If you think the small business you own isn’t at risk for getting hacked, you are joined by a whopping 87% of small business owners who think the same way. But hackers are more likely to prey on a small business because they typically have a good amount of data and very little security.
In fact, about half of small businesses have experienced a cyber attack. In many cases, these attacks force business owners to permanently close their doors within a few months.
Don’t lose your customers’ trust or leave your employees jobless. It’s time to implement more strategies to protect delicate information that’s pertinent to your business’ operations.
In this article, we laid out 7 important tips you can implement today to improve the cybersecurity for small businesses.
Types of Cyber Attacks
Hackers are finding new and inventive ways to exploit sensitive data every day. Whether their purpose is to steal customer credit card information or find secret business files, knowing some common types of cyber attacks can help you in learning how to protect your small business.
Inside attacks are completed by employees. These are people who will take advantage of the information they have access to in order to improperly use company information.
This type of cyber attack is most common in disgruntled employees who may have been fired. But it also happens with people who are still working at a company.
Malware is short for malicious software. It is a program a hacker will design in order to either damage your computer or gain access to its contents.
Viruses, spyware, worms, and ransomware are all forms of malware. In many cases, malware is transferred via email.
Phishing is another cyber attack that is commonly performed through emails. A hacker can build a website that looks like one you already trust and use.
When you enter your username and password into the fraudulent site, they will take that information to sign into the real version of the website under your name. Spear phishing is a more involved version of a phishing attack.
A hacker will have to learn your habits first. Then they will infiltrate your network using the information they’ve found.
Cybersecurity for Small Businesses
We’ve seen all the reports of data breaches at large corporations like Target and Home Depot. These corporations experience some losses, but they typically continue to remain active and successful.
The unfortunate reality is, most small businesses can’t recover the same way. Here are 7 steps you can begin to take today to protect everything you’ve worked for.
1. Train Your Employees
The first step in making sure your small business is secure is training your employees. There should be a cybersecurity policy set in place that is mandatory for everyone to follow.
Some elements the policy should highlight are keeping personal employee, vendor, and customer data safe. Additionally, you need to have a plan for employees to follow in case there is a security breach.
This way, the problems can be resolved as quickly as possible with little to no downtime.
There should also be password rules set in place for every computer system, be it mobile or desktop based that your employees use. Employees shouldn’t share passwords and they should be unique for each program they have to sign into.
Using the same password across a variety of programs will put you at risk. You should also implement two layers of authentication for programs that hold private data.
It can involve the employees signing into an account with a password and then having to enter a pin number or answer a security question to finish the sign on process.
2. Complete Regular Updates
There are various ways to keep your computers and other operating systems up to date. To make sure everything is secure, you need to make sure these things are updated regularly.
This includes updating:
- Internet browsers
- Both security and non-security software
- Cloud software
- All mobile apps, including security
- Passwords and pins
In addition to keeping all your current devices up to date, you need to remove all the data from computers you plan on getting rid of. Don’t simply throw a computer in the trash.
There are IT professionals who can help with clearing all your data. Believe it or not, hackers will rummage through garbage to recover the information on a computer you thought was no longer working. And don’t forget, instead of getting rid of a computer, upgrading it is an option too.
Make backing up the data on your computers part of your ritual for updating all this information. Having a backup keeps your data safe in the event of a cyber attack or software malfunction.
For example, it’s okay to have files saved on your hard drive, but you should also have that information backed up in the cloud, on an external hard drive, or thumb drive. The original files and the backups should both be protected by passwords and encryption.
3. Restrict Access
Every employee doesn’t need access to every piece to customer or vendor data. Instead, make these things available on a need to know basis.
If looking through files or even having keys to your store or office isn’t mandatory for an employee to properly perform their job, they don’t need this information. This is especially important when employees unhappily leave the business.
You should be able to quickly change codes and passwords so that they aren’t able to tap into data that can be used to harm your company.
4. Never Use Public Wi-Fi
Your business should always have a secured Wi-Fi connection because hackers have been known to use it to access private files. Your employees are the only people who should have access to the company’s Wi-Fi, and in some cases, you can allow them to sign in without ever knowing the password.
If you run a business like an internet cafe where giving customers Wi-Fi access is important to your business model, set up a completely different Wi-Fi network for public access. This keeps unauthorized people from going into the business’ Wi-Fi and seeing information that they shouldn’t.
5. Cybersecurity Insurance
It’s great if you have general liability insurance for your business. But that plan won’t do you much good in the event of a cyber attack.
You can find a cybersecurity insurance plan that’s designed for small businesses. They are often tailored to fit your budget and risk exposure levels.
When you’re shopping for an insurance plan, look for one that combines first and third party coverage. First party coverage will help you recover lost funds from a breach. These costs might stem from hiring a lawyer or legal consultant or running a public relations campaign.
Third party coverage offers protection if your company caused the breach that ended up making sensitive information go public. You will be protected with this type of plan if you need a defense attorney because you were sued.
Shop around a bit when you’re looking for cybersecurity insurance. You want to go with a company that has a solid reputation and understands your needs.
6. Practice Your Plan
Your employees might be trained in all the important security procedures and you may have a thorough plan set in place that tells everyone what to do if there is a security breach.
But if that plan isn’t practiced and reviewed, it’s easy for people to forget what to do. Or even worse, they can hesitate during a real emergency.
If your company becomes the victim of a breach, it’s important to act as quickly as possible to avoid irreparable damage. Think about the fire drills we all had to do in school.
Practicing for a potential emergency will make all your preparation worth the time that was put into it.
Your drills should:
- Help you improve your recovery time
- Expose weaknesses that need to be addressed
- Strengthen your team
- Show you what software or hardware need work
- Be realistic
You should have a team meeting after each drill where you discuss the pros and cons of the outcome. In the beginning, it will definitely be shaky and you will be glad it’s just a drill.
However, when you continue to work at it, the results will improve.
7. Hire an Advisor
Unless your an IT pro, you can benefit from hiring an advisor for your small business to help you and your employees perfect your cybersecurity plans and options.
The firm you work with should be able to review all the efforts you’re already making and help you improve them. They can also educate you about your data security responsibilities and answer any questions you might have.
Interview a few different advisors before you hire one. Make sure you go with the firm where data security is high on their list of priorities
Learn more ways to protect your business and its assets here.
There’s no better time than the present to start working on a cybersecurity small business plan. Your brand and its success depend on it.
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