Small business owners are growing increasingly aware of the cybersecurity threats facing their businesses. Any type of small business, from an office-based service provider to a customer-facing retail store, is a potential target. Modern cyberthreats continue to evolve in their complexity, stealth, and range of potential effects for a targeted business.
As small business leaders carry their businesses into the future, every company owner must invest in appropriate protections to keep their business operations safe. A Keeper Security and the Ponemon Institute study in 2017 concluded that more than half of all company data breaches occur due to negligent employees or contractors.
The following ten protections are some of the most vital tools for any small business. These protections can help prevent data breaches and malicious software intrusions, helping small business owners remain above board when it comes to providing customers with secure and reliable interactions. Data breaches can significantly diminish customer trust and may damage relationships between business partners, service providers, vendors, and other components of any company’s supply chain. If you own and operate a small business in the United States, the following ten protections are vital to your cybersecurity in 2020 and beyond.
Use Responsible Password Protocols
It’s not uncommon for individuals to use the same or similar passwords for all of their login credentials across various websites and applications, but this can be a dangerous habit. Small business owners must enforce thoughtful and effective password protocols. A few to consider include:
- Configure password access to require users to change their passwords frequently. Make sure employees know to refrain from using variations of the same password over and over again. Regular forced password changes that prevent users from using similar passwords are great protections. Malicious keylogging software can linger on a system and gather password data over time and using similar passwords repeatedly will be a dead giveaway as to a user’s password habits, making brute force intrusions more likely.
- Instruct employees to never share their passwords with anyone and to refrain from writing them down. Keeping revolving passwords saved on a secure mobile device can help employees keep track of their passwords, but this entails a degree of risk if the device becomes lost or compromised by malicious software.
- Have all password holders use complex passwords that use a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters that will not be easy for anyone to guess.
Solid password usage and firm password-related protocols help ensure login credentials for the business remain as secure as possible.
Invest in High-Quality Antivirus Software
Cyberthreats are constantly evolving, and modern malicious software is harder to detect and more effective than threats seen in the past. If your business relies on internet-connecting technology, invest in the highest quality antivirus software you can afford. Many of the leading antivirus software providers such as Norton, McAfee, Trend Micro, and Bitdefender offer volume licensing to business clients, so it’s possible to save money when purchasing multiple license keys for the best available antivirus software programs.
Too many small business owners make the mistake of using personal computers for business operations and bouncing from free trial to free trial for antivirus protection. Investing in a solid antivirus platform for a business is well worth the expense, even for small business owners who may not realize they might be targeted by ransomware, phishing scams, and other cybersecurity threats.
Maintain Firm Access Standards
If a company operates in digital spaces to any level and stores business-critical information in a cloud-based storage system or any other type of network environment, it is essential to configure access to the system in a hierarchy. Employees, vendors, and contractors should only have access to the files and database partitions necessary for them to complete their work.
Creating a solid access management system is easier than it might seem at first. It’s a highly effective way at keeping company data as secure as possible. Since most cybersecurity issues arise due to negligent access and handling of company data, limiting individual access to company data to a purely as-needed basis helps eliminate the possibility of employees compromising data to which they should not have had access in the first place.
Secure All Wireless Networks
Wireless connectivity is a staple of modern business, and virtually everyone at the consumer level relies on wireless networks to some degree for personal and professional reasons. Some small businesses have taken to offering free Wi-Fi to customers and configuring loosely guarded wireless internet hubs that can become security vulnerabilities. Small business owners should ensure wireless networks for customer use and internal connections remain separate. Additionally, it’s wise to construct some type of password-enabled portal for guests to use Wi-Fi rather than keeping a Wi-Fi network unsecured for anyone to connect easily.
Build a Reliable Firewall Configuration
Firewalls are an essential part of any healthy digital business environment. Firewalls are defensive systems that monitor all incoming and outgoing network traffic.
Users configure their preferred security rules to determine how the firewall will function and what type of traffic should be deemed trustworthy or untrustworthy. When a firewall detects anything that satisfies the set parameters as suspicious, it alerts the network administrator and quarantines the connection. A reliable firewall essentially functions as a barrier between an internal network and the rest of the internet.
