How do you protect your small business network from cyber attack in a world full of criminality?
Cyber crime cost victims $2.7 billion in 2018 alone, according to the FBI, and the U.S. Small Business Administration reports that 88 percent of small business owners feel vulnerable.
Why? Small businesses make ripe targets for criminals in a world where cybercrime is cheap and easy to perform, and the theft of digital information has become so common that it’s surpassed physical theft already.
Cyber criminals know that small businesses possess valuable data, and have fewer resources to devote to cyber security. But you don’t have to wait for cyber criminals to steal your data, destroy your customers’ faith in you, and put you out of business. You can protect your business network by staying one step ahead of the thieves.
Know the Risks
How vulnerable is your risk to a cyber attack?
You can find out by getting a cyber security risk assessment. It will help you see where your business’s vulnerabilities are, so you can take the appropriate action to optimize your security protocols immediately.
Do you need to focus on training your employees? Encrypting data and emails? Installing endpoint security to protect your devices?
You can get the answers to these questions by performing the Department of Homeland Security’s Cyber Resilience Review (CRR), or requesting an onsite assessment by DHS employees. The DHS also provides cyber hygiene vulnerability scanning to small businesses for fee.
Whether or not you choose to undergo a risk assessment, you should educate yourself about security threats. Learn about the types of cyber attacks and how to avoid them. Only then can you educate your employees and implement a proper security protocol for your business.
Train Your Employees
Just as your employees need regular training on skills related to their jobs, how to avoid sexual harassment, and what to do in case of an emergency, they need regular training sessions on cyber security.
Don’t stop at showing new employees a video about cyber security. Make cyber security and cyber hygiene training a regular part of the job. Test employees’ security acumen with occasional mock attacks. Use their response to these attacks to determine whether you need to ramp up training efforts or not.
Practice Good Cyber Hygiene
Good cyber hygiene is crucial to network security. It involves using a comprehensive endpoint security solution, so that all of your business’s computers, laptops, tablets, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices are protected from hackers.
You should also secure your network behind a firewall, with a secure, hidden WiFi network and a password-protected router. Strong passwords are also important to good cyber hygiene, as is multi-factor authentication.
And don’t forget to bring your cyber hygiene into meatspace. Be careful that former employees’ network passwords are disabled immediately, for example, and keep sensitive information restricted on a need-to-know basis.
Be wary of anyone who calls up asking questions about an employee or asking for access to your network or your data.
And be suspicious of anyone who wants to gain access to restricted areas of your business – hackers have been known to access sensitive data by physically sneaking or breaking in to a business. Is that delivery person really a delivery person? Be cautious, and train your employees to be cautious, too.
Protect Your Data
It’s a good idea to protect the data on your devices, services, and cloud network by encrypting it. Data encryption isn’t beyond the reach of small business owners.
There are affordable encryption programs available to small business owners, and your enterprise operating system may already include an encryption program.
You can encrypt just your most sensitive files, create an encrypted area to store sensitive files, or encrypt your whole hard drive. But make sure you back up your data first, and continue backing it up regularly.
As a business owner, you’re trusted with customers’ and vendors’ personal and payment information, and in addition to encrypting any such information on your network, you should also use a secure payment processing tool.
Discuss using security and anti-fraud tools with your bank and payment processor – they can point you in the right direction. For an added layer of security, isolate payment systems from other programs and even other computers or devices.
The last thing a small business owner needs is to clean up in the aftermath of a cyber attack. Take steps to protect your company’s sensitive data from thieves and hackers, so your business can thrive for years to come.