If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: Just because you have a small business doesn’t mean that you are immune to hacking or other cyberattacks, or that you can let your guard down when it comes to cybersecurity. These days, small businesses, even home-based micro businesses, are just as vulnerable to attacks as major corporations, and the effects can be devastating.
Unfortunately, despite this reality, many home businesses aren’t adequately protected against the biggest threats to their livelihood. While your business may have protections already in place, such as powerful internet security software, firewalls, and encryption, there are still risks of which you should be aware.
1. Unsecured IoT Devices
The Internet of Things is everywhere now, from your coffee maker to the thermostat to any wearable tech. In some cases, you may have even installed IoT devices to better secure your home, such as app-controlled locks or doorbell that sends an alert to your phone when someone arrives. However, any device that is connected to the internet represents a risk. While it might seem unlikely that your coffee maker presents any major danger (and truthfully, right now it probably isn’t a major concern) it is possible for hackers to gain access to your network via unsecured devices. Therefore, if you have a home business:
- Consider connecting IoT devices like appliances, televisions, etc. to a network separate from your business.
- Stay on top of firmware updates from the device manufacturer, which often close security holes.
- Avoid using default login credentials, and set your own unique passwords instead.
Phishing is still a major issue in internet security, especially as criminals become more sophisticated. In fact, phishing attacks are on the rise. While high-quality protection software will identify and block known phishing emails, criminals are increasingly turning to spear phishing attacks that use information mined from the internet to create seemingly legitimate emails that will infect your system.
Therefore, you need to be aware of the signs of phishing, and respond accordingly. Common signs that an email isn’t legit include misspelled words and poor grammar despite supposedly coming from a legitimate business, strange return addresses, hyperlinks or attachments, and requests for personal information or passwords. Carefully review emails before you respond, and confirm all requests with the sender.
Ransomware is another growing problem affecting businesses of all sizes. Research shows that about 40 percent of businesses have been attacked by ransomware at least once, and many have withstood multiple attacks.
Ransomware is on the rise because it’s becoming more difficult to monetize stolen credit card and financial data, and ransom represents a quicker payoff. The hackers will encrypt your files and restrict access to them until you pay a ransom, which might range from a few hundred dollars in iTunes gift cards to several thousand dollars’ worth of Bitcoins. Often, it’s simply easier and faster to pay the ransom than to attempt to remove the ransomware, but that isn’t always possible.
4. Poor Security Practices
Keeping your business safe from hackers requires you to follow some basic security precautions, but many business owners fail to do so. For instance, when you are working outside of the office, have you set up a virtual private network, or use a private Wi-Fi source? Or do you use the public Wi-Fi? Using public Wi-Fi is convenient, but it is vulnerable to hackers. Other basic security measures include installing updates and patches as they become available, following password best practices, and testing your security practices on a regular basis. In other words, you need to make security a priority, and take the precautions necessary to keep your business safe.
5. Lack of Physical Security
Not all data breaches are a result of hacking or malware. Sometimes, the root cause is physical theft; in fact, some of the largest breaches in recent memory were due to stolen equipment. Even if you work from home, you must take precautions to protect your devices. Know how to lock and wipe your mobile devices if they are lost or stolen (be sure to back up your data!) and use services that will help you locate your stolen goods. Lock your home office when you aren’t in there to prevent visitors from accessing your business information.
As a home business owner, you might think that you are immune to the security risks that larger companies face, but that is simply not true. You must be aware of the risks, and take steps to protect against them, or your business could pay the price.