Your business’s virtual or online presence is the storehouse of as much valuable information, if not more, as your business’s physical location. Your connected computers communicate with clients, accept payments, store financial details, usernames, passwords, as well as personnel files, and much more. This reality makes businesses vulnerable for cyber attacks that can disrupt business and even daily life, especially small businesses that have invested only the bare minimum in protecting e-commerce and sign-up web pages. When it comes to cybersecurity, the doors to your online premises require as much vigilance as the physical doors to your brick and mortar business premises. The following are best practices to identify cyber threats and avoid attacks.
Understand Your Risk Level
In surveying small businesses, the National Cyber Security Alliance found out that small business owners typically don’t understand the level to which they are at risk, especially if they don’t have a strong web presence. It is, however, important to remember that cyber criminals do not see your business the same way that you see it. While you might be struggling to make sales and keep the lights on, collecting and storing the following types of information from any number of people can put your business at risk for a cyber attack. Cyber criminals watch businesses large and small and stay poised to steal the following types of information:
● Sensitive and private business or personal information
● Financial information
● Payments, meaning money
● Orders with private client trade information
Cyber criminals also use communications methods, primarily email, to launch cyber attacks. Understanding the data you collect, how and where it’s stored, and your primary communication methods can put you on the road to reducing your vulnerability to such attacks.
As your business grows, it’s all too easy to forget to download virus protection software and update your operating system periodically. These tools, however, are powerful protection measures against cyber criminals looking to sneak viruses and spyware onto your computers. To protect your business from an embarrassing and potentially damaging cyber attack, don’t click away notices to update your computers’ security systems. Develop a practice and policy to keep computers up-to-date with the latest anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Equip all devices you use for business, including smartphones and other smart devices, with the necessary software to keep out cyber thieves.
Create a Cybersecurity Plan
Creating a cybersecurity plan can be a daunting task for a small business. Fortunately, the Federal Communications Commission has done a lot of the heavy lifting by creating a customizable cyberplan for small businesses like yours. The FCC’s online tool walks you through several steps that access your business’s vulnerability and helps you create a plan to protect it. The FCC also publishes a cyber security tip sheet that you can consult for reminders and use as a training tool for your staff.
Once you’ve identified the risks, train your employees to protect your business against cyber attacks. To keep your company safe, your employees should be know how to prevent attacks, what to do should an attack occur, and how to act quickly to minimize the damage caused by a cyber attack. Training your staff to adopt simple practices, such as avoiding suspicious emails with invitations to download attachments, making strong passwords, and backing up their work, can go a long way to ensure security.
You’re not alone when it comes to protecting your small business against cyber attacks. The federal government, local IT consultants in your area, and your software vendors can provide free and low-cost solutions to keep your growing company safe. Companies such as Microsoft and Symantec maintain robust cyber security resources for small business. You can also consult no-cost resources provided by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance to significantly reduce cyber security threats for your business.
As the founder of nQuery Telecom Solutions, Emilio Diaz uses his 20+ years of experience in the telecom business to help build cost effective telecom solutions for businesses, nonprofit organizations, and government institutions. His experience as an innovative technology entrepreneur and a long-term business owner gives him intuitive insight to help boost productivity and maximize future growth. You can reach Emilio at Emilio@nquerysolutions.comor connect with him on LinkedIn.