As entrepreneurs; it’s easy to focus so much on the day to day running of our businesses that we forget to protect ourselves from the online security threats that would threaten to expose or target our most precious data. In fact; it has been reported that some business owners even go as far as thinking that since their business is small that they will be able to fly under the radar and go unnoticed by hackers or other online attackers.

However, a lack of sufficient defense to thwart cyber breaches is why hackers view small businesses as easy targets. Perhaps, this explains why so many small business experience security breaches.

But what’s scary is that you don’t need to be a whiz kid to enter an unprotected network. Especially, given that so many companies never bother to replace default usernames and passwords with more secure login information. So, no matter how small of a staff you employ, it’s always prudent to protect your organization from online breaches. Here’s how to do it.

Make sure your anti-virus software is up to date

Besides detecting numerous threats, an antivirus software also notifies small business owners if a breach occurs. The software can also inform you as to which steps you can take to ward off the attackers and minimize any damage. However; it’s essential to understand that new viruses are developed each day and some are well disguised and tough to pinpoint. Therefore, small business owners should always ensure that the anti-virus software they are using is up to date to keep your business safe. Small business owners can enable the automatic anti-virus update feature so the system can identify the latest or evolved viruses that pose a threat to your systems and business in general.

Discuss cyber security protocols with your employees

Technology alone is not enough to make small businesses secure. The most critical line of defense for cyber risk efforts usually lies with employees especially when it comes to appropriate and responsible management and use of the information they can access. Therefore, it’s imperative for employees to be aware of potential risks and how they can deal with them.

Arming your staff with knowledge is the key to protecting your business against cyber attacks. Since hackers use a host of tricks to attack or cheat companies; your employees should be aware of the most common methods employed by hackers to trick businesses but they should also know the proper way to handle them. Staff awareness can be done through online training, videos, and printed media.

All employees should undergo security awareness training and annual refresher courses. Likewise, simple efforts such as urgent bulletins, monthly newsletters, or posters in common areas can help remind employees of important privacy and security issues and can go a long way towards ensuring that your workforce that is well-versed in protecting your business from online threats.

Do your homework and learn to speak the language of web security

Everyone who uses the internet should understand web security, at least to some degree. Understanding web security will help you spot various exploits and the best practices such as strong passwords. It’s essential to understand the terminologies used, security vulnerabilities and how they can be avoided by employing the best practices and using common security tools to identify and repair vulnerabilities.

Invest in the right cyber security tools

Develop a multi-layered approach to help guard your business against malicious software attackers. Despite the immense progress made in creating awareness of internet security threats, malware developers are not giving up. In fact, per a recent report by Sophos Labs; more than 100,000 different malicious software are developed every day. Hence, adequate protection against malicious software including viruses and Trojans requires a multilayered approach to your business defenses.

Although an antivirus software is a must, it should not be your only form of defense. Instead, every small business should invest in a combination of techniques to keep your business environment safe. It’s vital to be careful with the use of removable media including thumb drives because they could be pre-installed with malicious software that has the potential infect your systems. As such, you should only use removable media devices from trustable sources.

You can lower the risk of infection by combining the use of antivirus signature protection, firewalls, web filtering, employee training, strong security policies, and proactive malware protection. Keeping your operating system up to date along with your applications and security software increases the safety of business systems. Keeping your antivirus and web protection software up to date, along with your operating system and other applications enhances the security of your systems.

Avoid sending private information via Email

Email has become a highly critical part of everyday business, from direct customer support to internal management. Although the benefits of email as part of your core business duties outweigh its negatives, as a business owner it’s crucial that you familiarize yourself with the principles of email security; this will ensure the safety and privacy of any information that you send by email.

Moreover, every small business owner should understand that emails transmitted across the Internet are not protected, and they can be easily intercepted and viewed by prying eyes. Therefore, it’s essential for businesses to refrain from sending private or confidential information via email.

Encrypt your data

Encryption is a vital data protection technology and is widely used to protect communications and sensitive data from prying eyes. Nowadays, encryption has become easy to use, highly effective and much more affordable to those seeking to protect sensitive or confidential information.

Encryption scrambles or encodes data, essentially making it unreadable and unusable by individuals who lack the proper code or key to unlock the information. It can be used to protect a single folder, an entire hard drive, removable media or just a single document; this makes it highly convenient for small businesses.

Be prepared, have a recovery plan

Back up your data and plan for data theft or loss. Backing up your data is as critical as protecting it. In case your business data is erased accidentally or stolen by hackers or thieves; you should at least have a copy you can fall back on. You should have policies in place specifying which data should be backed up, who should do it; how backups are stored, how often they should be done, and who has access to them.

Small businesses have numerous affordable backup options including backing up online automatically; so all your data is stored in a security data center or simply backing up to external hard drives in your office. Remember; any physical media used to backup data such as a drive or disk is vulnerable no matter where they are stored. Therefore, your backup data should be kept in a safe and secure location.

The bottom line is that no matter how small of a business you run you should take proactive steps that you can take to protect your organization’s sensitive data. And if you heed the information I’ve just shared with you; your company should be well on its way to warding off cyber-attacks.

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