Digital criminals are on the prowl, and they’re after business data of all kinds, hunting for vulnerable companies of all sizes.
The lay of the cyber-security landscape is one that includes a lot of unnecessary loss. Did you know that 90% of the data breaches that occurred in the first half of 2014 could have been prevented?
When it comes to how small business were protecting themselves against the kind of digital break-ins that plagued companies last year? Only 3% were financially protected against the losses that could result from hackers breaking into their networks, according to Advisen. That’s a lot of small businesses at risk.
You don’t have to have your own IT department to beat those kind of stats. What you do need is a little time, a modest budget, and the following seven steps in mind. Read on for simple security measures your small business can take right away to safely lock up your valuable data.
1. Install a firewall.
A firewall is a piece of hardware in your computer network that keeps intruders from getting into your system while still allowing you to communicate with the outside world. Working with an IT firm that is knowledgeable about the needs and demands for a small business is recommended. Or, if you have a POS system, speak to them about providing a SMB firewall, they are already familiar with your computer network and the access a POS system needs. Small-business firewalls can be had for about $1,000. Pick one that not only detects/blocks intrusions, but also protects against malware (programs that cripple computers).
2. Guard your Wi-Fi (at work and away).
A large majority of small businesses provide free or open access to a Wi-Fi signal for their customers to use. If you do, make sure that open Wi-Fi signal is segregated from the rest of your business computer network. Don’t leave your business Wi-Fi open for just anyone to use. Turn on your router’s passwords and set a secure password. Use a firewall to create a segregated network to isolate your business data communications from your free open communication
3. Safeguard e-mail.
Email is an easy and convenient form of communication and has incredibly simplified communication and how we send documents, photo’s, etc. Email is likely the most commonly used resource for hackers to gain entry into your system. Setting an email policy of what to open and access from email will greatly reduce your exposure to these criminals. Here are some safeguards you should put in place:
1) Do not open emails from sources you do not know.
2) Do not open an attachment in your email you are not expecting FROM ANYONE even family(you can always call and ask).
3) Do not click on links in your email you cannot verify their paths.
4) Use an email client that allows you to hover a link and show its true path.
5) Use a free email service(Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc) when its required to share your email in a public forum.
Encrypt every bit of data, end to end. Put simply, encryption means that your e-mails and all they contain get changed to unreadable code as they leave your device. They are then rendered back into a legible form on the recipient’s end. Your devices may be able to do this already. If not, third-party encryption software is readily available and typically inexpensive.
4. Install anti-virus software.
Make certain that the antivirus protection you add to each device in your office is robust enough to include anti-phishing, anti-spyware, and anti-malware protection. Also, be certain to protect your mobile devices as well as your desktop computers. Many internet service providers will give their users a free anti-virus software that works well (Typically Mcaffee).
5. Update your operating systems and browsers.
If it isn’t broke don’t fix it is a bad thought process when it comes to technology. Hackers learn how to break into software. Companies update their software to eliminate the weak spots these intruders discover along the way. When you keep each computer’s software and Web-searching tools current, it allows you to “fill” the security holes hackers have found. Continuing to use old outdated software for personal and business use is inviting to the criminals who sell your information.
6. Go further than single passwords.
Your password should be either a phrase mixed with letter, numbers and symbols or 3 words with the same for example C@liforni@Nurs3ryGo1den would work well. Don’t stick your password on the bottom of your keyboard. Multi-factor authentication is the new and growing standard across industries. Its cumbersome but in today’s world its necessary. The way it works is that users are required to input more than just a username and password to gain access. They’re asked for an additional, temporary code or they’re required to plug in a specific device before they can work with your server or system. Once you have your multi-factor authentication set up, read Small Biz Ahead’s previous article about 7 Passwords You Should Never Use.
7. Shred your documents.
These days we almost always focus on digital security, but remember that the paperwork you discard poses a data-theft threat, too. Shred those stacks of sensitive documents!
When you’ve checked off the items in the preceding list, you can get back to work. You’ll know that you’re covering your company — and your customers — from data predators who target even the smallest of businesses in this world.
Data security shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg. And it shouldn’t take up all your time. But the hours and money you could lose from a compromised network — that’s a price most small businesses simply can’t afford to pay. It can be the difference of in business versus out of business.