advanced IT teams, it may be also worth implementing a tier security architecture that can help mitigate the impact.

Businesses should use the most advanced technologies and services to mitigate these attacks.

A cybersecurity solution is the shield every company can use to respond to threats very quickly. Services like VPNs and secure cloud storage play a critical role. SaferNet, for example, encrypts internet traffic, adding an extra layer of security which is especially beneficial for remote teams.

Check out our recent interview with NordLayer to learn more about setting great cybersecurity standards at your business.

Google, Amazon and a couple more tech giants stopped the largest DDoS attacks in history during August and September. In your view, what does this unprecedented scale of attack indicate about the evolving nature of cyber threats?

These attacks underscore a significant shift in the cybersecurity landscape. We saw an initial rise in attacks during the pandemic, which was predictable given that many had to work from home.

However, the number has continued rising even when many have returned to office. Cybercriminals are now employing more advanced techniques and demonstrating capabilities that suggest access to substantial resources, and in many cases even at a state level.

This increase and magnitude indicate that there is an inherent vulnerability in our centralized digital systems. Much of the world's digital infrastructure and key services are in the hands of a few major players. What this means is that an impact of any of them trickles down.

It's a stark reminder of the risks associated with such centralization and highlights the need for more distributed and resilient systems.

It's no longer a question of just having the right tools or technology. Businesses need the right strategies too, such as building redundancy into systems and having incident response plans.

These attacks should serve as a wake-up call to all businesses.

The cyber threat landscape is evolving, yet many businesses are lagging. We need to be prepared not only technically but also strategically to face these emerging challenges.

To learn about the most common misconceptions in cybersecurity, check out our interview with Tanium.

Considering major data breaches like the one recently faced by Boeing, what proactive strategies would you recommend SMBs implement to bolster their cybersecurity?

The data breach faced by Boeing serves as a critical reminder of the vulnerability of businesses of all sizes to cyber threats. For SMBs, who often do not have the resources of corporations like Boeing, the approach needs to be both strategic and practical.

One key point that SMBs must understand is that cybersecurity is not just a one-time thing, but an ongoing process.

The landscape as we discussed, is constantly evolving, and so are the methods used by cybercriminals. SMBs need to be adaptive in their approach to security.

Another aspect of this vigilance is regular risk assessments and audits.

SMBs must understand where their vulnerabilities lie so they can prioritize their efforts. This could be anything, from outdated software or operating systems to unsecured WiFi networks of their remote employees.

Once you can identify a vulnerability, it becomes much easier to manage.

Training and awareness are other priorities all SMBs should address.

The overwhelming majority of attacks occur due to human error, so training in regularity can greatly reduce these risks.

Practical tools are of course, invaluable. For SMBs, investing in a robust VPN service like SaferNet offers a layer of security that is both effective and cost-efficient.

SMBs need to adopt a proactive mindset.

Cybersecurity is not just defensive, it's about being one step ahead too. Keep software updated, use strong authentication methods and have an incident response plan in place.

Bolstering security means a combination of continuous risk assessment, employee training and leveraging practical tools like SaferNet. Create a culture of security awareness, and adopt practical measures to protect your business.

What do you see as the most important upcoming global trends in cybersecurity that our audience should be aware of?

I think the biggest trend the audience needs to be aware of isthe integration of AI and machine learning.

This applies not only to cybersecurity tools but also to cyberattacks.

Another trend that we've seen since the pandemic is theconcept of remote work.

While it has led to an increase in productivity and employee happiness, it has left the door wide open to cyber threats.

Many remote workers do their jobs in coffee or co-working spaces, and in these locations, public WiFi is used. Tools like SaferNet can play a key part in protecting business systems in these conditions.

The growing importance of regulatory compliance is also a key trend.

With data breaches becoming more common and severe, governments around the world are enacting stricter data protection regulations. Businesses need to not only protect their data but also ensure they are compliant with these regulations to avoid substantial fines and reputational damage.

This is leading to an increased focus on compliance-driven cybersecurity strategies.

We thank Brad and SaferNet for this amazing conversation. If you enjoyed it too, be sure to stay tuned for more of our interviews with industry experts!

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