As a business owner, you have a lot on your plate. You’re responsible for your company’s success (or failure), and that includes protecting it from external threats. There are many things you can do to safeguard your business from cyberattacks, data breaches, and other threats. But, if you thought you were safe from cyber danger simply because your business was too small to warrant attention from cyber criminals, guess again. In fact, according to a recent report by Forbes, small businesses are more frequent targets (3X more likely) for cyber-attacks because they often have poor cybersecurity. That’s especially true for their leaders, such as the CEO and CFO.
According to Barracuda News, which conducted the survey, 1 in 5 businesses had at least one account compromised in 2021. Phishing, where an unauthorized user gains access to proprietary information such as bank records by tricking a user into revealing login information, remains the top cyber danger faced by all businesses, large and small, but small businesses are more at risk due to their overconfidence in their relative safety because of their size. Among the other cyber dangers facing small businesses are:
- Malware, which represents malicious code injected onto a firm’s systems through ransomware, a trojan horse (where malicious code hides within an app or other program), or a worm (which spreads through your network)
- Ransomeware is where a criminal gains access to your system, often by phishing for login information, then encrypts your devices until you pay the fee demanded
- Viruses that slow down your system or send fraudulent data to customers or other stakeholders. This includes sending fraudulent emails demanding payment from customers.
- Hacking that exposes proprietary information to unauthorized users
Protect your business from cyber danger
Small businesses have fewer resources to devote to protecting themselves from cyber danger but by implementing some best practices you can harden your business from criminals. Read on to learn how you can do this without spending a fortune.
Educate yourself and your employees on cybersecurity threats
The first step in protecting your business from external threats is to educate yourself and your employees on the dangers of cyberattacks. Forewarned is forearmed so become aware of recent criminal activities that present cyber dangers. Make sure everyone in your company attends cybersecurity awareness training. This training ensures they know about various cyber threats and how to spot one. In addition, keep up with the latest cybersecurity news, so you are aware of the latest threats. For instance, over the pandemic, various bad actors upped their cybercrime game. One of the most common is sending an email that appears to come from a legitimate source demanding payment. Once the subject logs into the fictitious account using the provided link, the criminal has their login information and can now access their real account. Warn employees to only access accounts by Googling or using their own link to the site, and never click on a link provided in the email.
Cyberattacks are becoming more and more sophisticated, so it is crucial to stay up-to-date on the latest trends. Teach your employees how to spot suspicious emails and websites by observing the sender’s email address to detect fraudulent emails and avoid clicking on links or downloading attachments from unknown or fraudulent sources. Additionally, provide them with the resources they need to report any suspicious activity.
Advise employees that they shouldn’t share passwords or write them down to avoid being compromised. They also shouldn’t copy proprietary data, for instance, by putting it on a thumb drive that’s easily lost. Obviously, with more employees working from home, the need for remote data access exists but a better option is to share data only with those who require access through a cloud storage solution, such as AWS, with excellent protection from cyber danger. Never throw old devices away without double-checking that they’re wiped clean by passing them by a degaussing magnet, for instance.
Educating yourself and your employees on cybersecurity threats can make your business more resistant to attack.
Invest in cybersecurity tools and technologies
Another way to protect your business from external threats is to invest in cybersecurity tools and technologies, although these are a more expensive option. There are several different products on the market that can help you secure your data and keep your systems safe from attack. Some of the most popular products include antivirus software, firewalls, and intrusion detection systems. Some of these are very affordable.
Make sure you research the different products available and choose the right ones for your business. You should also consider hiring a cybersecurity consultant to help you assess your needs and choose the best tools for your company. With the shortage of trained cyber folks, they’re pretty expensive but you can bring one in periodically to assess your security and provide advice to harden your system. By investing in cybersecurity tools and technologies, you become less susceptible to cyber danger.
Implement security best practices
In addition to investing in cybersecurity tools and technologies, you should also implement security best practices throughout your organization. This includes:
- forcing employees to create strong passwords
- setting passwords to expire regularly so they’re constantly updated
- encrypting sensitive data
- backing up your systems regularly in an offline storage facility. You can’t hack what you can’t find.
You should also create a security policy for your company and ensure all employees understand and follow it. By implementing security best practices, you can make your business more resistant to attack.
Keep your software up to date
One of the most important things you can do to protect your business from external threats is to keep your software up to date. Outdated software is one of the most common ways cybercriminals gain access to systems. Yet, according to a recent study, nearly half of all small businesses are running outdated software. By ensuring that all your software is up-to-date, you can make your business more resistant to attack.
In addition to keeping your software up to date, you should also keep your operating system and antivirus software current as these companies make frequent updates that plug known security holes. Outofdate software represents one of the biggest threats of cyber danger to firms.
Restrict access to sensitive data
Another way to protect your business from external threats is to restrict access to sensitive data. This data should only be accessible to employees who need it for their job. Review permissions frequently to remove employees who left the firm, moved to a role where they no longer need access to the data, or who aren’t following proper security protocols. Additionally, you should encrypt this data to make it more difficult for cybercriminals to access it.
Use a VPN
A VPN, or virtual private network, is a great way to protect your business from external threats. A VPN encrypts your data and routes it through a secure tunnel, making it more difficult for cybercriminals to access it. Additionally, a VPN can help you stay anonymous online and keep your business’s activity private.
There are a number of different VPN providers on the market, so make sure you choose one that is right for your business. With remote employees, a VPN is essential to maintain security and employees should know that logging into an unsecured network, such as a Starbucks, is a big no-no.
It is important to remember that no security measure is perfect and that you should always prepare for the worst. However, in the event of a breach, having a plan in place helps you minimize the damage and get your business back up and running as quickly as possible. So, contingency planning is part of any strategy to reduce the threat of cyber danger.