If you think your company is too small to be vulnerable to cybercrime, think again. It’s not just big companies like Target and Experian that face cyberthreats to information security and assets. Companies of all sizes are vulnerable. But, unlike Target and Experian, your small business likely doesn’t have the resources to recover from a data breach or other cybercrime. Sixty percent of small businesses that suffer a cyberattack are forced to close their doors within six months as a result.
That’s why adopting various risk mitigation tactics is so important in safeguarding your business from cyberthreats. By following a few simple steps, you can drastically reduce your chances of being targeted by cybercriminals. Here’s what you need to do.
Change Your Default Passwords
One of the biggest – and most common – computer security mistakes you can make as a business owner is failing to change the default passwords that come with your system and devices. These factory-setting passwords are easily hackable, so leaving them in place is tantamount to inviting cybercriminals in. The first thing you should do to ensure endpoint security for your system and devices is change the default usernames and passwords.
But, how can you choose the strongest passwords? Your kids’ birthdays, your pet’s name, or your mother’s maiden name are all easily guessable by any hacker who does a little research. Dictionary words aren’t a good bet, either, because hackers can use software to crack these. Use a password manager to create and store secure passwords.
Update Systems Regularly
Regularly scheduled software updates aren’t (just) designed to make you pull your hair out. They contain patches that help keep systems secure against common security threats. Systems that haven’t been updated with the latest patches are more vulnerable to hackers.
Of course, you should also protect your system with a solid antivirus program, and it, too, should schedule automatic updates. Install an antispyware program, as hackers can use spyware to obtain sensitive information from your system.
Since small businesses often don’t have the resources to properly encrypt customer payment information, it’s a good idea to outsource payment processing to a company like PayPal, which can save you a lot of money while ensuring protection for your customers and your business, as well as compliance with Visa USA and MasterCard International Inc.’s encryption requirements.
Add a last line of defense to sensitive internal information, like product information, financial accounts, personnel files, and other data by encrypting it, so that any hacker who gets into the system might still be foiled by the encryption.
Learn to Recognize Security Threats – And Educate Staff
Human error still represents the biggest security threat for any system, because today’s hackers are increasingly relying on sophisticated social engineering attacks to gain access to sensitive data. Even security-savvy employees may find themselves falling for a sophisticated phishing attack. Educate yourself about common security threats, and make regular security training a must for staff.
Don’t just train them once, either; cybersecurity threats continue to evolve, and even if they didn’t, people need their knowledge refreshed from time to time. Most people don’t learn something until they’re told over and over. Schedule regular cybersecurity trainings for your staff and yourself. If you can afford it, bring in a consultant once in a while to assess your vulnerability and help you address potential gaps in your security.
Be Suspicious, and Limit Access to Sensitive Data
Sometimes, hackers go to great lengths to get access to your data, and may some even present themselves as trustworthy friends, acquaintances, or employees. More commonly, phishing attacks and other threats come in the form of communications from financial institutions, lawyers, or others you may be inclined to trust.
Be suspicious of any communication you receive, and any person or entity who wants information from you about your business. Limit access to sensitive data to those who absolutely need it in order to do their jobs. Don’t let every employee have access to all the company’s most valuable information, or even the files that contain them. Keep this information encrypted so that unscrupulous employees can’t steal it.
Have employees sign into the system as limited users, so that hackers won’t be able to gain access to the system and change software while they’re signed into their accounts. This will help protect your system from malicious software that could attack simply because you, or an employee, visited a harmful website.
These days, it’s more important than ever to protect your business from cyberthreats. The more aware you are of cybersecurity fundamentals, the higher your chances of enjoying a long and successful career in entrepreneurship.