The risk of hacking increases as companies expand their online presence. Many small firms have neither the resources nor the personnel to adequately defend themselves, making them especially susceptible to attacks.
In the United States, small businesses are responsible for nearly half of all data breaches, and 61% of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have been the target of a cyberattack in the past year.
Cybersecurity dangers are becoming a more pressing issue. West Virginia University and Fairmont State University are just two of several institutions that now offer cybersecurity-focused degree programs to help fulfill the growing demand for qualified professionals in this area.
But in the meanwhile, what measures can companies take to safeguard their data? Here are some of the best practices we’ve learned for protecting small businesses online.
To better grasp cybersecurity advice for small businesses, we must first examine the potential dangers that these firms face.
In many cases, malware poses the greatest risk to a company of any size. Malicious software such as spyware, viruses, and computer “bugs” can be easily deployed on a network and propagated throughout your IT infrastructure.
Once installed, malware can access and read your most private files and data, as well as prevent you from accessing them yourself.
The business world is also very susceptible to phishing attempts. Here, hackers or scammers attempt to gain access to your information by sending you emails or links that appear to be legitimate.
Users frequently install malware on their computers after clicking on links from these seemingly trustworthy sources.
Users can be victims of phishing when they are tricked into providing sensitive information (such as login credentials) to cybercriminals via email, instant messages, or social media.
Password attacks like this one happen frequently, and can even happen if a fraudster figures out your credentials. That’s why it’s so important to use strong passwords for all your online accounts.
A computer screen with the word “malware” typed on it is a common visual representation of the fact that malware is currently the greatest danger to businesses of all sizes.
Educating your workforce is the first line of defense against cyber dangers. Employees with a corporate email account are prime targets for phishing, so it’s important that they know what to look out for and how to report questionable behavior.
Regular training for all employees is essential for keeping their skills current and giving you the chance to inform them of any new risks they should be aware of.
Anyone on your team who has access to private client information should receive specialized training on how to keep it safe. To protect themselves from identity theft, those who have access to such information should be well-versed in the various types of fraud that can be perpetrated using such data.
Antivirus software should be installed on all of your company’s computers and other electronic devices. This adds another line of defense against potential cyber threats by routinely scanning your devices and network for malware.
You should always do a comprehensive scan with your antivirus software after installing major updates to your devices to make sure that – no harmful software was installed during the update process.
Antivirus software is important, but it isn’t enough to keep you safe. Your small business should be using the most latest versions of all hardware and software. That covers the OS, browser, and any apps you employ.
The software industry is constantly releasing updates, many of which provide crucial improvements like bug fixes and added security. If you are still running an older version of the software, you are missing out on security improvements that have been made by the developers.
After installing antivirus software, the next line of defense should be a firewall. A firewall is significantly more powerful software than antivirus programs, which primarily look for and remove already-present threats rather than preventing their introduction in the first place.
A firewall allows you to restrict user access to specific websites throughout your entire organization, while yet allowing users to have access to those sites when necessary. If you want to be sure you’re well protected, you should check your firewall’s settings regularly.
Phishing assaults on company employees are a common method through which malware is introduced to workplace systems.
This typically occurs when a user clicks on a link in an email purporting to come from a trusted institution (such as the federal government or an online retailer like Amazon).
In actuality, fraudsters are behind these emails, and clicking on the attached links will download malicious software.
This type of risk should be covered in any cybersecurity training you give your staff. Workers need to know how to spot a phishing email and determine whether or not a link within it is legitimate.
The worst-case scenario is not anticipated. However, cyberattacks have caused catastrophic data loss for more than a third of small organizations. You may have just exposed your staff and clients to a confidential data breach and lost irretrievable information.
That’s why it’s crucial to regularly back up your data and files and store those copies somewhere else than your primary network. It is recommended to do system and file backups once a week. Automating these processes can save you time and money if your devices are compromised.
You should institute a company-wide policy mandating quarterly password changes to reduce the likelihood of employees’ passwords being compromised by scammers.
The use of multiple authentication methods is highly recommended for the security of user accounts. When this happens, the user is required to provide an extra piece of information before they can access their account, typically a code texted to their mobile device.
Avoid utilizing public Wi-Fi if you can help it; it’s inherently insecure. If you want to make sure no one outside of your company can access your computer via the Wi-Fi network, you should use only secure, hidden, or encrypted networks.
Use a virtual private network (VPN) if you must use public Wi-Fi at inopportune times. These let you to conceal your identity and browsing activity from everyone else on the same Wi-Fi network.
VPNs can safeguard businesses from online threats, but they can’t stop you from downloading malware in the first place.
You should constantly inquire about the cyber security practices of any third-party vendors your company works with, such as banks or customer relationship management (CRM) organizations.
There should be well-defined policies and processes in place for anybody with access to your private data, outlining how they will prevent unauthorized access and what would be done in the event of a cyberattack.
Having procedures in place that restrict which team members deal with sensitive data makes it much less likely that malware will be installed or access will be granted by accident.
Make sure that no unauthorized personnel can access any crucial files or client data by setting up access on an individual basis. Only a small number of staff should be granted administrative privileges, and they should receive regular updates on cybersecurity dangers.