How to Prioritize Cybersecurity for Your Small Business

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Possibly few of us anticipated it, but even the tiniest small companies are finding themselves in the sights of potential cyber-criminals and information “brokers.” If you haven’t already strengthened your cybersecurity measures as an entrepreneur or small business owner, there’s no time to waste. Here are five practical solutions to get you on your way.

1. Prohibit or Control Access to Your Networks

While many security threats tend to come from remote operators, there is increasing evidence that a significant portion of security breaches in the business world occur due to unscrupulous insiders or poorly regulated access to crucial machines and networks.

In fact, negligence or actively malicious employees pose the biggest risk to the integrity of your data and assets among small businesses. The average cost of a single data breach for small- and medium-sized businesses stands at $1 million due to ransomware attacks or poor password hygiene. This means that even one lapse in your network access protocols could be disastrous.

A significant part of this issue lies in the company culture within your organization. Each employee should have their own account and passwords for essential processes, and they should not share their credentials with anyone unless under extremely specific and pre-approved circumstances.

Furthermore, these accounts should have appropriate levels of access and clearance. Junior staff should not find themselves dealing with financial records, client contact information, or trade secrets unless their work explicitly requires it. Another overlooked task is to revoke account and network access if an employee leaves your company.

2. Keep Your Operating Systems and Applications Updated

There is a good reason why this recommendation consistently tops action lists. Hardware and software makers tend to be aware of emerging security vulnerabilities before the general public, which means some of these security gaps get patched quietly before they can affect you — but only if you update.

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Keeping your operating systems and applications up to date is like locking your car doors in a bad part of town. You are inviting trouble that you can easily prevent by enabling auto-update for all the digital tools you use or by training your staff to regularly check for software updates.

3. Conduct Regular Mock Break-Ins

One of the worst things you can do when it comes to cybersecurity is to set something up and then forget about it. The types and scale of technological threats seem to proliferate, which means you need to engage in routine monitoring and constant vigilance to keep your assets safe.

If you’re not already doing so, you should engage with external IT and security firms for “penetration testing.” This involves professionals attempting to gain access to your computer networks under supervision, using real-world scenarios. It is a valuable tool that allows you to react to new forms of threats in a controlled setting.

4. Secure and “Silo” Your Wireless Networks

It is common for small businesses to maintain Wi-Fi networks for employees, clients, and visitors. There is nothing wrong with this, but how you do it can make you vulnerable to hackers. Open Wi-Fi networks may be convenient for your customers and clients, but in the wrong hands, an unsecured network can provide skilled information thieves with all the tools they need to access your crucial assets and intellectual property.

That’s why it makes sense to maintain separate internet connections for visitors and staff, implement password protection for each one, and ensure that logins and passwords are only shared with authorized individuals.

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5. Involve Your Staff and Make Cybersecurity a Cultural Matter

Lastly, we come back to company culture. Even — and perhaps especially — in a small business, it’s easy to take certain things for granted, including assuming that everyone under your leadership shares the same values and priorities.

Such assumptions can be dangerous. Even something as “common sense” as knowing which websites to visit and which ones may pose a risk should not be left to chance. You should make the secure transmission of data over the internet a cornerstone of employee training, including ensuring they always use encrypted “https” sites without exception.

Your staff is a crucial part of your cybersecurity measures. They should be well-informed about how you’re protecting your business and what you expect from them. In 2015, the United States saw a 10 percent increase in reported cyberattacks, totaling 77,000. If your staff doesn’t have a healthy respect for the vulnerabilities faced by small businesses worldwide, they could become a weak link in an otherwise well-designed security platform.

To prioritize cybersecurity for your small business, follow these steps:

  1. Prohibit or Control Access to Your Networks.
  2. Keep Your Operating Systems and Applications Updated.
  3. Conduct Regular Mock Break-Ins.
  4. Secure and “Silo” Your Wireless Networks.
  5. Involve Your Staff and Make Cybersecurity a Cultural Matter.

By implementing these solutions and fostering a culture of cybersecurity, you can protect your business from potential threats and safeguard your valuable assets.

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