Entrepreneurs often make the mistake of thinking that being a small business makes them a small target for cybercriminals. In reality, a lack of resources and preparation often puts small to mid-sized businesses at risk when it comes to avoiding hackers and scam artists. Thankfully, a few simple measures can help keep your business safe from those who would do harm. Here are five key tactics for keeping your business secure from cybercrime.
1. Know the Threats
When it comes to dangers born of the information age, knowledge is by far the most important countermeasure. Even so, most business owners wouldn't know an SQL injection from a zero day exploit. On the surface, it doesn't seem like these things have anything to do with business, but with $4.1 trillion worth of fiscal transactions having been done online even back in 2019, online threat assessment couldn't be more pertinent. You don't have to become an expert. Just keep abreast of the most common attack vectors and exploits. IT trade magazines are a good place to start, but don't hesitate to call the experts themselves for advice.
2. Train Employees in Security Protocols
One of the most common varieties of cyberattack is the so-called phishing scam. This happens when a hacker creates a fake website or email, or pretends to be a legitimate company over the phone. The goal is to get people to give out sensitive personal data, and unfortunately it works. The FBI discovered that in one year this kind of attack cost people $57 million. Employees and management alike need to be drilled in proper email and phone response protocols. Certain characteristics of a URL or phone number can be a dead giveaway that something is wrong, but unless you're trained on a regular basis, you won't know what to look for. Don't just have one session; keep an eye out for new security breach trends and update your training as new threats arise.
3. Use Multifactor Authentication
Multifactor authentication is the professional term for having multiple layers of identity verification on sign-in pages and similar user-access interfaces. The logic behind it is that a single password can be hacked, but if, for example, a password, texted passcode and ID details are used in concert, the chances of any one being breached diminishes. This should be the standard procedure for employees or the public to gain access to any pages with sensitive data, including employee directories. This isn't always practical, and won't stop the effects of simple human gullibility, but it can certainly be an effective filter to the most common kinds of identity theft.
4. Install Antivirus and Firewall Systems
One of the best defenses is also the simplest: Install antivirus programs and firewalls to your systems. Using a basic antivirus is fine, but consider investing in powerful new endpoint security tools given the sheer number of devices to which the typical business network is attached. Typically this involves encrypting data at all endpoints, as well as installing centralized, high-sophistication antivirus programs powered by complex artificial intelligence (AI) systems. Firewalls are important because they regulate the flow of digital traffic from the internet itself to your company network. This helps to prevent another common kind of phishing attack in which malware is attached to a link in an email or text.
5. Backup All Data
Data loss is incredibly costly, and those losses can be crippling for a small business. A Verizon report found that the cost of a cyber attack in which only 100 records were lost would likely cost the organization between $18,120 and $35,730. Those costs are starting to drop, but only because better knowledge is making investigation and remediation easier. In short: Back up everything. Save hardcopies of important files and keep whatever you can afford on flash drives that can then be stored behind physical security.
No safeguard is ever completely effective. That being said, the simplest and least costly security measures are often the most effective at keeping criminals at bay.