The belief that cybercriminals only target billion-dollar businesses is largely dismissable. The well-to-do nature of big businesses can allow for copious amounts of spending on security measures — generally discouraging cybercriminals. Small businesses, on the other hand, may not be afforded that same luxury. Left unprepared and uneducated, small businesses could take the brunt of cyberattacks.
Password management, information back-ups, remote monitoring and management, and proper employee training are critical cybersecurity practices. These practices give small businesses the assurance they need to work with confidential information. Below are some cybersecurity best practices and how to implement them.
Create a Cybersecurity Plan for Your Business
A cybersecurity plan will maintain all of the important policies, protocols, educational materials, and internal best practices in case of an attack. Having such information laid out in advance can save time and energy that’s better invested in thwarting potential cybersecurity threats. The plan can outline a thorough response, as well as provide training material for new employees.
In order to keep your business’s cybersecurity plan continually updated, make sure to have a cybersecurity point person. If outsourcing for this job is too expensive, consider adding the responsibility on to a current employee — alongside a pay raise. Having someone keeping track of the current news on cyber attacks can help prevent such an attack from occurring in the first place. Modern software allows you to outsource that responsibility to remote information technology teams.
Practice Proper Password Management
Small business managers should be sure to practice proper password management. As your first line of defense, passwords must be strong and secure. Adopting long passphrases — a series of words with spaces in between each word — is a good start. For example, a long passphrase such as “tea window maybe fish” is more difficult to crack than your typical password, “M4cb00k38,” which substitutes numbers for letters. The latter is simply easier for computers to guess.
Two-factor authentication — 2FA, for short — offers an extra layer of support to your password or passphrase. Upon providing their username and password, users will be asked to give an additional piece of information. This could include a personal identification number (PIN), answers to secret questions, or a fingerprint, among other things. A PIN, for instance, is a one-time code sent to your phone — and only your phone — which enables an extra level of security. Answers to secret questions could include what town you were born in or your mother’s maiden name. Fingerprints are a form of biometric verification; other forms include facial, vocal, and ocular recognition.
Small businesses can take advantage of 2FA by ensuring that their remote workers’ accounts and connections are secure. The Wi-Fi connections and IP addresses used by workers in their homes, coffee shops, or libraries may be especially vulnerable to cyberattacks. The nature of 2FA applies a method that is stronger than a simple password or passphrase, thereby offering a greater level of protection for remote workers.
Continually Backup Important Information
Information backups entail creating a copy of data and storing it on a separate medium, such as an external drive, a USB stick, a disk storage system, or a cloud storage container. Having this information backed up will not only give a business peace of mind, but will protect their customers as well. Every small business manager should take the time to back up their company’s data on a regular basis, since the longer a business goes without backing up their information, the more they are likely to lose. Such information can be lost due to cyberattacks, software failure, or even accidental deletion.
A cyberattack, for instance, could place ransomware on a business’s computers or network — restricting them from accessing important files unless they pay a certain amount of money. Preemptively having these files backed up on a separate medium dampens the effect of the threat as it protects customers’ information against ransomware. In the case of a ransomware attack, businesses can simply wipe the hard drive and upload the backup information.
Train and Educate Employees
Employee knowledge of technological equipment and cybersecurity threats is vital to keeping small businesses safe. As such, training sessions can be implemented to educate employees on each matter. Sessions can include how to use the technological equipment, the different types of cybersecurity threats, and how to recognize them.
Phishing scams, for example, showcase how people are often the entry-point for hackers. Usually received through email or by text, phishing scams manipulate their victims into believing that they’re coming from a trustworthy source. Often using words such as “urgent,” phishing scams feed off of the human tendency to react without thinking. Business managers should be sure to inform their employees of these common cybersecurity threats.
To further ensure their compliance with protocol, have employees sign a document holding them accountable for misuse of company infrastructure.
Take Advantage of Technology
From anti-virus programs to remote monitoring and management software, there are myriad technologies that can help make your business more secure. Using software that offers remote access and support, for instance, is one of the best ways to get help from technical experts and take control of a business’s cybersecurity needs. Ensuring protection and support in and out of the office is essential due to the increasing number of people working remotely.
Anti-virus programs are another tool businesses can use to their advantage. These programs can recognize and warn against potential cybersecurity threats. In doing so, businesses are able to provide their customers with the peace of mind necessary to foster successful relationships.
One final solution is encryption. Instead of protecting a business’s network, encryption protects what cybercriminals really want: the data. Encrypting data essentially entails writing codes for a given piece of information that can only be opened by people with authorization — in other words, a key. The process and management of encryption can be more difficult to implement than the previously mentioned cybersecurity methods.