Cybersecurity Tips For Small Businesses
The internet plays a vital role for small businesses, connecting them with their customers and helping them reach new markets. Unfortunately, the internet’s convenience also makes small businesses an easy target for cybercriminals.
Yes, it’s mostly the large companies with headline-making cybersecurity incidents. Still, research shows that small businesses are more frequently targeted by attacks, with 43% of all data breaches targeting these businesses.
And while there is no foolproof method to protect your business online, understanding the threat and taking proactive cybersecurity measures are vital to staying safe. To that end, we’ve compiled a list of the ten best cybersecurity tips for small businesses.
Let’s get started!
Cybersecurity tips for small businesses
Small businesses need cybersecurity for many reasons, ranging from earning customer trust to promoting financial and data integrity and increasing the business’s longevity.
Here are ten key security recommendations for small businesses:
Tip #1: Passwords and authentication
As a business, your systems will have a lot of business-critical data, customers’ information, and trade secrets. And to maintain your customers’ trust, and remain competitive and relevant in the market, you must keep this data away from unauthorised users. This is where passwords come into play.
When implemented correctly, passwords will help prevent unauthorised personnel from accessing your devices. Experts recommend strong and hard-to-figure-out passwords – 8 characters or more in length, including letters, numbers, and special characters.
You should also incorporate multi-factor authentication (MFA) into your passwords to keep the devices more secure. MFA is a login process where after keying in a password, a second, one-time passcode is sent to another device to allow access.
Another very vital security tip regarding passwords is to keep updating them. It helps you stay safe from brute-force attacks and prevents access to your systems when you lose or change devices.
Tip #2: Keep software updated
This is one of the easiest to act on security measures but often gets overlooked. You only need to keep all software used by your company’s laptops, desktops, phones, tablets, and other devices up to date.
Software updates contain security patches that are vital in fighting against cyber threats. Without these patches, your router (and the devices connected) remain vulnerable to cyber-attacks.
In addition to preventing security issues, software updates help improve compatibility and program features. They help your business devices to run smoothly.
Tip #3: Don’t forget the human firewall tactics
Did you know that 90% of cyberattacks start as phishing attempts? Yes, you heard that right. Moreover, 47% of cyber security breaches result from employee negligence. To avoid falling victim to these cyber-attacks, experts recommend that your employees be IT-literate.
Now, how do you make your employees IT-literate and who do you train?
For security purposes, it’s recommended that you offer cybersecurity training to all your employees. This way, you can ensure that your business is 100% safe from phishing and other attacks.
The National Cyber Security Center recommends the following measures in regards to preventing phishing attacks:
- Configure accounts to minimise the effect of successful data breaches: Configure your employees’ accounts using ‘least privilege.’ By this, you give the staff the lowest privileges to the lowest level employees, which helps minimise damage in case of a successful attack.
- Look out for the obvious signs of phishing: Train your employees to identify the obvious signs of phishing, including grammar errors, threats, too good to be true deals, etc.
- Report all types of attacks: Ensure that your employees ask for help if they think they are a victim of phishing. Lead them in scanning for malware and changing passwords in case of a cybersecurity threat.
- Check your digital footprint: Cybercriminals use readily available information about your business and employees to make their messages more convincing. Beware of what you, your business partners, and your employees share online.
- Consider how you run your business: Consider the loopholes a cybercriminal may use to get into your systems and ensure your employees and partners understand how to protect your entity.
Tip #4: Use VPNs
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is an opportunity to create a protected network connection when using a public network. It encrypts your internet traffic and disguises your online identity, making it difficult for cybercriminals to track your activity and steal your data.
It allows your staff members to securely access your business’s network and resources when working from home or while on the move. This is necessary because workers use public internet access, which is not secure compared to your business’s network.
If you’re wondering how to implement the usage of VPNs in your business, this is the section for you. Here are valuable tips to help you pick a VPN successfully:
- Choose one brand of VPN to use by all your staff and partners
- Avoid free VPNs and software if possible; most will increase the risk of being hacked
- Oversee the installation of VPNs to all systems in your business
- Offer training to your employees on using the VPN. For instance, you need to let them understand the benefits of turning on a VPN when they need to access sensitive data.
- Before buying a VPN, you should check whether the firewall protection has a built-in VPN
Tip #5: Back up your data
I’m sure you have heard about the likes of WannaCry and Brenntag ransomware that had people and businesses pay billions of dollars to access their data. One thing that makes such ransomware attacks so effective is that many people and small businesses do not have a backup for their data. And for the few small businesses with a backup, most do not back up the data regularly enough.
Ransomware attacks encrypt the data stored in your business’s computers, phones, or other devices and demand a ransom to decrypt the data. You may be forced to pay the ransom to see your business operations continue without a backup.
However, with backup, you can download your data from the cloud and continue operating normally. You may check the various cloud backup platforms, including AWS, Google Cloud, Azure, etc.
Tip #6: Deploy anti-virus and firewall
Two pieces of software play a vital role in keeping your business safe from cyberattacks: Anti-virus software and a firewall.
Anti-virus software detects and neutralises any threats in your business network, devices, and computer systems. The number of malware in existence has grown exponentially over the years, and anti-virus helps detect and neutralise them.
Also, remember to install the anti-virus software on corporate-owned and employees’ devices used for work-related purposes. Update the anti-virus software regularly to keep up with the ever-evolving malware.
The anti-virus software will cost your business a few bucks, but it’s a relatively small cost compared to the value and protection they provide. So, treat the few dollars as an investment into your business security measures.
For complete protection against malware, install the anti-virus in combination with a firewall. This network security device monitors the traffic coming into and out of your network. Combining an anti-virus with a firewall means your hardware and software are safe from cyber-attacks.
Tip #7: Secure Wi-Fi networks
I know you’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: you, your employees, and your partners should refrain from using public Wi-Fi to access work-related networks or accounts unless you use a VPN.
Public Wi-Fi networks are hackers’ playgrounds and are highly dangerous, even for highly protected devices. If you must use these networks, ensure you are connected to a virtual private network (VPN).
For public Wi-Fi, we include Wi-Fi networks at airports, shared working spaces, cafes, restaurants, and transport systems. If you don’t have control over the network or aren’t sure about the firewalls used, do not risk using them. You can get a portable 4G network for your employees if they work on the go.
Method #8: Reduce physical access to computers
Physical security is one of the most significant aspects of any business security. It involves protecting property, people and physical assets from physical events and actions, including flood, fire, theft, burglary, and vandalism.
Unfortunately, most people overlook it, especially with the advent of cloud platforms. In turn, this leaves your business exposed to physical attacks.
Unauthorised persons should not get access to your PCs, laptops, scanners, or other physical asset your business owns. You should physically secure the device or add a physical tracker to your property to help recover it if lost or stolen.
For computers and systems that several staff members use, businesses should create separate profiles and accounts for enhanced protection.
The bottom line
Large businesses typically have the resources to keep their network safe from ever-evolving cyber threats. However, small businesses work with tighter budgets and have fewer resources. Cybercriminals take this to their advantage, targeting small businesses.