Tuesday, May 28

How to Protect Your Small Business from Cyber Threats

If you’re like many small business owners, you might think you don’t need to worry about cyber attacks. Eighty-two percent of small business owners have said that they don’t think they need to implement cybersecurity measures because they don’t think their company information is worth stealing. Think again.

Small businesses are very vulnerable to cyber threats, precisely because they think they’re not worth a hacker’s time. Data breaches affecting large companies may get all the press, but big corporations like Target and even government agencies know they’re at risk, and they have the budget to to easily implement comprehensive and sweeping threat detection and prevention plans. Small businesses are easier targets because many don’t even bother with cybersecurity measures, and the information they have, such as customers’ and vendors’ personally identifiable information (PII), is still valuable to criminals. In 2019, 43 percent of data breaches affected small businesses. Sixty percent of small businesses targeted by data breaches go out of business within six months of an attack, due to reputational damage and the high costs of recovering from such a blow.

Fortunately, you don’t need a huge cybersecurity budget or a dedicated IT staff to keep your business safe from cyber threats. Advanced threat protection tools can help you detect and respond to threats before they do damage, but you and your employees also need to understand what you’re up against. Frequent, regular cybersecurity training, mobile, and network security, physical security, and limiting access can all help protect your business from cyber crooks.

Know the Threats

The most important step towards protecting your business from even the most advanced threats is to know what threats are out there. Stay abreast of cybersecurity news so you and your employees can know what new email phishing scams are popping up, what new malware is going around, and what attacks might look like. Familiarize yourself and your staff with terms like phishing, social engineering, man in the middle (MitM), distributed denial of service (DDoS), advanced persistent threat, malware, ransomware, zero day threat, and SQL injection. When you know what strategies hackers might use to gain access to your information, you’ll be better equipped to defend yourself.

Train Frequently and Regularly

Don’t assume that your staff knows how to respond to cyber threats. Perform regular training to make sure staff are educated about threats and know how to recognize phishing emails and social engineering attacks. Training can also help staff understand the importance of physical and virtual security protocols, like restricting public access to your facility and using two-factor authentication.

Backup Important Data

Ransomware attacks, in which criminals cut off access to your data and systems in order to extort a ransom to get back your data, are becoming increasingly common. Protect yourself from these and other attacks that could restrict access to your important data, as well as just plain system failure, by backing up your important data in a secure cloud location. Use a secure cloud solution tailored to enterprise needs.

Prioritize Virtual and Physical Security

Physical and virtual security of your system, data, and devices should be a top priority. Use internet firewalls, comprehensive antivirus software, and secure WiFi networks. Work with card processors and banks to make sure your payments are as secure as possible. Insist on using two-factor authentication and secure passwords and on changing passwords every 90 days. Nix the bring your own device (BYOD) policy — issuing mobile devices and laptops, if necessary, is safer, since you have more control over what happens on them and can install the antivirus software of your choice on these devices. Secure your facility against physical intrusion, especially those areas where network computers are kept.

Limit Access to Sensitive Data

Does every single one of your employees need access to all of your company’s data? Instead of trusting everyone with everything, it’s much safer to limit access to sensitive data only to those who need it to do their jobs. That might mean trusting no one but yourself with important information so be it. You never know when a disgruntled employee or former employee might decide to exact revenge by stealing data or even when someone might make a mistake that unknowingly exposes your organization to risk. If employees don’t have access to sensitive data, it’s harder for them to compromise it.

If you own a small business, you may be more vulnerable to cyber threats than you realize. Protecting your company means protecting your livelihood and that of your employees, so be sure to take cyber security seriously.