Educate Employees About Cyberthreats
Creating a company culture around digital security is an essential part of modern cybersecurity. Since so many vulnerabilities turn into security issues due to negligent use of digital assets and access-related problems, educating employees about cybersecurity is an essential step toward creating a reliable security environment. As small business owners implement new cybersecurity measures for their enterprises, they must explain to employees the need for these measures, how they work, and what type of threats they intend to prevent from affecting the business. Small business owners who take time to field employee questions and foster a company culture committed to cybersecurity will likely enjoy greater internal network security.
In addition to educating employees about cyberthreats, small business owners must take it upon themselves to stay educated about the latest digital threats to their companies and potential defenses against them. A recent Fundera study reported almost half of small business owners do not implement cybersecurity protocols, likely because they assume it is not necessary for their small operations. However, the same study reported that more than 40% of all cyberattacks target small businesses, and 60% of those businesses that experience cyberattacks go out of business within six months. Small business owners should consider subscribing to digital security firm newsletters, participating in cybersecurity workshops, or attending conferences geared toward cybersecurity and enterprise-level data protection technology.
Partner With a Reliable Digital Security Firm
Small business owners wear many hats, but it’s important for them to delegate certain tasks to other employees and reliable service providers. Working with a reliable and trustworthy digital security firm is a great step toward defending against the growing number of cybersecurity threats that continue to plague modern companies. A digital security firm can offer scalable digital security solutions, ranging from simple software licensing and ongoing support to real-time threat detection and advanced monitoring technology.
Maintain Mobile Device Security
Mobile devices are an essential part of modern business, and many small business owners and their employees rely on mobile platforms to connect with clients and customers and complete a wide range of business-critical tasks. However, mobile devices are also major vulnerabilities when they are not carefully protected. Today, more than half of all business computers are mobile, and that includes laptop computers as well as smartphones and tablet PCs. This means the average small business likely relies on many different devices that could become security vulnerabilities if they are not properly defended. Companies must treat mobile computers and smartphones used by employees outside of the office as they would desktop platforms used on company property.
Take Advantage of Multifactor Authentication Wherever Possible
Multifactor authentication is a straightforward yet effective method of maintaining an access management system. When a user requires access to a system, the system will require the user to authenticate his or her credentials through a second factor. For example, logging into a desktop pc may prompt the system to text a security code to the user’s approved mobile device, and the user enters the code into the login screen to gain access. This type of security ensures that obtaining a password alone is not enough to grant access to a system.
Minimize Service Provider, Vendor, and All Other Outside Access to Your Systems
Many small business owners work with a wide variety of vendors, service providers, and other partners to keep their operations moving. Some of these entities may require access to the business’s systems, but the business owner should maintain firm control over this access and only award it as needed. Similar to establishing solid internal access standards, this step helps to prevent negligent access and unauthorized use of a business’s systems by contractors, vendors, and other partners who need some level of access to the business’s network.
Manage Small Business With Confidence
Small business owners face a wide variety of looming cybersecurity threats on many fronts, from phishing scams that target email to poor mobile device security standards, there are countless ways a small business could experience crippling digital intrusions that compromise internal data, diminish customer trust, and tarnish professional reputation. Keeping these ten protections in mind and enforcing the highest level of digital security is the best defense against the ever-increasing number of digital threats targeting businesses of all sizes.
The PEAK system is one of the best tools a business owner can use to ensure digital security and keep data safe while also boosting productivity. Avelera developed the PEAK platform to offer businesses of all sizes data security, protection against a wide range of digital threats, and a robust set of tools to maximize productivity and profitability.
Small business owners can’t afford to assume they are not valuable targets to cybercriminals when customer data can be just as if not more valuable than cash in a register. In 2017 alone, 61% of small businesses experienced cyberattacks and more than 60% of those attacks targeted customer data. Taking steps to create a company culture around data security and leveraging the PEAK system are some of the best ways small business owners can protect their companies from the ever-growing number of digital threats wreaking havoc across the internet.
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