Author: Luke Smith
Any business owner who watches the news should have the threat of a cyberattack in the back of their minds. Over the last several years, many major companies and entities, from Experian and Target to the federal government, have fallen victim to cybercrime, and thieves have stolen the information of millions of people. The sad part is, the continued risk of cybercrime is growing and every company needs to get its act together.
As a smaller business, you may feel that you are small potatoes to hackers since you don’t have the records of millions of customers, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Hackers often make it a point to come after small companies because they know you probably don’t have the right security measures in place. What can you do to protect what’s yours? Start by following the measures created by your corporate counterparts.
Large Companies Know the Risks
The first thing that large companies do is learn about the cyber risks that threaten their businesses and create a plan to prevent them from happening. It is important to remember that, with the frequency of cybercrime, it is not a question of if a hacker will try to access your system, but when. It is essential to be ready because the damage from such an attack can be catastrophic.
First, there is the money aspect. Recent reports show that a cyberattack can cost a company upwards of $13 million dollars, which includes the cost of patching up vulnerabilities and lost business. Then there is the inevitable decline of your customer base as they lose faith that you can properly take care of their precious data.
There are many different types of cyber-attacks that can impact your business. Some companies have seen their losses happen in the form of cyber espionage, where a current or former employee steals data to sell it to a competitor. The more common security issue is data theft, however, which can happen in many ways, including ransomware, where the hacker takes the computer system hostage until paid a predetermined price. It could also be a hacker finding their way into a computer system by discovering weak passwords.
The point is that big companies are aware that a hack can come at any time, often without their knowledge, so they create a risk assessment. This evaluation looks at the different potential risks and then creates a plan of action to prevent them or gets up and running if an unfortunate event were to occur. As a small business owner, form a team and take some time to research the risks. Then, create a proposed resolution that could include beefing up your firewall or limiting system access to only those who need it.
One tactic many corporate teams have put into effect is the idea of top-down security. For many years, cybersecurity protections were mostly left to the IT team, and it was their responsibility to make sure that the company was protected. However, members of a large IT team are only human, and they cannot see everything. The idea of top-down security is that everyone from the CEO to the secretary understands the risks and does their part to avoid them.
This all-in approach should start with effective employee education. Have regular training meetings where your security experts discuss new threats and the protocols that each employee needs to follow to protect the data that they work with. New employees should also go through mandatory security training and sign a waiver when they are done that shows the importance of being vigilant.
While all employees may not have a security background, they should be made aware of the processes they can do on their end to save your company. Inform them of the risks that cybercrime brings so they understand the absolute importance. Make sure that they lock their computers when they walk away, change their passwords on a regular basis, and backup and encrypt their data.
How IT Teams Avoid Data Theft
Large companies have the budget to build expansive IT teams, but just because you may have fewer people doesn’t mean that you can’t enforce the same protections. Put your IT team in charge of password protection. Passwords should be complex with a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters. Perhaps more importantly, system access should be taken away when an employee leaves the organization so they cannot access information after the fact.
A lot of cybersecurity comes down to employee access. The IT team or security expert should put restrictions on web browsers so they can only visit approved websites and verify that updated antivirus software is installed on their computers, so they can’t accidentally download malware sent via phishing emails.
Protect all company data with physical backup servers that are checked and updated regularly. Many companies are now looking to the cloud to store their extra data, but hackers are catching on, so ensure that the data stored there is also encrypted and don’t use the cloud for your most sensitive data. If a breach does occur, change access codes and passwords immediately.
While smaller businesses may not have the same budget allowance, simple security measures can make the difference. Take your cybersecurity seriously now, so you won’t be sorry later.