David Rodeck

Securing Your Business Series, Part 1: Cybersecurity

To keep your small business safe, cybersecurity is crucial. You can’t exactly sweep it under the rug: Cybersecurity breaches have increased by 67% over the past five years, and up to $5.2 trillion dollars could be at risk by 2023.

Equifax, Marriott, Yahoo and Target are just a few major brands to have been hit with data breaches. There are countless others. But don’t let this make you think that cybercrime is only an issue for large corporations. Hackers also heavily target small businesses, assuming that since they often have fewer resources to protect themselves, they’re a vulnerable target.

In the first part of this series on keeping your business secure, learn the cybersecurity issues your business could face — along with how you can prevent them.

Common Cybersecurity Risks

Just what cyber problems should you be concerned about as a business owner? Here are the most common kinds you might face.

  • Viruses and malware. Harmful computer programs slow down your network. They can also steal information, delete files from your computers, create pop-ups and cause other problems. Viruses/malware end up on a computer when you download files, open email attachments or visit unsafe websites.
  • Ransomware. Ransomware is a specific type of malware designed to steal money. The software locks up a device and threatens to delete files unless you pay the criminals a ransom. Even if you pay the ransom, they might delete your files anyway or ask for more money.
  • Phishing. Phishing emails pretend to be from a trusted source, like your bank or another employee. The email tries to trick your staff into sharing confidential information or downloading a file with a virus.
  • DDoS attacks. Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks flood your website, server or network with traffic until it becomes overwhelmed and crashes. Cybercriminals do this to cause trouble or to demand a ransom.
  • Unsecured devices. If your business’s computers and mobile devices are not properly password-protected, it doesn’t take a sophisticated cybercriminal to break in and steal your secrets. Devices are similarly vulnerable when employees log in to public Wi-Fi. While employees access private company information on the connection, a hacker can see everything.

What’s at Stake for Your Small Business?

In 2017, 43% of cyberattacks were aimed at small businesses, and they’re unlikely to diminish as time goes on. Small businesses are an attractive target: They have more money than individuals but smaller security budgets than large corporations.

The consequences of a cyberattack are extremely steep for small businesses, costing an average of $133,000. These costs include damage to equipment, employee downtime, missed business opportunities and the cost of recovery. Not to mention that if you lose employee or client information, your reputation could take a hit as well.

7 Steps to Protect Your Business

Keeping your company’s networks and data safe is a major task that demands your attention for as long as you’re in business. However, these seven basic steps will help equip you for the fight against cybercrime.

  1. Install anti-virus software. Your business computers should all use anti-virus and anti-malware software to screen for potentially harmful programs. It’s easier to block problems ahead of time than to repair a compromised computer after the fact.
  2. Keep up with software updates. Computer programs regularly release patches and updates that include security upgrades. Your employees might be used to putting off updates, so remind them how important updating is for fixing known vulnerabilities that hackers could exploit.
  3. Secure the company network. Your company’s internet connection should be encrypted and protected with a firewall. Secure your Wi-Fi network with a password so that unauthorized users can’t log on.
  4. Emphasize employee training. Your workforce should know how to recognize phishing emails and avoid browsing risky personal websites on work computers. If you’re not confident that your staff understands cybersafety, consider hosting a seminar or leading an educational workshop that teaches them some best practices.
  5. Secure devices. All of your computers and work mobile devices should be password-protected — and those passwords should be changed regularly. That way, even if thieves steal your device, they can’t access your information. Workplace computers, especially laptops, should be physically locked up as well.
  6. Back up key files. All of your most important business files should be backed up digitally using cloud software or a physical storage device like a portable hard drive. You could use both to be even safer. Then if your employees encounter ransomware or another problem, your business won’t lose key information.
  7. Hire an IT security specialist. Managing cybersecurity on your own can be overwhelming, especially if you aren’t a tech expert. If your business can’t afford a full-time IT security specialist, bring on a consultant to review your procedures.

Securing your business against the growing threat of cybercrime requires constant vigilance. Once you’ve devised a strategy for reducing your risk of a cyberattack, you still have work to do — but you’ll know you’ve reinforced your business’s defenses online, and in a digital world, that’s the kind of precaution that will keep your business on the cutting edge as it moves into the future.

Are you making security a priority at your company? Read part two of our series on securing your business.