Did you know that 50% of small businesses have been targeted by cyber attacks and breached in the past 12 months?
(Source: Ponemon Institute, 2016)
It’s time to stop ignoring the risks of cyber attacks and take action.
Cyber attacks have become a real threat over the last decade and their frequency is increasing rapidly. Hackers target not only businesses but also individuals, although small businesses remain one of the easiest and most vulnerable targets. Small business owners simply don’t consider the risks until a breach happens, unlike big corporations that increasingly decide to employ data security specialists.
If your business is compromised, your customer base can be hijacked or even lost, including sensitive personal information. Often that is the reason why businesses shut down within months after being hacked, as restoring data and reputation proves to be incredibly difficult. You’ve definitely heard about recent ransomware attacks like “Wannacry”, that caused substantial damage not only to individuals and businesses, but even entire countries.
The good news are, you can take simple steps to protect yourself even from the most sophisticated cyber attacks.
- Strong passwords
This sounds simple, but most business owners don’t enforce any password policies. Strong passwords can become a serious obstacle for the hacker, especially with the 2-step verification which requires you to confirm new logins / account changes via phone.
- A strong password should consist of lower and uppercase letters, digits and special characters.
- It’s recommended to change your passwords every few months.
- It’s also necessary to secure your office Wi-Fi with a strong password.
Never use common passwords like “qwerty1234”.
- Educate your employees
Most cyber attacks are web based and target employees. Teaching your employees how to be safe online is one of the best ways to protect your company.
- Never open suspicious emails.
Make sure your company has email software that filters spam and malware.
- Don’t click on links you don’t recognize.
Ignore strange downloads that pop up in your browser. Those links can contain malware or ransomware.
- Make sure employees know the company’s security policies and follow them.
3. Data security
Always backup important data to make sure your business isn’t interrupted even in case something goes wrong. The safest place to store your backup is either in the cloud or on a server which is not on premises. There are many software options that will help you set up a reliable backup. Be careful with portable devices like laptops and smartphones as they can be easily lost or stolen. Enable a remote wipe feature on such devices in advance, so they don’t threaten your business once lost.
- It is recommended to do incremental backups once every few days.
- A full backup is recommended on weekly basis.
- Make sure access to the most sensitive data is limited to trusted people only.
- Data encryption is highly recommended.
- Software solutions
A business-grade antivirus and a malware suite are a must.
- It is important to keep your security software up-to-date and run the scans regularly.
- Set up a firewall to control incoming and outbound internet traffic and block all unauthorised activities. You can either use default settings or set up your own rules.
- Keep your operating system up-to-date. Keep in mind that many recent ransomware attacks like “Wannacry” relied on computers running unpatched software versions.
- Ask for help
Hiring a security expert can be a good idea, as it’s difficult for business owners to manage all IT processes by themselves. IT security consultants can be acquired relatively cheaply these days – cheaper than a full time IT manager and much cheaper than restoring business operations after a breach happens.
Regardless if you hire an expert or act independently, the most important thing is to start acting. Businesses that forget about security measures become easy targets.
The SmallBizRising Blog is designed to be an educational content hub pulling information, best practices and practical advice for the small business owner and features topics including accounting, marketing, technology and more. Be sure to subscribe to stay up to date with new content as it is posted. The blog was created by The Neat Company and receives contributed content from a group of contributing companies that provide technology, services and solutions to small businesses.