Did you know that 58% of cybersecurity attacks are perpetrated on small businesses? Though small-to-medium-sized business owners often feel secure about their cybersecurity best practices, digital criminals are lurking around every corner hoping to steal your information. This might seem counterintuitive because there is generally less valuable data kept by small businesses than large corporations, but according to a 2019 Forbes article, hackers often use small businesses to infiltrate larger ones.
The 2013 Target attack, which caused the retail giant to pay $18.5 million in damages, is a good example of this dynamic. In this case, hackers used a local HVAC company’s digital credentials to break into the corporation’s network and steal around 41 million consumer’s information.
Your business data is an invaluable aspect of your business, ensuring that your operations run smoothly, payroll goes out efficiently, and your marketing is targeted to your clients. This means that the infiltration of your company’s data is a big business that can cost you big dollars down the line if you don’t protect yourself with a comprehensive cybersecurity policy. Malware attacks cause a quarter of small businesses hit by them to halt operations completely, and 60% of those businesses never reopen again. Meaning, the consequences of these attacks can mean life or death for local businesses.
So if you’re a small or medium-sized business owner, and you’re wondering how to keep your company protected from cyber attacks, check out these tips to keep your data protected today.
1. Educate Employees on Cybersecurity Best Practices
The first thing you need to understand about securing your company’s data from hackers is that your employees are one of the biggest cybersecurity risks to your business. This isn’t because your employees are bad people or anything; it’s simply the most common way that hackers breach your network. Hacker’s favorite prey are employees who open a malicious email by mistake, and they spend a lot of time trying to entice them.
One important thing to note is that to implement any of the information provided in this post you must have your staff 100% committed to helping you facilitate these changes. Without them on board, it’s a little like scooping handful after handful of water from a sinking ship—you won’t get anywhere.
Here is some advice on how to train your employees for cybersecurity the right way.
How to Train Employees for Cybersecurity
● Bring in industry experts to train your employees – You’re an entrepreneur, not an IT expert. Blogs like this can teach you the basics about cybersecurity best practices but keeping your information protected requires professional assistance. Search for experts in your area or look for national ones who can talk to your team.
● Integrate cybersecurity awareness in your onboarding process – As we mentioned above, your employees must understand the importance of cybersecurity from day one. This means that you should include a comprehensive cybersecurity policy in your onboarding process. A culture of security starts with clear directives from the beginning.
● Conduct regular evaluations – Constantly test your network to make sure it’s safe. Depending on the scope of your business, you might want to hire a full-time IT professional who can monitor these issues for you, or you can look for out-of-house help. Proactively observing your IT security is paramount to your data’s safety.
● Foster reading and discussion about current events in cybersecurity – You can pass around cybersecurity literature to your employees, but it might be best to make readings and discussions on this topic a part of your employee training and regular events in your office.
● Perform “live fire” training sessions – Develop training sessions that mimic a network breach or loss of data. This is a good way to see if your emergency plans are working the way they should be. Plus, your team will be much better prepared to implement these plans if they’ve been through them before.
2. Enhance Network Security with Firewalls
Firewalls are network security systems that monitor incoming and outgoing traffic based on specific security rules. They are invaluable for businesses because they are the first line of defense against any potential hackers.
A good example of the kind of disaster that can occur if your firewall isn’t up to snuff is the WannaCry ransomware attacks. These attacks involved hackers taking advantage of an un-updated Windows operating system to steal information from hundreds of thousands of people across the world and cause millions of dollars in damages. If these unsuspecting victims had this kind of knowledge beforehand, they could have configured their firewalls to stop it.
How to Get Started with Firewalls
Firewalls can be installed in two ways, using software or hardware. Software is generally suitable for smaller businesses and hardware is usually more appropriate for larger enterprises. Understanding the differences between the two is important in deciding which one is right for you.
The biggest differences are that hardware firewalls need to be installed by a professional and once they are, they can be configured to protect your entire network. Software firewalls, on the other hand, don’t need to be connected by an IT expert, but they do need to be installed on every computer in your network that you want to protect. One of the main reasons why businesses generally opt for hardware firewalls is the ability of a single piece of hardware to protect a large network.
One other thing you should know is that both Macs and Windows have built-in firewalls. Though unnecessary for most home users, if you’re interested in turning on your business Mac’s firewall follow these instructions:
Click Apple menu > System Preferences > Security & Privacy Icon
Click the Firewall tab > Lock icon > Enter Your Password > Click Turn On Firewall
Click the Start button > Control Panel > Security > Windows Firewall
Turn on Windows Firewall then provide confirmation or password
3. Don’t Neglect Mobile Device Security
Even business owners who are concerned about their cybersecurity best practices often overlook the vulnerabilities of their employees’ mobile devices. That might be because developing a cybersecurity policy for your employee’s personal property is a bit trickier, but it is necessary.
If your employees are using their unsecured mobile devices to pull up work data, there can be big threats to your cybersecurity. Considering how you’ll approach this issue, whether it’s through data encryption, a mobile security app, or mobile device access management can be somewhat stressful.
A BYOD, or bring your own device, policy is one of the more common programs put into place, but if you implement it, there are several rules that you should keep in mind.
Create Rules for Mobile Device Use
If you’re considering implementing a BYOD policy at your business, here are several points that you might consider:
All devices must have a screen lock password
Be clear about which devices are permitted in the office
Establish which apps can be used and which should be banned
Separate business and personal data
Encrypt all corporate data
No public WiFi allowed
4. Have an IT Disaster Recovery Plan in Place
Regardless of the precautions, a business owner might make, data may still be corrupted or destroyed by cybersecurity threats. Three initiatives that you can take right away are:
Develop a solid maintenance plan
Regularly defrag your computers
Create an IT disaster recovery plan
We don’t have time to go into all three of these security measures, but an emergency response plan should include tactics for how you will address data loss, critical business functions, inventory depletions, and employee safety. The first thing you should include in your plan is a list of department heads and a guide for how they can communicate the disaster plan’s implementation to the rest of your staff.
For more information on how to create an emergency response plan, check out this blog.
How to Recover Data
When we talk about data recovery there are two kinds: logical data recovery and physical data recovery. Logical data recovery is more straightforward and recovers data from a hard drive that was erased because of an application crash or a mistaken hard drive partitioning or formatting. Physical data recovery is exactly what it sounds like. Data is lost because of physical damage done to the hard drive, like an accidental dropping, which needs to be repaired to retrieve your data.
In most cases, data can be recovered, though you may want to contact a professional if you are having trouble figuring out how to recover the data on your own.