Anyone who runs a small business has to stay on the lookout for threats to their company, such as thieves, competitors and natural disasters. With hacking and security breaches on the rise, small businesses are targeted more often than you might expect, and often with far-reaching, devastating consequences.
Symantec prevented more than one billion cyber attacks in early 2012. Of those, nearly 40 percent targeted small companies, according to a blog post on Forbes.com. Small businesses often have weak defenses, therefore providing hackers with an entry point to their supply chain partners’ data, too.
To protect your small business — and your partners — from cyber attacks, start with these four basic steps.
- Change your passwords on a regular schedule: Changing passwords every four to six months is simple, free and greatly strengthens your security. Hackers often attack company systems through a weak or “phished” password, and the security breach can go undetected for months. The longer you use the same password, the more time you give hackers to exploit a compromised password. The key is remembering to update them. Individuals can easily set up a regular reminder through their task manager or calendar. Businesses should send company-wide reminders or require new passwords at least once every six months.
- Back up your critical business data: Many small businesses don’t back up their data until they learn the hard way, after a cyber attack or natural disaster damages or destroys their information. Start by mapping out what data needs to be protected and on what type of device it’s stored, then back up the information on those devices securely. For many businesses, automatic, cloud-based data backup is a cost-effective solution.
- Update your security software: Antivirus software and firewalls come installed on many computers, but if you don’t update them, they only provide a false sense of security. Periodically, verify that your antivirus security is functioning and up-to-date.
- Educate your employees on data security. Employees often inadvertently cause security risks by clicking malicious links in spam email, using weak passwords and storing sensitive data on relatively vulnerable personal mobile devices. Taking time to educate your staff on the best security practices can prevent your company from being its own worst enemy.
For small businesses, strengthening cybersecurity pays off in several ways. Businesses save money, protect important data and build trust among their vendors and business partners. Doesn’t that sound like an excellent investment?
We want to hear your thoughts. Which of these four steps have you found most helpful in protecting your business? What additional resources would you recommend to other small businesses and entrepreneurs? Let us know by posting below!
Source: Forbes.com, April 2013