Cybersecurity is often thought of to be a problem for governments and established corporate entities, but the truth of the matter is that cyber criminals are attacking more small and midsize businesses than ever before.
Many of the attacks come in the form of phishing scams, Denial-of-Service (DOS) attacks, and malware that can infect a computer system and spread across a network.
Attackers have various motives. Some want to steal data in an attempt to commit credit card fraud. The recent data breach at Equifax, one of three major credit reporting agencies that houses sensitive personal information on millions of North Americans, shows us important data protection really is and how sensitive the security process can be.
Small businesses, in particular, aren’t generally well secured against cyberattacks because of restrictions related to resources, both financial and manpower related. In fact, 43% of all cyberattacks target small businesses (up from 18% in 2011). On any given day, any company can fall victim to a hacking, malware or ransomware attack (and data breach). Fortunately, it only takes a few steps to effectively protect against cyber criminals and mitigate the impact of a cyberattacks.
Cybersecurity must be a top priority for small businesses, especially those who can’t afford to lose expensive and valuable customer data that you use to help grow your business.
We’ve outlined a list of simple and efficient cybersecurity tips to keep your small business protected and minimize risks related to hacking, malware and ransomware.
Encrypt Your Data
Data encryption, a way to secure information with cryptography, is one of the most important ways to secure data when sending and receiving. Criminals have a higher likelihood of gaining access and stealing data that’s not encrypted. Special private and shared encryption keys can facilitate the safe transmission of your data, but these techniques must be used properly to be trusted across the entire organization.
Train Employees to Create Cybersecurity Awareness
Awareness must be built into the infrastructure of business in order to be truly effective. This means you should make investments in training employees to understand the types of cyber attacks and how to follow a distinct set of policies designed to mitigate their impacts.
Employees are often the weakest link in the cyber security chain. Working with a cybersecurity consultant or cybersecurity consulting firm can help you establish a strategy to train your employees on how to maintain a safe digital presence. As more sensitive information is being passed between computer systems and networks, it’s more important than ever to consider the implications a cyber attack could have on your business and how to mitigate the threats these risks pose.
Here are a few strategies to get your employees onboard with your cybersecurity strategy:
- Conduct seminars frequently
- Regularly talk to employees about cybersecurity
- Teach employees how to recognize an attack
- Regularly test their IT security knowledge
- Make your policies related to hacking, data breaches and the use of personal devices clear
Improve Password Strength
Don’t be that company that gets hacked because every employee within the organization uses passwords like “1234” or “ABCD.” A weak password policy is an invitation for hackers to crack your system code. The stronger the password, the harder job it is for someone to crack it. Outline a password policy to be followed by all employees that encourages them to use different numerals, upper- and lower-case letters, special characters and a minimum length requirement.
Control systems and network access
Never allow an outsider or unauthorized person to use your system, including licensed computer technicians. If an outside IT professional requires access to your computer, never leave them unsupervised. Lock your computer when you leave for the night and encourage staff to do so as well.
Update software regularly
Don’t ignore pop up messages reminding you to upgrade/update your software. These updates are invaluable when it comes to computer security and without them, your machine will be more vulnerable to malware and hacking attacks.
Software providers releases these updates for a reason: to address security risks in existing products. Generally, updates will contain any vulnerabilities and enhance the existing product.
Always secure your Wi-Fi networks
Hide your Wi-Fi network and secure it to avoid unauthorized access. Steps to take include:
- Encrypt your wireless access point
- Disable access from outside networks
- Perform network scans regularly
Select backup processes carefully
Data backups are essential to effective security, but mismanagement can make them vulnerable to cyberattacks. If you’ve chosen to perform backups using a cloud storage service, your data is stored at a remote location. Any negligence gives unauthorized people access to data easily. It’s essential that small businesses always encrypt and password-protect documents before storing them in a cloud or remote server. Taking that extra step goes a long way in providing you the peace of mind that you’ve added an extra layer of protection to sensitive data and remotely secured documents.
Establish a Culture of Safety And Security to Maximize Protection
Cybersecurity is more than just a topic of discussion to gloss over. It should be among the highest priorities of your organization. A single cyber event can have disastrous consequences for any company, no matter its size. Ensure you’ve taken the steps necessary to establish a culture of safety and protection – it’s one of the best ways to keep your networks secure and sensitive data protected.
When all members of an organization understand how to best protect an organization’s digital assets, their response to a breach will be much more effective. Cyber attacks are inevitable in today’s business environment. Understanding how to respond to them and having a plan in place that mitigates their impact are important cybersecurity practices that will help you minimize any damage and keep your business operating at full capacity.