small business cyber security

Full Guide to Small Business Cyber Security

Whether you’re Elon Musk, a local coffee shop, or self-employed and work from home, you all share a common objective — to maintain your business operation and productivity. You also share a new challenge that all organizations face – cybersecurity.

It’s more important than ever that small businesses support their defense to ensure they’re protected from cyber risks and hackers, both externally and from within. This’s especially pivotal as these threats continue to increase rapidly; 43 % of cyber leaks claimed small companies as victims, while the average cyber incident costs a small business $8,000.

Since you never know when the cyber attack could happen, you need a proper small business cyber security strategy to protect your assets, your customers, and their data from growing cybersecurity threats.

Why Do Hackers Target Small Companies?

The most powerful reason for a cyberattack is intelligence gathering. A data breach is one possible result of a successful strike. This breach can include a variety of information, from documents and intellectual property to financial and credit card data. Sometimes bad actors could even mine info about your clients and staff.

Small Business Cyber Attacks to Look Out For

Hackers are crafting new ways of launching cyber-attacks, but some of their most common techniques for destroying small businesses IT security have been around for a while.

Phishing

Phishing emails continue to induce major losses – more than $5 billion have been stolen domestically and internationally in the past 3 years. Approximately 8,000 organizations are hit by a phishing scam every month.

It occurs when an attacker tries to fool an email recipient into opening a malicious attachment or clicking to a malware-loaded website that could download ransomware. This strategy stays popular over the years, which perhaps indicates that the person behind the keyboard can be a weak link in the organization’s security.

Watering holes

A watering hole is a legit website that has been hijacked by a cybercriminal and turned into a malicious site, typically without knowledge of the websites’ owners. These sorts of sites attempt to install malware onto a device. It usually needs some action by the user, including downloading a file, clicking on a link, or revealing information.

Drive-by downloads

In the event of a drive-by download, a malicious site will try to install software on your PC without asking for permission first. It could occur if adequate security systems aren’t in place or if the OS is outdated.

Malware

It’s the malicious software that covers any program introduced into the victim’s PC with the intent to make damage or get unauthorized access. Malware is an umbrella term that includes ransomware, viruses, Trojans, spyware, and worms. Knowing this is important since it helps you define what kind of cybersecurity software you need.

business network security

Ransomware

A ransomware’s raid contaminates your device with the malware, and as the name implies, demands a ransom. Usually, ransomware either locks you out of your PC and claims money in exchange for access, or impends to publish private info if you don’t pay a specified amount. It’s the quickest-growing form of security breaches.

Man in the middle (MitM) attack

In any typical transaction, two parties exchange goods – or in the case of e-commerce, digital information – with each other. Knowing this, hackers who use the MitM technique of intrusion do so by installing malware that interrupts the flow of information to steal vital data.

This is generally done when one or more parties make the transaction via an unsecured public Wi-Fi, where hackers have installed malware that helps shift through data.

Inside attack

This happens when someone with administrative access, usually from within the company, deliberately abuses its credentials to gain entry to confidential business information. Former employees, especially, are a threat if they left the organization on bad terms. Your firm should conduct a protocol in place and cancel all access to business data automatically when an employee is terminated.

Smartphone vulnerability

Regardless of what employees may think, their work tablet or phone are high-risk targets. Making purchases or conducting business via public Wi-Fi could put an individual and the company they work for, at risk. Malware threats also lie in wait in third-party app websites as cybercriminals find it easy to deceive people into downloading spoof applications.

How to Conduct Cybersecurity for Small Business

Just as more companies continue to expand their businesses online – they’ll need robust cybersecurity measures.

For small businesses seeking to ensure that their networks have at least some chance versus many attacks, will have to install any number of basic kinds of security software available on the market, each with varying grades of efficacy. Antivirus software is the most common tool and will protect against most types of malware.

Hardware- or software-based firewall can provide an extra layer of defense by hindering an unauthorized user from accessing a network or computer. Most modern operating systems, like Windows 10, come with a firewall app installed for free.

Along with those more surface-level solutions, you also need to invest in these 3 additional security methods.

  • The first is a data backup option so that any information lost or compromised throughout a breach can be easily recovered from an alternative location;
  • The second is encryption software that defends sensitive data, including employee records, client/customer information, and financial statements;
  • The third measure is a two-step authentication or password-security solution for a business’s internal programs to minimize the possibility of password cracking.

Best Business Cybersecurity Practices

Lack of time, budget, and expertise for adequate security are the main reasons for the high rate of SMB attacks. Other things include not having an IT security expert, not being aware of the risk, lack of staff training, not updating security policies, outsourcing security, and failure to secure endpoints.

So, how can your company avoid being a victim of a cyber-attack? Here is the small business cyber security plan you can start to incorporate today.

1. Enforce a firewall

One of the first lines of protection from a cyber-attack is a firewall. The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) suggests that all SMBs set up a firewall to make a barrier between your data and “bad guys.”

In addition to the standard firewall, many companies are beginning to install internal firewalls to create additional protection. It’s also crucial that employees working from home install a firewall on their home network too.

