No business is immune to cyberattacks. Because we’re all interconnected, and data can move freely between networks, even a small business is vulnerable to cybercriminals — as long as it relies on internet-based communications. One of the best ways to protect your small business from cyberattacks is to familiarize yourself with the best practices for preventing them.
Tip #1: Stop using weak passwords
A strong password is at least eight characters long and includes a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid using personal information like birthdays, pet names, or street addresses. The best passwords use random combinations of letters and numbers that don’t appear to be words or translate into anything in any language.
While you’re at it, make sure employees aren’t sharing their passwords either. If you share passwords between computers or employees, your whole system could be compromised if one of them has their computer stolen or leaves the company with access to your files.
Tip #2: Use two-factor or multi-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication—also known as two-step verification and multi-factor authentication—is a security method that requires not only a username and password but also another form of authentication. This could be something like a code sent to your phone via text or an app. You would need both the username, password, and code in order to access the account.
The purpose of this is to prevent unauthorized users from logging into your account even if they have your password. With two-factor authentication, someone would have to have your password AND have access to your phone or other devices where the code is generated in order to log into your account.
The more roadblocks put in place, the better.
Tip #3: Keep your software current on all work devices
When it comes to cyber security, you must make sure that all of your devices are updated. This is not something that you can leave for a future date. You will need to update all of your devices right away to avoid the risk of viruses and other cyber threats. It is important to remember that this includes more than just your computer; this also includes your tablet, phone, and even your printer.
Tip #4: Educate your team about technology safety
Employees should be educated about security threats, and know what to look out for. A lot of businesses do have a cyber security department; however, it is often tasked with keeping up with all of the latest malicious programs and viruses for the whole company. This might mean that the average employee doesn’t get all the information they need to protect themselves, leaving them vulnerable to online threats.
By educating your employees about cyber security, you are not only protecting your business but also providing them with valuable information about how to keep themselves safe online.
Tip #5: Limit access to sensitive systems and data
Limiting access is something that we all know we need to do, but it can be difficult to follow through if you’re a small business owner. When you have fewer employees, the idea of limiting access may seem like a hassle or an unnecessary step—but it’s a necessary one that can prevent breaches of your sensitive data and systems.
This doesn’t mean that you should block access to everything; the key is to sort out what is necessary access and what is unnecessary access. For example, if you store customer data, you wouldn’t want your janitor or vendors to have access to that information. Similarly, if you have employees working from home on a regular basis (like graphic designers who work from their homes instead of the office), it may be wise to limit access so that they can’t get into anything they shouldn’t see or do any damage from inside their personal network.
Tip #6: Have a plan for how to respond if a cyberattack does happen and practice it like a fire drill
In the event that your business is breached, you’ll want to know how you’ll respond. You should have a plan of action before an attack happens and practice it like you would a fire drill. Make sure everyone in your company knows what their role is in case of an attack; if you don’t know what steps to follow, who will? If you have partners or subsidiaries, make sure they’re trained on how to handle things as well; don’t assume everyone will behave rationally in a time of crisis.
Tip #7: Avoid using public Wi-Fi for business purposes
Public Wi-Fi networks are frequently unsecured, meaning anyone can access them without the need for a password. This has led to the proliferation of “free” internet access points at coffee shops, airports, restaurants, and hotels but these networks may be accessed by hackers who look for valuable personal data or use of these networks as a launching point to attack other networks.
Public Wi-Fi isn’t just an issue for companies that conduct business over the internet, but also for those companies that allow their employees to work remotely from their homes or other locations. Remote employees can be at great risk if they connect to the company network from an unprotected public Wi-Fi network. In addition to keeping your business data safe from hackers, it is important that your business complies with any applicable regulations related to data security such as PCI DSS requirements or HIPAA.
Tip #8: Use a firewall and antivirus software on all computers, tablets, and smartphones
A firewall is a network security system that protects your business from outside access. It blocks traffic, such as hackers and viruses. A firewall also stops people who may have “snuck” into your computer systems from transferring information, files, and other items to their computers or another server.
By having a security program update automatically, you can ensure that your data is protected and that you are alerted to threats immediately. Antivirus software protects against viruses, worms, Trojan horses, spyware, and other malicious programs that can compromise the security of your computer systems. It runs in the background of your computer and will alert you when these threats occur.
A firewall and antivirus software will help protect your computer data from being tampered with by an outside party. You should use these programs on all of the computers, tablets, and smartphones that you have in your business. Protecting both the employees and the data of a small business is vital for its success.
Bonus Tip: Get a cyber liability insurance policy for extra support and coverage
A cyber liability insurance policy is a growing area of interest in the insurance industry as more businesses are experiencing data breaches and other cyberattacks. These policies are designed to provide additional protection against these types of risks and help businesses recover from a cyberattack. Instead of providing coverage for a single type of attack, cyber liability policies typically cover many different potential attacks.
In addition to covering costs related to security measures, the policy may also cover expenses related to responding to an attack, such as hiring a forensic team to investigate the breach. In some cases, the policy may even cover any legal fees that may be associated with lawsuits related to an attack.
Cyberattacks are all too common, and you should never think that your business is too small to be a target. While the tips that we listed will help you make your business more secure, it’s important to note that it’s hard to prevent an attack if you don’t know it’s coming. Stay vigilant, and never put unnecessary sensitive information online. Remember, as a small business owner, you are your company’s first line of defense against cyberattacks.