One of the most prominent modern threats to small businesses comes straight from their online network.
Reports show that small businesses have fallen prey to a concerning 58% of cyberattacks in 2019. Despite that, these companies are still woefully unaware and unprepared for the eventuality of an attack.
Small business owners have to take on many roles and are doing their best to keep their daily operations going. Meanwhile, hackers are taking advantage of the fact that they tend to nudge cybersecurity by the wayside. This is a common occurrence under businesses with less than 100 employees.
A whopping 40% of businesses haven’t even thought about cybersecurity in the past year. Of those that did take any precautions, only 23% have a policy in place to control access to their servers and network.
The core issue here lies in the fact that small businesses don’t see how much of a target they are. Most think that they’re too small and unimportant to be targeted, while really, the opposite is true. So they become easy quarry for cyberattackers who take an automated approach to catch any unsecured networks they can breach.
Here are five basic cybersecurity practices every business should implement to improve their chances against becoming the next victim.
1. Set Up a Firewall
Many devices come with built-in firewalls, but it’s a good idea to set up another network firewall for an additional layer of security. Especially since many employees bring their own devices to work these days. And small businesses don’t have the resources to monitor their online actions for risky behavior.
A firewall acts as the first line of defense against possible intruders. Businesses that have remote workers should also consider providing firewall software to them to protect data on all fronts.
2. Buy a VPN and Create a Secure Network
One of the key aspects of keeping intruders out is a secure network. Many companies opt for a secure intranet system that spans different departments and branches. This isn’t always feasible for small businesses, however, as it requires considerable resources and a dedicated IT person or a whole team.
The next best thing would be to invest in a VPN. Virtual private network protects any data that is sent over a network via encryption. When data is encrypted, hackers cannot see or access it because it presents as an incomprehensible jumble. At the same time, the users’ true IP addresses are hidden; making it nearly impossible for a hacker to find them in the first place.
There are plenty of business-grade VPN services out there, each offering different types of services and pricing tiers. Business owners should shop around a bit to find one that suits their needs. Again, employees (even remote ones) should be considered here. They have to be informed about how VPN technology works and that they should keep it on at all times.
3. Back Up Important Data
Ransomware attacks can be debilitating and costly. According to security firm Coveware, ransomware attacks cause businesses six days of downtime on average and around $54,904 in losses. Avoid them by creating regular back-ups of sensitive and important data. These back-ups should either be stored on a secure cloud or on external drives or servers that aren’t online.
4. Create a Security Policy and Provide Regular Employee Training
As few as 35% of small businesses have a data protection policy in place. Even then, they’re generally basic with little follow-through. Unfortunately, this can spell disaster for a small business as employees are one of the major risks to network security.
Hackers and other cybercriminals use various methods to exploit people’s ignorance about online safety. Social engineering is abundant online, and attackers keep working to make their phishing attempts increasingly targeted.
When employees work without proper policies and training on cybersecurity, they’re much more likely to fall for common techniques. Employees can only be held accountable for their actions, however, if they have been educated on the dangers posed by certain online actions.
It is therefore crucial for any business, no matter the industry, to have a set of protocols in place. These also merit a re-evaluation from time to time as hackers’ strategies evolve. Furthermore, employees have to be made aware of these policies and the consequences of not following them.
5. Appoint a Cybersecurity Go-To
One of the issues with small businesses is that they often don’t have a security department. So when issues arise, they’re not handled as effectively or quickly as they should be.
Business owners or managers need to single out a capable person to contact should any security questions or issues arise. This could be a current co-worker or new employee, but someone should be appointed as the cybersecurity liaison.
This way, they can quickly handle any problems, should they arise. As well as see to it that preventable issues are taken care of.
The Bottom Line
For centuries, businesses have done their best to protect their physical assets. But that’s not enough anymore. They now also have to think about ways to protect their digital assets and make sure that everyone is on the same page. This is especially important as both offices and employees are increasingly driven to storing and accessing sensitive data online.