2. Educate your staff

Employees often have many roles at SMBs, making it crucial that all employees accessing the network be trained on your small business Internet security top practices and security policies.

Since the policies are evolving as cybercriminals become savvier, it’s pivotal to have regular updates on new protocols. To hold staff liable, have each employee sign a document stating that they have been informed about the policies and understand that actions may be taken if they don’t meet security policies.

3. Apply safe password practices

63% of data breaches happened due to lost, stolen, or weak passwords. In today’s BYOD jungle, it’s paramount that all employee devices accessing the organization network be password protected.

It’s highly recommended that employees be required to use passwords with upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Plus, all passwords need to be changed every 60 to 90 days.

4. Regularly back up the data

While it’s essential to prevent as many attacks as possible, it’s still possible to be breached despite your precautions. So, you need to back up word processing documents, electronic spreadsheets, databases, financial files, human resources files, and accounts receivable/payable files.

Be sure also to back up all files stored on the cloud. Ensure that backups are stashed in a separate location in the event of flood or fire. To ensure that you have the latest backup if you ever need it, check your backup regularly to confirm that it’s running correctly.

cybersecurity for small business

5. Install anti-malware software

30 percent of employees opened phishing emails. Since phishing attacks include installing malware on the employee’s computer once the link is clicked, it’s mandatory to have anti-malware software installed on the network and all devices.

6. Use multi-factor identification

Regardless of your preparation, an employee will unintentionally make a security mistake that can compromise your data. Therefore, using the multifactor identification settings on most major networks and email products provides an extra layer of protection.

7. Frequent software updates

Cybercriminals can enter your computer network via outdated applications with known vulnerabilities. Be sure your employees know to install software updates and patches for apps and OS’s as soon as they’re available.

8. Password protection

Teach your staff that the best password is a secure password. An excellent solution that remembers and uses complex passwords is a password management app. It stores passwords in one place, letting you generate steady, complex, and random passwords that you don’t have to learn by heart.

You only have to remember one password to unlock the app itself. Alternatively, ask your employees to create well-protected passwords that are at least 10 characters long and include numbers, symbols, and upper as well as lowercase letters. Advise employees to avoid write down passwords to keep on their workstations or laptops.

9. VPNs

Virtual private networks can go a long way toward securing your company’s information. VPNs encrypt all traffic entering and leaving your devices. If a hacker somehow intercepts your information, all they’ll get is encrypted data.

10. Make a mobile device action plan

Mobile devices can produce significant management and security challenges, especially if they can access the corporate network or hold confidential information. Require employees to password-protect their devices, encrypt the data, and install security applications to prevent cybercriminals from stealing info while the device is on public networks. Be sure to include reporting procedures for stolen or lost equipment.

cybersecurity best practices

11. Secure your Wi-Fi network

If you use a Wi-Fi network in your office, be sure it’s secure, encrypted, and hidden. To conceal your Wi-Fi network, set up your router or wireless access point, so it doesn’t broadcast the network name, known as the SSID (service set identifier). Also, apply password protect access to the router.

12. Control physical access

Inhibit access or use of business computers by unauthorized individuals. Laptops can be especially easy targets for theft or can be lost, therefore lock them up when unattended.

Make sure a separate user account is made for each employee with strong passwords. Administrative access should only be given to the key personnel and trusted IT staff.

13. Insure payment processing

Work with your card processors or banks to make sure the most validated and trusted tools and anti-fraud services are being applied. You may have extra security obligations related to agreements with your processor or bank too. Separate payment systems from other, less secure programs and don’t use the same device to process payments and surf online.

14. Secure the endpoint

Your endpoint has to be protected with the right server antivirus, which mostly involves attributes such as sandboxing, intrusion prevention, firewall, and other critical features to provide your server with the highest grade of safety.

When your server is infected by malware or virus, your entire organization is at risk of losing money since it may prevent it from working until the issue is solved.

Why is Cybersecurity Awareness Crucial for Small Business?

Unfortunately, none of these measures and tools will improve your small business security unless you create a cult of cybersecurity awareness around the staff. So, how to encourage employees to defense your organization’s information?

  • Accountability programs – Emboldening your employees to accuse each other of not following security practices will destroy trust. But, encouraging your employees to hold one another responsible gently will help ensure compliance with best practices. Consider creating an anonymous reporting system or embolden employees to have conversations about cybersecurity with each other often;
  • Compliance programs – Make changing passwords a regular job, like shifting your car’s tire. Make sure everyone is doing what they have to do to keep their passwords secure;
  • Rewards programs – Offer rewards for co-workers who find ways to increase cybersecurity around the office, like reporting phishing emails.

Secure Networks – Your Web Guardian

Many SMBs don’t have the expertise or resources to put up the necessary security defenses to keep their business running efficiently and safely. That’s where we jump in with the right team, action, and platform to help small companies to protect against cyber threats applying top cybersecurity practices.

With the best IT support Los Angeles brings, you’ll get cloud security/data security protection for all of your traffic for network, servers, apps, users, as well as secondary devices you can rest assured knowing your data is secured while your customers can trust you.

Call 213.861.2255 and feel free to ask us any questions about cybersecurity for small business.

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