• Matt Webster

9 Cyber Security Best Practices for Small Business

Updated: May 23, 2019

Small and medium-size businesses are increasingly becoming a new target for cybercriminals. Unfortunately, though, many business owners don’t realize it.

Based on the poll published by the Manta team in 2017, an alarming 87 percent of the SMB owners don’t think they are at risk of being hacked. While large companies have more data to compromise and steal, the fact that SMBs typically use less secure networks makes them an easier target for cyber attacks.

A data breach, however small, can easily damage your relationship with the staff, customers, and other stakeholders. Worse even, it can be the end of a business. Cybersecurity is extremely essential.

In this article, we’ll discuss the top cybersecurity best practices for small business.

1. Install a firewall

Setting up both the external and internal firewalls can offer an excellent level of protection for sensitive data against cyber-attacks. If the nature of your business also involves employees working from home, its best to provide them with firewall software and the needed support for their home networks.

2. Update software applications

One of the common ways hackers get access to sensitive data is by taking advantage of the vulnerabilities in the out-of-date versions of software applications.

Webmasters and developers are constantly searching for solutions to fix the security flaws in their applications and stay ahead of the hackers that are constantly creating new ways of launching cyber attacks. If they fix a problem, they usually communicate this through blog posts or press releases — alerting users the need to upgrade to new solutions due to vulnerability.

Some auto-dated versions have known vulnerabilities, and when hackers land on such crucial information, they can make use of their security flaws to breach small businesses that haven’t updated their applications.

Unless you’re using cloud software that’s automatically kept up to date by the provider, you’ll want to regularly check for software updates, as well as patches for applications.

3. Backup Critical Data and Information

Creating data backup on a regular basis is an extremely important security measure. Ransomware is the most common malware type and a lot of it typically targets your most sensitive data, especially the electronic spreadsheets, financial files, databases, word documents, and other files relating to accounting records and human resources. Without backup, this could prove to be devastating to your business.

It is important that the copy of your backup data is stored and secured in the cloud. If your data is held hostage at some point, you’ll have a sense of peace knowing you have the latest backup.

4. Create a Separate Network for Guests

One costly mistake that most small businesses make is sharing their Wi-Fi network with customers. You should take precaution and ensure your Wi-Fi is set up in a way that it’s only accessible to your employees. Consider having a separate network for your customers to eliminate the risk of unauthorized members spying on your business files.

5. Create Strong Passwords

A cybersecurity investigation report released by the Verizon Enterprise Solutions in 2016 revealed that 63% of data breaches were attributed to weak, stolen, or lost passwords. Employees often use passwords they find easy to remember, and which are easy for hackers to decipher.

You’ll need to teach your employee how to create strong, complex, and random passwords for each account. And the best way to go about it is — to use a reputable password management system. This enables your staff to have their strongest passwords in one place, essentially eliminating the need for memorizing it.

If your employees aren’t using a password management system, you should ask them to create passwords with 10 or more characters that typically include lower and uppercase letters, symbols, and numbers. Also, it is important that you let your employees know the security risk of writing down passwords and keeping them on their laptops or workstations.

6. Implement Multi-factor Authentication

Besides creating strong passwords for accounts that access your company’s network, you’ll need to use multifactor identification settings when handling sensitive data. This additional verification type basically requires the input of secondary information, and the most preferred is the use of a unique code, which is sent to your employees’ mobile phones. Hackers are unlikely to have access to both your account passwords and the PIN.

7. Create cyber security awareness among employees

You can implement the best cybersecurity practices, but if you don’t educate your employees and keep them informed about your network security plan, your business will still be subjected to the risk of breach.

A standard security policy should include procedures for keeping the company’s data and information safe and the protocols which must be followed when faced with a breach.

You will need to encourage your employees to step up to the responsibility of protecting your company. You can achieve this through reward programs. For example, if an employee reports signs of a breach, such as phishing emails or an anti-malware software sending notifications of a potential virus or malware. Rewards help keep employees motivated.

Introducing accountability programs can also help instill seriousness and ensure compliance with the policies. Many small businesses usually require their employees to sign a document showing they’ve been fully informed of the best cybersecurity practices, as well as the consequences if they fail to adhere to the policies.

Another smart way is to simply encourage open conversations among the employees and to gently hold each other accountable. Don’t allow them to tattle on each other, as this can be destructive to trust. You can also consider having an anonymous reporting system.

8. Limit Access to Business Accounts

First off, your employees should have the access, which they need to perform their tasks. They shouldn’t share passwords and files to their account unless they are authorized to do so by the management. For instance, your accountant shouldn’t be sharing their individual logins with a salesperson.

Secondly, unauthorized people or even those that are well-known and trusted by your company should not be granted access to business computers and accounts. A good example is restricting customers from borrowing your business computers or laptop to search for something.

9. SSL Certificate Protection

The Secure Sockets Layer is currently the most after-sought encryption technology, which protects data leaving an entering the devices connected to the internet.

This is an ideal solution, especially if your business accepts payments online. It will protect your clients’ most vital information, including that on their credit cards. Even if a cybercriminal manages to intercept information, it won’t be useful — because the data isn’t readable to third parties.

Cybercriminals are always advancing their cyber attacking techniques, and the best way to be safe is to work with a reliable company offering cybersecurity services. A great cybersecurity firm always stays on top of their game by being informed of the latest cyber-attack trends and prevention technology.

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