Cybersecurity is an important topic in the modern world, but most people associate cybersecurity with massive corporations having entire IT departments at their disposal to protect the credit card numbers and personal information of millions of customers.
Cyber threats, however, aren’t exclusive to big businesses. Small businesses using any kind of technology are just as vulnerable to system infiltrations, putting their customer data, proprietary information, and other assets at stake.
If you’re a small business owner and you haven’t yet taken cybersecurity measures for your enterprise, now’s the time to take action.
How Cyber Criminals Threaten Small Businesses
The person responsible for stealing your company’s information probably isn’t a teen in a mask and hoodie, typing away vigorously on a laptop in a dark room. It’s probably someone you wouldn’t expect, who might have limited technical expertise—after all, a password is usually all that’s required to “hack” into a system.
The main threats to small businesses include:
- Advanced, persistent threats which involve a slow process of investigation, probing, and silently extracting information.
- Password-based attacks which involve the use of a stolen or otherwise acquired password to take information or cause damage.
- Malware which takes the form of an outside program that allows remote access to a device.
- Phishing which uses legitimate-looking emails to con users into giving over personal information.
To guard your business against these threats, enact the following protocols:
- Keep your staff informed and updated. All it takes is one staff member to compromise your entire system; he could fall for a phishing scheme, use an easy-to-guess password, or download an outside program without realizing its potential to be malware. Keeping your staff informed and up-to-date with the best cybersecurity practices can help prevent these mistakes. Let them know what to look for in emails and software downloads that could indicate an unsafe source, and encourage them to protect their passwords carefully.
- Maintain a dedicated IT resource. In case something does go wrong, it’s a good idea to have a dedicated IT resource. It could be the monthly services of an outside IT firm, an on-staff IT expert, or an occasional consultant, depending on your needs and budget. The key is to have an expert on call when your systems need an upgrade, when you have a question about something, or when a problem arises.
- Secure your Wi-Fi network. Wi-Fi is a work necessity, but make sure yours is secured. Unsecured networks can be accessed by anyone, meaning anyone with a bit of tech knowledge and a strong motivation can easily monitor and capture traffic. On an unsecured Wi-Fi system, it’s relatively easy to gain access to exchanged emails, shared files, and other transmitted information, which can lead to bigger breaches.
- Limit the use of external devices on your Wi-Fi network. You might not think anything of a team member bringing in a personal laptop to use during lunch, but you have no control over those personal devices. They might already have malware on them, or might otherwise allow an outside party to gain access to your network, and therefore, your information. If you have a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy for your business, be sure to update it with requirements that protect your security, such as mandatory security software or restricted Wi-Fi access.
- Rotate your passwords on a quarterly basis. This is a simple step, but one that small businesses often miss. The longer your passwords remain the same, the easier they’ll become to guess—and the longer cyber criminals will have access to your system (provided they’ve had an opportunity to gain initial access). Changing your passwords frequently keeps your team on its toes, eliminates access from unauthorized users attempting APT attacks over an extended period of time, and mitigates the threat of password guessers gaining access to your network. Avoid keeping passwords listed in any single location, and try to use a different password for every system or platform you use.
These protective measures won’t stop everything, but they will protect you against some of the most common and most dangerous cyber threats to small businesses today. Because most breaches occur because of simple mistakes, protective measures can go a long way in keeping your data secure.
Don’t just assume that you’re protected enough with an antivirus program, and don’t assume you won’t be a target; think of this as an insurance policy against the worst-case scenario.