As most of us already know, running a small business can be tough. As someone who calls the shots in an emerging enterprise, you need to find new ways to improve your venture’s cash flow and ensure the longevity of your business. But in today’s data-driven world, one simple data breach could derail your entire operation, tarnish your reputation, and drain your funds.
Small businesses are often targeted by cybercriminals due to limitations in IT staff and technologies that larger enterprises have the means to acquire. As such, it’s vital for small business owners to proactively bolster their cybersecurity through strategic and cost-efficient ways. Sometimes, this means getting convenient sources of funding like online loans to acquire solutions such as third-party IT services and security software.
That said, cybersecurity requires a multifaceted approach that encompasses both your tech and your staff. Tech alone will not guarantee impenetrability, and it takes everyone in your small company to achieve a robust security posture. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the measures that you and your team must apply to stay on top of security, finances, and brand image.
Be Aware of Common Cyber Threats
Cyberattacks are constantly evolving, but it pays to know the most prevalent threats. Malware, or malicious software, is any type of file or program that seeks to penetrate your computers, servers, and networks. Malware can come in the form of ransomware, which acts similar to a virus with the specific intent of hiding your computer’s files until a “ransom” is paid.
Phishing is another threat that aims to scam people by convincing them to click seemingly legitimate links that turn out to be malware. Mostly transmitted through emails, a phishing attack is a form of social engineering tactic that cybercriminals use to acquire personal information from unsuspecting individuals. Phishing is one of the most popular methods of online scamming and has cost over $5 billion in losses over the past three years.
Other threats worth mentioning are watering holes, in which hackers transform legitimate websites into scam sites and drive-by downloads where a fake website will try to install software without your permission.
Conduct Audits of Your Digital Inventory
To know how to best protect your systems, you need to have a snapshot of your tech’s overall security. If you haven’t done so yet, enlist the help of a cybersecurity expert or IT consultant to help you identify vulnerabilities in your devices and networks. You can also do your due diligence and get a legitimate third-party service to perform risk assessments of your entire digital arsenal. And most importantly, you need to conduct these audits periodically to ensure proper cyber hygiene across all systems.
Install Software Updates Regularly
Most types of software periodically roll out patches or updates to address vulnerabilities in the product’s previous version. It takes a few minutes of your time to install these updates, but you can always eliminate the burden by turning on automatic updates for company software. Moreover, it may help to mandate your staff to regularly report their compliance with software updates on their work-related devices.
Invest in Efficient Security Software
This one may be a no-brainer, but it’s still worth mentioning that highly efficient cybersecurity software can do wonders for your security posture. Antivirus and anti-malware software, in particular, are essential because they identify and neutralize threats to your networks and devices. For utmost protection, you may require cybersecurity software to be installed by everyone on the team, including your remote staff.
With the complexity of today’s cyberattacks, it would be ideal to supplement your tech with next-generation solutions. These may include features such as email filtering and machine learning-based threat response that eliminate threats before they even penetrate your systems.
Use Firewall Protection
Firewalls work together with your antivirus software to keep your systems protected. While your antivirus software protects your devices, a firewall secures your network by blocking traffic from your private network. Most operating systems already have a firewall that you can enable, but you can also opt for advanced firewall software for extra protection. This can be useful for remote employees who may need the latest firewall solutions on their own devices.
Apply Multi-Factor Authentication and Use Separate Work Accounts
Small businesses handle a lot of personal identifiable information (PII) such as addresses, credit card numbers, and Social Security data. To secure your company and customer data, it may help to apply measures such as multi-factor authentication for logins and other important procedures like payment approvals. Essentially, multi-factor authentication ensures that users are legitimate by using more verification methods other than a password. It may also help to have your staff use separate work accounts to limit sensitive data within your enterprise—and keep potential threats out.
Have a Backup of Your Data
Attacks like ransomware hold your data hostage, which is devastating for small businesses that don’t back up their data. If such attacks bypass all your security measures, you need to make sure that you have another copy of your data in a safe place.
Cloud services are a must for every organization these days due to their convenience and security in backing up data. Aside from allowing everyone on the team to collaborate and access workload online 24/7, cloud platforms can serve as a repository of your data which can be synced and downloaded from any device. Aside from cloud services, it may help to have another backup in an external device that isn’t connected to the web.
Remind Your Team of Best Practices
Nearly everyone on the team interacts with devices and networks daily, so it’s vital that everyone knows how to best protect the data stored in them. Consider investing in staff training to instill basic cyber hygiene practices such as using strong passwords (preferably stored in a reliable password management tool), avoiding public WiFi for work operations, and identifying suspicious emails and websites. In addition, you can make these cybersecurity practices mandatory and have cyber-related policies in place as an added layer of security.
Delivering Big Help to Small Businesses
Small business owners are bound to put in a lot of time and energy to ensure the success of their ventures. With all the hard work that goes into running a business, it would be a shame if everything gets unraveled because of an easily preventable breach. While it’s true that you need to put in some effort to fortify your cyber defenses, the task doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Sometimes, it’s the simplest practices that make a big difference in preventing disastrous consequences to the livelihood you’ve worked so hard to achieve.