As a small business owner, you live by a few simple philosophies; in your world, the customer is still always right, you treat your employees like family and most importantly, you know you’re a rather small fish in a big pond, so your risk of cybercrime is virtually non-existent. Unfortunately for you, it’s estimated that 72 percent of all reported cyber-attacks are targeted at businesses with 100 employees or less. Cybercriminals are banking on small business owners’ naiveté; instead of becoming another unfortunate statistic, learn about the few ways to protect your company from targeted attacks.
Assess Your Potential Risks
Protecting your small business, as well as your customers, from the threat of cybercriminals begins by examining your company’s operating and online system. Do you still have an anti-virus from 2006 and is your password the word “password?” Are your computer’s patches up-to-date? Is all of your most sensitive information, including customer data and your accounting figures, attached to the internet? If you’re unsure of how to assess the overall strengths and weaknesses of your system, don’t hesitate to seek the assistance of a tech-savvy friend or family member. Even if you must pay a professional to beef up your network’s security and pinpoint vulnerabilities, the additional cost is well-worth the added protections and peace of mind.
Educate Yourself and Your Employees
Now that you have the proper security measures in place, it’s time to ensure your employees are made aware of the threat cybercriminals pose. Make your stance on the subject crystal clear and that the threat of advanced targeted attacks is always present. Organize a training session or seminar for employees that regularly connect their personal mobile devices to the company’s network. Teach employees that opening up a suspicious link on their Facebook account leaves your customers’ information vulnerable to malware or spyware. If an employee doesn’t know a router from a wireless adapter, then it’s especially important to train them on how to protect the company from cyber-attacks.
Reinforce the Importance of Strong Passwords
Hackers rely on an uninformed individual’s love of using commonplace and predictable passwords. Beyond instructing any employee to change his company passwords at least every 60 to 70 days, it’s important to teach them how to create a password no cybercriminal can crack. Here is a short list of some common passwords hackers adore:
- The sequence “12345.”
- Your name, your spouse’s name or even your Aunt Angie’s maiden name – believe it or not, a clever hacker can easily find your relative’s names and use them to gain access to your bank account or email address.
- Your pet’s name.
- Passwords under six words long.
Constantly Update Your Anti-Virus and Install a Firewall
If you haven’t already done so, update your anti-virus suite on a regular basis. For an added layer of protection, choose a product that offers protection against spyware. Spyware is a type of malicious software that many unknowingly download on their computer. The software is capable of collecting almost any type of data, from user logins and internet browsing habits, to email account information and the password to your bank account. Installing a firewall is another great tool any small business owner should utilize. Basically, a firewall protects your computer from any unauthorized data. In essence, the program puts an invisible shield around your computer, helping to stop cybercriminals in their tracks.
Back-Up Any Necessary Data
Aside from the dangers posed by cybercriminals, your data is susceptible to a number of threats, including natural disasters, power surges and hardware malfunctions. As a rule, make a habit of creating back-up copies of all critical data and information stored on your computer. Store all this information away from the office, such as on your home computer or on an external hard drive. Encrypting this information, which makes the data unreadable until a password is entered, is another layer of protection worth considering.
The threat of cybercrime is constantly evolving, and intrepid hackers are finding new and increasingly complex ways to infiltrate your records and wreak havoc on your professional life. To truly protect your small business and customers, make it a point to remain abreast of the latest tactics cybercriminals employ, and don’t hesitate to report any suspicious emails or internet-related crime to your local authorities.
Benjamin Flynn is a guest blogger and small business owner. When he’s not balancing the books, Benjamin hosts seminars aimed at teaching other local entrepreneurs about the threat of cybercrime.