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8 Crucial Small Business Cybersecurity Tips

With more companies moving their businesses online, the need for cybersecurity is paramount. To protect a small business from cyberattacks, many small business owners and their employees need to learn best practices for cyber threat prevention.

Knowing the fundamentals of cybersecurity and putting them into action will protect your company, and reduce the risk of falling victim to a cyber attack.

Why is cybersecurity important for small businesses?

Cyberthreats aren’t just a problem for big corporations and government organizations. Believe it or not, small businesses are targeted more often than larger ones! A study carried out by the US Congressional Small Business Committee reported that small to medium-sized companies were victims of 60 percent of targeted cyber attacks.

Why? Most cybercrimes involve bypassing security to gather intelligence. Although bigger corporations have a lot more data to hack, small businesses are less likely to have secure networks, making them much easier to circumvent.

Data breaches can range from intellectual property and documents to credit cards and financial details. Cybercriminals might also mine confidential information about your employees and clients. The average cumulative cost of a data breach in the United States is $3.62 million.

Common cybersecurity threats for small businesses

Hackers are always coming up with new ways to conduct cyberattacks. But some of the most popular ⁠— and therefore predictable ⁠— methods of breaching security have been around for a while.

“Drive-by” downloads

In this type of cyberattack, a malicious website might attempt to install a program on your device without first requesting permission. This might occur if using an outdated operating system, or the security measures in place are inadequate.

Phishing

Phishing emails trick recipients into opening an attachment or clicking a link to a website that contains malware. In April 2020, the FBI revealed that the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received reports of over $2.1 billion in losses from phishing scams between January 2014 and October 2019.

Watering holes

This attack involves hacking a legitimate website and transforming it into a malicious one without the site owners’ knowledge. The goal is to install malware on devices, which typically requires the unsuspecting user to download a file, click a link, or give out their personal information.

Making your business secure for you

Successful cybercriminals are experts at sussing out and exploiting typical weak spots in system security. No matter how careful you are, it only takes one slip-up to compromise your company’s data and possibly your entire business. The good news is, anything you can do to make it harder for hackers to do their job increases the likelihood that they’ll move on to an easier target. Here are the top ways to stave off cyberthreats.

Make sure your logins are secure

When it comes to small business cybersecurity, strong passwords are paramount. The 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report found that a whopping 80 percent of data breaches happened as the result of weak, lost, or stolen passwords. It goes without saying then, that every device and network containing sensitive company and client information should be password-protected. This includes all tablets, laptops, smartphones, cloud storage, and removable drives.

Tip: The strongest passwords contain at least 12 characters, using a random combination of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols.

Even the most iron-clad passwords need changing every few months, and should never be reused or shared over any platform. To prevent password-hacking attacks, limit the number of failed log-in attempts you allow.

If you want to add an extra layer of protection beyond passwords, consider using multi-factor identification. This is a secure login system offered by most major web services and email providers. It requires users to provide two or more forms of identification to log in. For example, your employees will need to enter their phone number to receive a temporary pin that they can use in conjunction with the password.

Fire up some firewalls

External firewalls have long been the cornerstone of internet security. But a growing number of companies are installing additional internal firewalls for further protection. Employees who are working remotely should also set up a firewall on their wireless network at home.

Don’t slack on backups

The Small Business Administration (SBA) recommends regularly backing up business information, word processing documents, HR and financial files, electronic spreadsheets, and critical databases. Make sure to store the most up-to-date versions of this data both offsite and in the cloud.

Keep your machines fresh and clean

Using the latest operating system, web browser, and security programs is a great defense against cyber threats. Keeping your software up to date helps too. Outdated operating systems are easily exploitable, so make sure updates are set automatically, and have your antivirus program run a scan on each update.

And don’t skip setting up antimalware programs on all devices!

Protect your networks

Make sure your workplace Wi-Fi is secure, encrypted, and hidden. Set up your wireless access point or router so that the name of your Wi-Fi network is secret. Avoid broadcasting your Service Set Identifier (SSID).

Prevent outsiders from seeing any information sent through your network by securing your Wi-Fi with at least WPA2 or WPA3 encryption. Ensure to password protect access to your wireless network.

Making your business secure for your customers

Your online presence is a critical component to the success and growth of your company. It’s vital to protect your customers from cyberthreats. Here are a few top tips to help you do exactly that.

Secure your website

Look at your website URL. Does it start with “https://”? Do you see a tiny picture of a closed padlock? If so, the information shared between your customers’ web browsers and your website is protected with encryption. If your URL starts with “http://” and you don’t see a tiny padlock, or the padlock looks open or exed out, the connection to your website is probably not secure.

Using a secure connection requires obtaining a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate from a trusted hosting provider. On top of protecting your customers, you’ll also likely boost your SEO rankings.

Don’t store sensitive data

Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is detailed customer credentials, like full name, phone number, social security number, credit card details, mailing and billing address. If you’re storing it, you are responsible for keeping it safe. Small businesses are held accountable for any damages incurred from poor cybersecurity practices. This includes compromised PII.

Remember: if you don’t store it, they can’t steal it.

Make it easy for customers to reach you

Your contact details and social media links should feature prominently on your website and on any other media you use. This way, anyone who notices something is up with your website, whether it’s broken, hacked, or not functioning as it should ⁠(and therefore vulnerable to cyber threats) can easily get in touch with you.

Tip: if you’re using a contact form, add a CAPTCHA to get actual customer feedback and not an inbox jammed with spam!

Stay active ⁠— and make it obvious

A dead website is like a house at night with no lights on and no cars in the driveway. It signals to cyber attackers that nobody is paying attention, and it becomes a prime target for attempted security breaches. Making regular updates to your webpage and content discourages potential hackers. It also keeps you aware of any functionality issues affecting the ecommerce side of your small business.

Secure your small business

Remember the old saying: “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link”.

In this interconnected world, doing business online seems to be the way forward, now more than ever before. Knowing how to protect yourself from cyberthreats should be a top priority for businesses both big and small.

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