15 cyber security tips for small businesses

Cybersecurity is the practice of methods to protect your computer network and data from unauthorized access. Cybersecurity is a major concern, even for small businesses. Check out these expert tips to help minimize your company’s risk of cyberattack.

Here are 15 small business cybersecurity tips from professionals.

1. Create a culture of cybersecurity and practice cyber hygiene

Small businesses are more susceptible to cyber threats, mostly due to human errors. For example, employees clicking untrusted links, setting weak passwords (such as name_123), and being indifferent to sensitive data.

Small businesses often fail to train their employees in basic security practices because of the misconception that no one will attack their small networks.

On the contrary, small businesses witness cyber-attacks as often as any larger organization. They often lack a robust cyber security infrastructure and become natural targets for cyber predators. Along with creating a cyber-security culture where employees are aware of their responsibilities to keep sensitive data secure, small business owners should also adopt cyber hygiene practices.

They should invest in such technologies as antivirus software, two-factor authentication, and firewalls to prevent data breaches. If cyber security becomes a priority, small businesses can remain armed against potential threats.

2. Protect your network and equipment

The most essential cyber security tip for small businesses is to protect their network and computer equipment. Connecting to the Internet is an open door for hackers. Any means of disruption must be covered by appropriate security protocols to avoid brute force and intrusion attacks.

Fortunately, this problem can be made easy with the help of a VPN. Wi-Fi connections present some serious vulnerabilities that can be quickly eliminated by using strong VPN encryption types in the transfer of data between offices, computers, and other businesses.   In this case, you protect both the corporate network and make it safe to use public WI- FI.

3. Take advantage of all the security features at your disposal

Businesses lose billions of dollars a year to data breaches and fraud, and no vertical is immune to this problem. New threats are being developed every day, so you need to take a layered approach to consider as many potential sources as possible.

For example, firewalls and secure Wi-Fi can prevent some attacks, while dynamic access codes may be more effective at intercepting other criminal tactics.

There is also a wide range of tools to prevent criminal fraud before a transaction takes place. There is also chargeback management to combat post-transaction fraud. By using all of these additional tools as part of a single strategy, you can stop yourself from stopping most attacks.

4. Accept that it’s only a matter of time before your business becomes a goal

I would say that the number one rule of thumb for small businesses when it comes to cybersecurity is to remember that this is a “when not if” situation. Once companies have that mindset, I think they can be proactive in dealing with hackers, and being proactive is the best advice I can give.

The technology world we live in is full of hacks and hacking, and instead of expecting it to stop, businesses need to start working with the customer side. Make sure your employees are using the same equipment operated by the same person. Cybersecurity training should be part of onboarding. The easiest way to win the battle is to already be swinging when problems arise.

5. Managing Internet of Things (IoT) devices in your office

Small businesses need to be aware of the security threats posed by IoT devices entering the corporate network. IoT devices such as smartphones, tablets, wearable devices, and even a smart coffee pot or TV in the office often go undetected and therefore unprotected.

No IoT device is on the doorstep for hackers, given the massive set of DDoS attacks that use compromised IP surveillance cameras to create massive amounts of traffic that harm many Web sites, threatening to allow your Samsung TV to spy on you.

Small businesses may not have the security structure in place to constantly monitor these devices for vulnerabilities or attacks, so they should implement processes to connect new devices to ensure passwords are secure and updates are available.

6. Use a password management app

As a small business owner, you will probably have dozens of online accounts (or more) for everything. In the interest of efficiency, you’ll always use the same usernames and passwords over and over again.

The remedy? Completely dedicate a password management app (like Keeper, KeePass, or any of hundreds of other options) to storing and managing your passwords, and then use long alphanumeric meaningless passwords that you can never remember. Many password applications are now installed in your browser, so you can just automatically enter your password from a simple drop-down menu. If you do just one thing this year to improve your cybersecurity protection, it is most likely to avert disaster for your business.

7. Train your employees in cybersecurity

There are many feasible and affordable steps small businesses can take, but perhaps the most important is educating workers on appropriate security methods and limiting access to confidential data to only those employees who require it.

The main source of data leakage still occurs when employees inadvertently download keystroke logging software, which can intercept and steal all the information on work computers.

 Forty percent of all available pornography is viewed at work. The thieves know this and take advantage of it. Training your employees to recognize and prevent phishing emails designed to encourage them to click on malicious programs containing links is the most important thing any small company can do.

8. Use only a single cloud security platform

Today cyberattackers target small businesses with ransomware, cloud attacks, and other social engineering techniques because such organizations have no security guarantee.

