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I have frequently stated that one of the leading causes of business failures is poor cash flow management. According to a study by US Bank, 82% of all businesses that fail did so because they were unable to maintain a sufficient cash flow. Unfortunately, this statistic masks a number of problems that frequently hurt cash flow, so the root problems often go unaddressed until it is too late. New research shows that data breaches are a huge factor in business failures. This is hardly surprising, because there were around 30 major data breaches in 2017 alone.

The consequences of data breaches are severe for small businesses. One study found that 60% of all companies that suffer a data breach are forced into bankruptcy within six months. Despite the frightening lesson that they should learn from this, many small businesses are still reluctant to take their cybersecurity seriously. They believe that the probability that their company will be targeted by a cyberattack is too low to worry about.

The sad reality is that around 20% of all companies will suffer a cybersecurity breach in the next year. This figure might actually start to increase as hackers become more brazen and invest more resources targeting small businesses.

It doesn’t take much math to see the horrifying reality here. Nearly 1 out of eight small businesses will be driven into bankruptcy this year, simply because they were the victim of a cyberattack.

The chances are even higher if your business has a strong online presence. Hackers will be more likely to go after your company if you have a large digital footprint. The costs will also be higher, which means that the likelihood you will suffer unrecoverable financial losses increase as well.

As a small business owner, you can’t treat cyber security as an afterthought. You must make it one of your highest priorities. Here are some tips that will help you reduce the risk of a data breach.

Set aside your stereotypical image of a cybercriminal

I recall watching the movie Hackers with Angelina Jolie back in the late 1990s. An older friend that I watched it with said that the movie was unrealistic for presenting the hackers as fun-loving characters. He said that the average hacker was a dorky guy in glasses in his mom’s basement.

This conventional archetype has proven to be wrong in recent years. Hackers are actually often very socially sophisticated. They are gifted in the art of social engineering. They will often find clever ways to track their victims into revealing important information like the answers to online security questions or installing malware that would not have otherwise been installed. One colleague of mine said that his PayPal account got hacked after a hacker pretended to be a customer that tricked him into installing a keylogger and capturing his PayPal login details when he was asked to send an invoice. You need to be aware of the different types of social engineering strategies they use to guard against them.

Upgrade your free malware protection software immediately

Far too many people rely on free software to protect against malware. This might not be the biggest mistake if you are a consumer, but it can make the difference between the life and death of your business.

Free malware protection tools are not updated in real-time. Hackers are regularly developing new types of malware to exploit their targets. If your malware protection software is not up-to-date, you will be vulnerable.

Use CDNs and other tools to prevent traffic that is likely to be harmful to your Network

It is important to know where harmful online traffic tends to originate. If you look at geographic maps of different originating sites of hackers, you will see that they tend to come from Russia, China and a number of countries in Eastern Europe. He will also see that many of them come from known Tor nodes.

It is a good idea to use a CDN to filter this traffic to minimize the risk of a DDOS attack or other cyberattacks.