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How to protect your small business against cyberattacks

Posted by Shivali Anand

October 21, 2021    |     5-minute read (945 words)

Large organizations and government agencies typically make the news when it comes to technical threats against businesses, but that doesn't mean small firms are immune to cyberattacks. Small companies frequently misjudge their danger levels, with most owners feeling that their establishments aren't large enough to be targeted and don't have anything valuable to take. The terrible reality is that every organization is vulnerable to hacking.

In June this year, Cyber Readiness Institute Managing Director Kiersten E. Todt told the House of Representatives’ Committee on Small Business that small companies face a significantly higher risk when it comes to the financial losses associated with security breaches. According to the Committee on Small Business of the House of Representatives, 60% of small businesses victimized by a cyberattack go out of business within six months. And global specialist insurer Hiscox’s Cyber Readiness Report 2021 finds that a cyberattack’s estimated average loss incurred by a small business is $25,612.

What are cyberattacks?

Consider the following business issues to gain a sense of the most prevalent forms of cyberattacks:

  • Malware: Malicious software, often known as malware, is software that is meant to harm a server, computer or network.
  • Phishing: A cybercriminal uses email to mislead you into opening a harmful attachment or clicking a link to a malware-infected website to infect your computer or steal your personal information.
  • Ransomware: A type of malware that infects a computer and prevents access until a ransom is paid. It is commonly distributed through phishing emails.
  • Viruses: Malicious programs that propagate across linked devices, such as computers, to provide hackers access to your system.
  • Adware: A type of computer virus that displays advertisements on your computer to allow other infections to enter.
  • Spyware: Software that monitors your computer activities and reports back to the attacker.
  • Weak passwords: Cybercriminals can access your employee data, bank data, vendor and customer information and practically anything password-protected if your passwords are easy to crack using hacking tools.
  • Social engineering: If a hacker can't identify a security flaw, they'll try to obtain access to your data and systems by attacking your mind.
8 ways to make cybersecurity a priority

Consider these eight suggestions for implementing a solid cybersecurity plan to safeguard your company, consumers and data from ever-increasing security threats.

Use a firewall – In the event of a cyberattack, a firewall is one of the first lines of protection. It acts as a firewall between your data and hackers, preventing unauthorized access to data on a private network. To guarantee compliance, if you have workers who work from home, make sure a firewall also secures their home systems.

Install anti-malware software – Anti-malware and antivirus software should be installed on all devices and networks to protect your data from assaults. One of the most robust protection against malware, viruses, and other online risks is to utilize the newest operating systems, security software and web browsers.

Encrypt and back up all data – Backing up databases, financial files, human resources files, electronic spreadsheets, word processing documents, accounts receivable/payable files, and other essential data to the cloud regularly is an intelligent practice. In case of a fire or flood, keep backups in a different place. Also, check your backup regularly to confirm that it is working correctly.

Encryption technology is used to safeguard all sensitive or private data. Encryption encrypts or scrambles data, thereby rendering it unreadable and useless by anybody who does not have the appropriate code or key to decrypt it.

Keep your Wi-Fi network secure – Make sure your Wi-Fi network is password-protected, encrypted and hidden. Set up your Wi-Fi so that no one, including your staff, knows the password. Configure your wireless access point or router so it does not broadcast the network name, known as the service set identifier, to hide the network (SSID). Access to your router should also be password-protected.

Develop a mobile device action plan – Storing sensitive data on mobile devices can be challenging to secure and maintain. Ensure your workers password-protect their devices, install security applications to avoid data theft from cybercriminals, and encrypt their data if they're using them on public networks.

Limit access to accounts and computers – Control access to corporate computers and generate separate user credentials for all workers that require secure passwords. Unauthorized access to business computers must be always prevented. Allow only trusted IT workers and critical people to have administrative access.

Train employees on security principles – In a small business, most employees wear many hats and have access to confidential information. As a result, all your workers should be educated on cybersecurity best practices and rules. You may also have them sign a document indicating that they have been made aware of the policies and realize that if they do not follow the appropriate processes, action may be taken.

The following are some examples of training subjects that can be covered:

  • How to recognize a phishing email.
  • How to make a secure password.
  • What are good online browsing habits?
  • How to avoid suspicious downloads.
  • How can sensitive customer and vendor information be safeguarded?
Additionally, you may improve cybersecurity awareness by exhibiting information in your workplace.

Document your cybersecurity policy: One area where it is critical to document your processes is cybersecurity. At the very least, your cybersecurity policy should include the following:

  • Password regulations, such as using unique passwords and updating them every 60 days. 
  • Appropriate internet usage standards, including specifics on consequences in the event of any infractions.
  • Security procedures for the vendor, customer, and employee data.
  • Use of multifactor authentication (MFA) needs more information than just a password to obtain access.
  • Procedures that employees must follow in the event of a data breach.

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