Unfortunately, attacks on small and medium-sized businesses have proven devastating. Today, 60 percent of small businesses that fall victim to a cyber-attack don’t recover and are permanently shut down within six months. The greatest risk to SMBs comes from the cloud-based business applications (e.g., G Suite, MS Office 365, Dropbox, etc.) on which so many companies rely so heavily.

To mitigate risks, small companies without IT support can use a single cloud-based security platform that controls user, device, and network access to detect and mitigate threats in real-time. The idea of full enterprise-grade cyber security does not belong only to top-tier companies and can be implemented and adopted by small and medium-sized enterprises if they are not prejudiced against the new wave of new solutions.

9. Get an SSL certificate for your website

One of the most important cybersecurity tips for small businesses is to get an SSL certificate for your website. An SSL certificate allows you to securely encrypt and send and receive sensitive information, such as credit card numbers and passwords. Without this certificate, any computer between you and the server that receives the information can access your sensitive information.

Starting in July 2018, Google will mark any website that contains password and credit card fields as insecure if it does not have an SSL certificate. Having an SSL certificate allows your site to be secure for its users and business, while not having one can result in lost traffic (and possibly security breaches) to your site. If you are not sure if your website has this certificate, contact your web developer or check the URL to see if it has “HTTPS” instead of “HTTP”.

10. Make sure your employees know how to recognize suspicious emails

Small businesses can play an active role in protecting their data. The first step is to understand where the attacks are coming from. The most common attack is “phishing” (a malicious email that appears legitimate). Using these emails, the hacker tries to gain access to your business’ personal data (customer, employee, financial, etc.). The simple solution is to let all employees know that this is a vulnerability.

They should check their emails for spelling errors, the sender’s email address, and hover over the URLs to see where they are going before they click on them. If they’re still not sure, it’s best to call the sender and find out where the email came from.

It may seem like a lot of work, but when you’re considering having your data stolen or your information compromised, it’s better to be thorough than sorry later. With employees taking an active role in protecting businesses, small businesses have a better chance of navigating the evolving cyber threat.

11. Implement HTTP authentication for web admin panels

Common CMS (WordPress, Joomla!, Drupal, etc.) have common vulnerabilities. Having HTTP authentication helps add another layer of security that hackers must overcome if they want to attack the site itself. And it can be implemented in less than a day. Yes, it gives your site administrator another set of login credentials, but the security of your data is worth it.

12. Make sure your MSP focuses on security

If you’re outsourcing your IT services to an MSP, make sure they focus on security. Many MSPs are starting to focus on security because of the attention they are paying to media and, ultimately, their existing customers.

The problem is that many of them don’t know how to properly implement security because it’s a great ballgame rather than IT. Assuming you already have a firewall, ask your MSP if they use more than traditional, signature-based antivirus-they’re outdated and leave you vulnerable to many attacks, but people still use them. Ask them what they do to protect you from ransomware.

Is your MSP properly vetting and testing security solutions to ensure that they cover what your organization needs? Ask your MSP these questions; if they’re unsure of their answers, it may be time to turn that part over to the MSSP that focuses on security. In many cases, they can work side by side.

13. Implement a layered solution for your cybersecurity protocol

Small businesses need to know that there is no single technical solution for cybersecurity. They need to take a layered approach that includes many basics. These basics are knowing what data they need to protect and where it is stored, installing firewalls on-site, encrypting data, communicating enterprise data protection policies, training employees on what not to push, and developing and implementing an incident response plan.

There are managed security assessments and service providers available. They can provide in-depth cybersecurity even for a company with a small budget and little experience.

14. Avoid using “shadow IT” in your office

Avoid shadow IT in the workplace. Shadow IT is one of the worst habits we see in organizations today. For example, when IT fails to justify user requests for cloud storage or employees commit to setting up their cloud accounts (e.g. Dropbox, Box, Egnyte, etc.).

These cloud services are then used to share sensitive data, and IT can’t gain access to manage future security risks. Too often we see IT turning a blind eye to the use of these services, and they all put the organization at risk.

15. Keep all your Internet devices updated with security patches

One element that is easy to overlook is keeping your wireless routers and/or other Internet devices up to date with security patches. Currently, there are cases of unprotected routers being infected with malware, and that malware persists even after the device is rebooted.

Instead of restoring your device to factory default settings, it’s easier to set a calendar reminder to check for new firmware or other updates monthly. If your device doesn’t provide security updates regularly, it’s worth switching to something that does

Conclusion

The Internet has increased the potential of every small business exponentially through proper management, but with this capability also comes the risk that important information becomes available to dishonest people.

Follow our list of cyber security tips to make sure your company’s valuable information remains safe and secure. Use a variety of cyber security tools to help keep your information private. Use trusted VPNs and anti-viruses. Take care of the data security of your business and your employees.


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