Cybersecurity Awareness for Small Businesses

As businesses continue to look to the internet and technology for more efficiency in operation, the risk of exposure to cybercrime increases. Although internet connections allow a business to expand its services to new markets and create more opportunities for growth, there is a dark side to the web that lies waiting for unsuspecting and unprotected companies. Media reports have shown an increase in the theft of digital information, with major retailers and financial services falling victim to attack.

Start With the Priorities

There are several key areas of protection that any business can address in order to protect against cyberthreats. Taking the following precautions protect both your business and your customers.

1. Thorough Training Practices

By knowing the threats your company faces, you can equip your employees with the tools and mindset they need to fend off or report an attack. Establish clear Internet and tech use policies with your staff, and make sure accountability practices enforce penalties whenever policy has been violated.

2. Use Firewalls and Antivirus

Password protected internet connections can’t fend off hackers and cybercrime. Your company needs security that can be provided by firewall measures and antivirus software. For both office computers and any employees who may work from home, an operating system’s firewall or online program can protect private data from being hacked. Installing the latest in security software and updating your operating systems can help defend against viruses and online threats. However, hackers are becoming more skilled at cracking firewall codes, so it may be in your best interest to turn over cybersecurity monitoring to an MDR service. This type of company can offer more advanced threat detection and cyber protection.

3. Include All Devices

Many business owners forget about how often mobile devices are used to conduct business, with employees sending or receiving work-related emails from personal devices. Mobile devices and tablets are a significant security risk, especially if they are able to access the company network or store confidential customer or company data. Require your employees to use password protection to access the device, and make sure company devices have a security app installed to avoid theft while on public networks. Require employees to have their data encrypted when sent through mobile devices, and establish procedures for reporting lost or stolen devices.

4. Limit Access

Each employee should have his or her own workstation and device, with their own unique login for the system. Require passwords to access the company network, and have employees change their password frequently. Limit administrative power to IT personnel and key leadership positions in the company. Think about the need to include multi-factor identification for your most sensitive data. Check the protocols that your vendors, banking institutions, and clients have established to verify transactions and protect any information that is exchanged. 

5. Backup Data

Even with cloud-based systems, it is important to make regular backups of the data on your company computers. Crucial data should include word documents, financial files, spreadsheets, human resource files, databases, and accounting files. You should conduct a weekly backup, set to be conducted automatically, if at all possible. Don’t store your data backups at the office location. You can store the backups on the cloud or on a hard drive offsite.

6. Secure Payment Transactions

Your customers’ financial information can be in jeopardy without strong payment processing protection. Only choose to work with processors or financial institutions that have anti-fraud services and validate security tools in place. Many payment centers have their own security protocols established, and you may be subject to these requirements in addition to the ones you have established for your company.  Don’t link your payment systems together and keep your payment processor separate from a computer that is used to access for web browsing. Look for a processor that encrypts and scrambles payment data.

7. Control Employee Functions

Although your employees should have their own log in codes for the computer network, you should also restrict who is able to access certain areas of data or information. Your employees should only be able to access the information needed for them to complete their job duties. Limit employee authority when it comes to installing software or conducting downloads. This can help prevent accidental downloads of viruses.

Your small business, despite your limited scope of activity and unappealing financial status, isn’t going to keep you safe from fraud, malware, hacking, and other cybersecurity issues. Whether you run your business with cloud-computing software or you simply use the internet to send and receive an email, you need to prepare your company against attack and craft a customized cybersecurity plan.

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