Do you know the importance of cybersecurity for small businesses?
Most small businesses have limited IT resources and budgets, the last thing you want is to spend more money on cybersecurity than you already do. But with the number of cyber-attacks taking place daily, it’s important to understand why hackers target small businesses and what steps you can take as a small business owner to protect yourself.
When it comes to SME cybersecurity and e-commerce cybersecurity, the risks are relatively small. However, cybercrime has been linked to identity fraud, financial theft, ransom demands and even terrorism. You have a law-abiding duty to keep your customers’ personal data safe too, although very small businesses are exempt from much of the legislation. Even a relatively minor hacking attack can shut down computers and networks causing delay and frustration, so it pays to take the issues seriously.
10 Cybersecurity Best Practices That Every Employee Should Know
Keep reading to find out the best cyber security strategies for small to medium-sized businesses.
1) Keep Computer Software Up To Date
You can’t underestimate the importance of keeping your computer software up to date when it comes to IT best practices for a small business. This means updating operating systems, antivirus, firewall and password managers regularly, as well as Windows and IOS release updates frequently.
In addition to these security measures, it’s also important for small businesses to keep anti-malware and anti-virus software up to date. Anti-malware and virus software is designed specifically for identifying and removing malicious programs such as viruses and spyware from computers or networks. They are an important part of cybersecurity best practices for small businesses. Applying these practices throughout your operations not only creates positive habits amongst employees but ensures your software is up to date and working effectively.
2) Anti-Virus Protection and Firewalls
Anti-virus software is one of the most important pieces of security software you can have on your device. A good antivirus program will protect you from malware and other malicious software, which can cause all kinds of problems for businesses. Anti-virus software works by scanning files as they are opened to ensure that no viruses are present. In addition, it also provides real-time protection against any threats that may slip through during this process. Once installed on your computer or mobile device, you must keep it updated with the latest patches and signatures so that it’s able to spot new threats before they become fully developed or cause too much damage.
While there are many different options available at various price points depending on which features you need (and don’t need), one thing remains consistent: no matter what type of anti-virus program you choose, installing and updating should be an automatic process with little intervention required from yourself beyond making sure everything runs smoothly when needed—which will probably only be after each update comes out!
What’s the main difference between antivirus software and a firewall? A firewall is a hardware and software-based security system for computer systems and private internet networks aimed to protect and monitor. Anti-virus is a software program that detects and eliminates any threats that might impact your internal systems should they break through.
Benefits of anti-virus protection and firewall:
- Protection from viruses
- Blocking spam sites and ads
- A more efficient computer
- Protection from identity theft
3) Secure Passwords
The first and most important step in protecting yourself is to choose a strong password. A strong password is not easily hacked or guessed:
- Uses a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols to make it hard for someone else to guess what you’re using.
- Is at least 8 characters long, but ideally more.
- Cannot be found in any dictionary or on any list of common passwords (like “password”).
If you’re wondering how to protect your small business from hackers, it’s worth knowing there are free websites where you can store company passwords securely. Websites such as Lastpass and 1password provide software and subscription services to securely store sensitive information. Along with auto-generated, unique passwords and auto-fill passwords, these platforms can provide expiration alerts. If you work across lots of software and platforms, this automatic help can be of great value.
4) Set Up Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication is a security feature that requires two pieces of information to access an account. For example, you might be asked to enter your username or password, and then also to verify your identity by entering a code that is sent via email or text message.
Two-factor authentication (or 2FA) is considered an extra layer of security because it makes it more difficult for anyone who doesn’t know your password to login to your account—even if they have been able to guess or steal it. It’s especially effective when combined with other preventative measures like encryption and firewalls.
Some common 2FA systems include:
- Phone passcodes or passwords (a combination of both)
- Biometrics (fingerprints and facial recognition)
- Digital tokens
5) Subscribe to a VPN
A VPN is a Virtual Private Network that allows you to access the internet safely, securely and anonymously. A VPN encrypts your connection so that no one can see what you’re doing online. It also hides your IP address, making it harder for hackers to find you.
A VPN is highly recommended if your type of business runs online. A VPN offers many benefits, from its ease of use and data protection to the reduction of security breach risks.
Here are our top VPNs to consider subscribing to:
6) Avoid Clicking Suspicious Links & Emails
A common practice in cyber-attacks is to send out phishing emails to get users to click on links or open attachments that contain malware. The goal of this attack is to gain access to your email account, financial accounts, and sensitive information such as passwords or credit card numbers.
Here are some tips for avoiding these types of attacks:
- Do not click on suspicious links sent via email or social media
- Do not open attachments from unknown senders
- Be cautious with any requests for personal information (bank account numbers etc.)
7) Separate Business and Personal Devices
Best IT practice for small businesses is to avoid using your personal devices for work. If you have an old phone or tablet, why not set them up for work purposes? This will help to keep your personal data safe and secure if threats like malware, phishing attacks, and ransomware were to attack your business devices.
If you do happen to use your personal device for work, make sure there’s no sensitive information stored on the device itself (stored locally). Also, ensure that all the data on this device is backed up in case it gets lost or stolen.
Another good practice is having different passwords when logging into separate accounts (for example, one password for Facebook and another one for Gmail). This way, if someone were to gain access to one account, they wouldn’t be able to access other services such as banking apps or social media accounts for instance.
8) Dispose of Data Properly
When disposing of old computers, phones, and other devices, be sure to erase all the data from the hard drive. You can also use secure data erasure software that will overwrite files multiple times to ensure they are unrecoverable. Many companies such as DBAN sell these types of programs. It’s important not to forget this step because if there is still any personal information on the device, you could be at risk of identity theft!
Another tip is to make sure you shred your paper documents before throwing them out to prevent anyone from being able to read what’s written on them through Optical Character Recognition technology (OCR).
Are you offboarding an employee? Mitigate security risks by carefully following the appropriate data disposal practices by removing the access rights of a departing employee. This means ex-employees cannot share sensitive information with competitors and is a crucial part of identity and access management.
9) Backup Data Regularly
A backup is a copy of your data that you keep in a safe place. If something happens to your computer, you can use the backup to recover your files.
Backing up regularly is just as important as choosing the right software for protecting your information. You can protect yourself from cyber criminals and natural disasters by keeping copies of your important documents on an external drive or the cloud.
If possible, backup data to multiple locations: one close by and another further away (preferably off-site). This way, if there’s an issue with one of them, you won’t lose everything!
Here are our top software or subscription choices to backup files and data securely:
10) Educate Employees On Cyber Security
As a small business owner, you should educate your employees on phishing attacks and how to avoid them. Employees need to know that email messages are not always legitimate, so they should be wary of clicking any links or attachments. Employees should also be trained on how to respond if they receive a phishing attack or have any suspicions about an email message.
Employees who are educated on cyber security practices will be able to protect the company’s data better than those who do not take the time to learn these things. A great way to educate employees is by attending a company IT and Cyber Security workshop.
Cybersecurity Tips for Small Businesses
How do small businesses create effective security policies? We hope that the above has proven a useful guide. You may think that you’re doing everything right to protect your business, but it’s always good to learn more. Cybersecurity is a fast-moving field and many new threats can affect your data security. Searching for more information on technology and infrastructure for your new business? Learn more on My New Venture.