Why Do Small Businesses Need Cybersecurity?
Every company needs some form of cybersecurity, regardless of their degree of dependence on networks or the internet.
Whether you own a big corporation, or you are a personal brand, it’s crucial to know some basic cybersecurity tips.
Small companies may have more to lose than large companies, which may be able to absorb the impact of a cyberattack.
The number and frequency of cyberattacks are always increasing. Data show that over 164 million pieces of information were stolen through hacking attacks in a recent year. Financial gain is the motivating factor, experts say, a goal that can be achieved by account takeover techniques or by selling stolen data.
A leading cybersecurity firm says that the average loss for a small business that has been breached is $108 million. Along with the data losses there is business disruption to deal with, including rebuilding systems and trust.
As many as 60 percent of businesses that have had a major breach end up closing because they can’t absorb the impact of the damage.
Solutions aren’t all complex and expensive. One simple step anyone can take is to use a strong password generator. Despite years of warnings, many individuals and companies still use easily guessed or reused passwords that hackers may discover in previously-breached data.
When evaluating security risks for your company don’t overlook the possibility that many breaches start from within. Employees should be scrutinized as closely as any potential source of vulnerability.
Start with education programs that impress upon workers the importance of vigilance, and segregate data and other valuable information, keeping them safe with multi-factor authentication for access.
Why Focus on Security?
There are as many reasons to build a security system as there are types of hackers operating worldwide. Consider that some hackers are unsophisticated but may seek to simply hold your systems hostage in exchange for a ransom.
Others may want to damage your databases or systems for no reason. Some attacks may go through one company to get to another, whether a client company or a customer. In the latter situation, if one company’s security is lax, it may be legally liable for the data breach suffered by the target company.
Along with databases of customer and employee information, data at risk may include a company’s invoices, proprietary product details, and strategic plans.
Hackers are not necessarily always after the big fish in terms of the companies they target. Inexperienced hackers may go for small companies with less security just to hone their craft.
Those who identify small companies as having less robust security may launch a cyberattack aimed at less-protected employee and customer data for identity theft.
In addition, malware has been found in connected Internet of Things devices like thermostats and building security systems, underscoring the importance of a seamless cybersecurity plan.
Steps to Securing Your Company’s Data
The following cybersecurity tips may not require an IT professional to install or deploy. Some defensive techniques are as simple as updates available through the manufacturer of your business software.
These tips are good to know whether you have a big business, a small business, or are in a business where you are a personal brand.
Although aggressive measures are critical in today’s cybersecurity environment, these are the minimum necessary to ensure some level of security. Check the following list for opportunities to protect your small business:
1. Regular Software and Patch Updates
Software companies are always updating their products to strengthen them against potential hackers or breaches. These patches are downloaded or applied automatically when software is updated.
This fix does not require an IT professional or additional expense, just change your computer settings to automatically accept updates during downtime, such as at the end of the workday when systems are off.
2. Protect Yourself Against Viruses
In addition to virus protection software that scans systems regularly, there is a variety of optional (download) browser add-ons that will limit your company’s exposure to viruses.
Primarily it’s important to block pop-up ads that hackers may use to insert malicious code, disguising their attack. Virtual Private Network software is another low-cost, easily installed security measure.
It encrypts data and messages, routing them through offshore servers to make them more difficult for hackers to track and breach. Employees should be educated about the proliferation of viruses in phishing emails, in carelessly opened spam emails, and waterhole attacks.
Waterholing is when a hacker studies an organization to determine which websites the employees frequent, then lays a trap of malware to trap them.
3. Limit Access to Your Data Through Access Management
Segment your company’s data so that fewer employees have access to all of it and initiate multi-factor authentication to prevent any individual from the ability to do catastrophic damage.
Employees are frequently targeted by hackers using phishing techniques: an email that appears to need immediate attention. Phishing has been a successful ploy to get a well-meaning employee to click on a malicious link that breaches company data.
Hackers may also pose as IT professionals who arrive on-site to help with an important issue. Ensure there are protocols to prevent fraudulent in-person access to data through an identity verification process.
4. Strong Passwords on Everything
Reusing passwords is a common – yet easily fixed – point of data loss. Random password generators will not only create impossible-to-guess combinations of letters, numbers, and symbols but will often autofill them.
That way, you only need to remember one password to open all of your accounts, and yet they’re more secure. Also, make the password for Wi-Fi and other network access challenging, or your entire system may be vulnerable.
Remind employees that using free Wi-Fi in public places endangers data, even when a VPN is installed.
5. Document Your Policies
Security policies and practices need to become part of your company’s everyday habits for every employee. Documenting these steps allows you to introduce new hires to the system and check up on longtime employees’ adherence to the procedures.
Make sure the security protocol extends to employees working remotely, including steps to ensure data remains secure if transmitted from their homes.
Plan regular security training sessions that expand education about potential attacks and involve employees in the process of vigilance.
6. Train Your Employees
Experts say that 47 percent of data breaches are employees’ fault, and some may be intentional. If employees are aware of potential phishing attacks or alert for signs of account takeovers, they can be part of the firewall between your company’s data and hackers trying to steal it.
However, if employees are untrained or otherwise lax about cybersecurity, you may experience a significant issue. Prohibit them from sharing passwords across the company and from doing favors for those in other unrelated departments.
Training should include more than rote recitations of the rules and procedures. Doing tabletop practice runs of cyberattacks is particularly helpful to making employees alert to the signs of hacks and the many forms they may take.
One red flag everyone can be alert for is an employee who spends extra time at work or asks too many questions about the tasks that others in the company are assigned to do.
That employee’s access should be scrutinized for potential risk.
Even the smallest companies can take big steps toward cybersecurity without adding new employees or hiring an outside consultant. Just putting a few steps in place and adding daily habits of checking security can save a company from a major hacking headache.
But without a clear-headed assessment of potential threats and an evaluation of whether the company’s security measures are enough to repel them, individual measures are not enough.
These steps must be knit together to form the strongest bulwark against hacking that your company can afford. Cybersecurity is only as valuable as the data you’re seeking to protect. If your company’s data is its biggest asset, you can’t afford to risk it.
BIO: David Lukić is an information privacy, security and compliance consultant at IDstrong. The passion to make cyber security accessible and interesting has led David to share all the knowledge he has.
Nate Torres is an entrepreneur, growth marketer, and photographer and writes mostly on those topics. Nate runs his own professional photography business called Nate Torres Photography. Nate enjoys learning about new digital marketing strategy and new ways to think creatively. He is also a photography speaker and author on Photofocus.