Businesses large and small face a growing threat from cyber attacks. In 2013 alone, 253 data breaches exposed 552 million identities, according to a recent study by computer security software maker Symantec. How much is the threat growing? The number of breaches grew 62% from the previous year, Symantec’s research says.
Incidents involving retail giants such as Target and Staples made the biggest headlines, but small business are just as at risk.
There’s good reason for you to be concerned with how to protect your small business from cyber attacks. Why? Because, unlike large retailers, many small businesses won’t be able to rebound after a breach.
The average annual cost of cyber attacks on small and medium-sized businesses was nearly $200,000 in 2010, according to the Symantec study. Many companies don’t have that kind of money lying around; about 60% of small businesses dissolve within six months of a cyber attack, according to the U.S. House Small Business Subcommittee on Health and Technology.
Cyber attack insurance
So how can you protect your small business from a dreaded data breach? Cyber attack insurance is one modern day solution. Due to the large-scale data breaches of recent years, the demand for cyber attack insurance has grown. Only a small number of providers offer this type of insurance and coverage varies widely. Depending on the policy, cyber attack insurance can offer coverage for things such as credit monitoring, media liability, business interruption and crisis management.
The downside? Cyber attack insurance policies can be pretty pricey. According to Gartner Inc., cyber insurance premiums can range from $10,000 to $35,000 for $1 million in coverage. If you are a mom and pop shop, those numbers might not fit into your annual budget.
For many small businesses, mitigating risk through preventive practices is likely the best road to take. Here are a few steps you can take to protect your small business from cyber attacks:
Put up a firewall
Firewalls are like home security systems for your computers. They control the data coming in and out to prevent unauthorized access to your network. Firewalls are offered in two forms: hardware (external) and software (internal). Some operating systems include a built-in firewall but even if your does, it would be wise to consider adding another layer of protection. Do your research ahead of time to figure out which type of firewall will work best for your business’s network.
Protect your Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi can be an easy access point for potential cyber hackers. If you use a Wi-Fi network access in the office, make sure it’s invisible to outsider, encrypted and secure. Set up your router to require a password for access, and set your wireless access point so it does not broadcast the network name.
Update passwords regularly
Sure, it might be annoying but regularly updating your passwords is a crucial step in keeping your business secure. How often should you update them? About every two months.
It’s also important to use strong passwords each time. Make passwords at least eight characters long and mix letters, numbers and symbols. Never use personal information such as the names of your kids, spouse or any of their birth dates.
Educate and train employees
Establish a written policy about data security, and communicate it to all of your employees. Train your employees on security basics and best practices when it comes to web browsing and email. For example, employees should avoid visiting websites with suspicious URLs, and they should never automatically open email attachments. You should also educate your employees about the types of information are sensitive or confidential and their responsibilities to protect that data.
Install antivirus software
Acting in concert with your firewall, you should install antivirus software on all of your business computers. What’s the difference? Firewalls protect against hackers and antivirus software helps protect against viruses or malicious software programs, which can also be damaging to your business operations. Do your research on different antivirus programs in order to choose the best one for your small business needs.
Many of these steps also can help at home; cyber theft is a growing threat there as well.
With the threat of cyber attacks growing every day, small businesses can’t afford to ignore the issue. Start with the tips above to bolster cyber security for your small business. While you’re at it, it wouldn’t hurt to review your business insurance policy. Take a look at your coverage and see where you may have gaps. When it comes to protecting your business, it’s better safe than sorry.