The Best Cybersecurity Practices for Your Small Business
Much of today’s business is conducted online or involves sending data over a digital connection. Though automation, cloud storage, and other digital programs and resources make doing business easier, they also come with a downside—cyber insecurity and system vulnerability. Unfortunately, many small business owners don’t take these threats seriously because they believe that security breaches and cyber-attacks are only issues for big companies. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. To avoid a potentially devastating data breach, here are the best cybersecurity practices for your small business.
The first step to protecting your business and customer data is to be aware that it can happen to you. According to Accenture, 43% of cyberattacks target small businesses, and yet only 14% are prepared to protect themselves. Overall, about 50% of all small businesses experienced a data breach in 2019, with the average cost of these incidents causing businesses $200,000. For many small businesses, that amount of financial damage can put an end to the company. In fact, studies show that 60% of SMBs never recover from a cyber-attack and usually go under within the next 6 months.
Unfortunately, a large percentage of data breaches come from within the company—whether an employee does it purposefully or by accident. There are a few ways to mitigate this threat, aside from doing your due diligence when hiring. First, consider data management software or a program that monitors employees. Second, make sure your employees are well educated when it comes to phishing attacks and other scams that they may unwittingly fall for. Keep everyone informed by organizing cybersecurity training courses that cover your internal cybersecurity policies.
Set up a firewall
Enabling a firewall is the most basic measure of protection against a cyber-attack, and every SMB should use it as the first line of defense between their data and potential hackers. Apart from using an external firewall, it’s a good idea to add another layer of protection by installing internal firewalls. Additionally, ensure that any employees who work from home and access the company database also install a firewall, as cybercriminals look for any crack in the system. So, if you have remote employees, make sure to provide all kinds of support for their home networks.
Get smart about passwords
Believe it or not, many people still use their own birthdays as their passwords. What’s even worse, they tend to use the same password for various accounts, which means that if just one of them is hacked, the others will be too. According to Verizon’s 2016 Data Breach Investigations Report, 63% of data breaches occurred due to lost, weak, or stolen passwords.
To prevent this, make sure you and your employees use strong, complex passwords enforced by strict company policies. Change passwords every 60 to 90 days and encourage employees to use passwords containing upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, as well as special characters. Additionally, enable two-factor authentication (2FA) to further protect your password system. This process often involves a secondary code or verification to ensure high-level protection.
Protect your data via encryption and storage
Data encryption is one of the best and most effective methods for protecting your sensitive data. It allows you to translate your data into a secret code, which means that it’s safe even if it’s intercepted by cybercriminals. The only way to decipher encrypted data is via a key. If your website has user registration and login option, or if it accepts credit cards, you need to protect your customers’ information by switching from HTTP to HTTPS protocol. A green padlock in the address bar indicates to your customers that your website is safe, showing your customers that they don’t have to be worried about trusting you with their credit card information and other sensitive data.
Not only is the way you protect your data important, but the location where you store it is also essential to proactive cybersecurity. Whether your business hosts information on a cloud platform or a small network, the storage location has to be safe and secure. This should extend to physical security as well, such as ensuring a backup power service for your data centers.
Back up your data
No matter how hard you try to prevent cyber-attacks and stop breaches, it’s possible that your efforts may be unsuccessful. If a cybersecurity incident happens, there’s another measure of precaution you can take that can save the day—regular data backups. It’s of vital importance to back up all your data, including databases, financial files, electronic spreadsheets, HR files, and customer information.
Don’t forget to back up the information from your cloud storage, too. Back up safely by storing your data in different locations to protect them from fires, floods, earthquakes, and other disasters. That way you’ll always have at least one safe, functional copy.
Check your system regularly
By regularly checking your security checkpoints, you can identify vulnerabilities before they become a problem. This is particularly important as your business and network expands. —the bigger the enterprise, the higher the odds of vulnerabilities. Regularly audit your security measures and ensure you replace any outdate hardware like computers or phones, get rid of simple passwords, and make sure all connections are secure. You should always be on the lookout for loopholes that scammers and cyberattackers can take advantage of. If you’re business is particularly vulnerable, you should even consider hiring a certified cybersecurity professional check your security systems and measures.
Though these security practices might sound extremely simple, many small- and medium-sized business fail to follow them, putting their reputation, profit, and future in jeopardy.