Guide To Running A Business

13. How Safe is Your Small Business From Cybersecurity Threats?

Next Read: How to Sell a Small Business

Running A Business

How Safe is Your Small Business From Cybersecurity Threats?

Mar 27, 2023 • 10 min read
Cybersecurity stock photo
Table of Contents

      Cybersecurity should be a fundamental concern of every small business, and the issue will only grow in importance as time passes. Even if your business’s online presence begins and ends with an email address, you still need to spend time, effort, and probably some money on keeping your technology and data secure.

      Why cybersecurity is important.

      The catch-all term “cybersecurity” refers to the process of safeguarding a business’s data against threats of damage and theft. Cybersecurity protects businesses from unauthorized access from outside parties. Although big businesses could be an attractive target for cybercrime, small businesses should take cybersecurity seriously as well. Though a company may be small, its size often makes it a common target for attacks due to the likelihood of stored customer data, lack of resources and support to counteract attacks, multiple technology interfaces, lack of funding, and more.

      Types of cyber attacks.

      • Denial-of-service attack. A flood of traffic is sent to systems, servers, or networks during a denial-of-service attack to deplete resources and bandwidth. The traffic prevents the system from processing legitimate requests.
      • DNS tunneling. This method sends non-DNS traffic over port 53 through the DNS protocol, which can be used for both legitimate and malicious purposes. It can enable malicious actors to conceal data by disguising outbound traffic as DNS, manipulating DNS requests to exfiltrate data, or for command and control callbacks from an attacker’s infrastructure to a compromised system.
      • Malware. Malicious software, such as ransomware, viruses, and worms, breach networks often when a user clicks on a compromised link or an attachment in an email. Malware can block access to critical network components, install additional harmful software, covertly steal information, and cause system disruption.
      • Phishing. Phishing is a common cyber threat that uses fake communications, usually email, to trick victims into giving away sensitive data or installing malware. This type of cyber threat is on the rise and poses a significant risk to individuals and organizations.
      • SQL injection. Attackers insert malicious code into a Structured Query Language (SQL) server, compelling it to reveal information that it wouldn’t typically disclose. Vulnerable website search boxes are an easy way to conduct such an attack.
      • Zero-day exploit. Attackers will target a disclosed network vulnerability before implementing a patch or solution. Detecting such threats requires constant vigilance to protect against attacks during the window of vulnerability.

      Cyber security best practices.

      Train your employees.

      Your employees should be as serious about cybersecurity as you are. Train them in the basics, like identifying phishing emails and regularly updating antivirus software. They should also understand how to best protect the data of your customers. You should create cybersecurity rules and protocols for your entire business, such as prohibiting employees from opening email attachments without a supervisor’s permission.  

      Choose different passwords for each website.

      The era of having a single password for every account and website, even if it’s hard to crack, is over—although this has never been a great idea. You should choose a unique password for every single account. If hackers breach one platform (something that happens with alarming frequency nowadays), you want to ensure that they don’t get the information to break into all of your accounts. There are several options for keeping track of your passwords—many devices, web browsers, and software programs like password manager software offer password vaults.

      Use antivirus software.

      You should be highly aware of the antivirus software you’re using—if you aren’t paying attention to how you’re keeping your computers secure, you need to add some protection now. You should have antivirus software installed on every computer used by your business. Because cybersecurity threats are ever-changing, antivirus creators regularly add updates and patches to their software. Configure your computers to update antivirus software automatically. In addition, check regularly to make sure your software is up to date. In addition to antivirus software, a firewall can also be installed to help further prevent employees from accessing malicious websites.

      Use multifactor authentication.

      Many services, including email and social media platforms, now offer multifactor authentication, which requires multiple devices to sign in. If any service you use has this as an option, take advantage of it. It adds a few seconds to the login process—a small price to pay for protecting sensitive data. Make multifactor authentication a habit for your business and employees.

      Create unique, hard-to-memorize passwords.

      Hacking technology has become so advanced that it’s easy for bad actors to crack passwords composed of simple words with a number or symbol tacked on. These days, your passwords should be long, unintelligible, and essentially impossible for you to memorize—this is another reason why a password vault is critical. This goes for every password, so get in the habit of creating different hard-to-crack passwords that combine letters, numbers, and symbols for every account. Additionally, you can let your device or browser auto-suggest passwords.

      Don’t send sensitive data through email.

      Email accounts are a common point of entry for hackers, and you can be impacted even if you aren’t the target. You should avoid sending sensitive information, like passwords or credit card numbers, via email. If hackers penetrate any of the email accounts that have sent or received your sensitive data, you’re at risk. It’s best to share this information in person—or there are end-to-end encrypted messaging options if you must convey private info via email.  

      Keep your machines clean.

      Keep your machines clean: all your computers and other devices should be running with the latest operating system, web browser, and antivirus software updates. By keeping your software updated, you’re harnessing big tech’s best efforts against the latest threats. Configure all of your computers to update automatically and regularly seek out available updates. Set your security software to run a scan after each update.

      Back up your data regularly.

      Along with updating your software regularly, make a habit of backing up your data. There are numerous options available now, many of which are free or inexpensive—and you should take advantage of multiple backup alternatives. Back up your data on a physical hard drive as well as a cloud-based service. Set up your machines to back up documents, contacts, and other data automatically. You should ensure your data is being backed up at least weekly.

      Secure your wi-fi network.

      Along with your email and other accounts, you need to ensure your Wi-Fi network is secure. First, your network should require a password and be encrypted and hidden. You can hide your network by setting up your router so it doesn’t broadcast your network’s name to anyone nearby with a smartphone. Additionally, your physical router should be secured in an area that’s not easily accessible to everyone coming into your office.

      Know what threats to look out for.

      While hacking tactics change at a rapid pace, being aware of common threats can help guard you against many attacks. You should know how to best prevent attacks like phishing, malware, ransomware, and SQL injection attacks. For small businesses, a lot of potential damage from these hackings can be mitigated by being careful with emails and using secure passwords. Keep this all in mind while taking a few hours to audit your business’s cybersecurity and password state of affairs—any time spent preventing a breach is well worth it. 

      Consider cyber insurance.

      A cyber insurance provider will help protect your business in the event of a loss from a cyber attack. Your policy should include protection against data breaches, attacks on data held by vendors/third parties, terrorist acts, breaches of your network, and more. A cyber insurance provider ensures you have someone to defend you in a lawsuit relating to a cyber attack, as well as offer coverage beyond any other relevant insurance you already have..

      Document and share your cybersecurity policies.

      A business with a formal cybersecurity policy that includes information security policies, procedures, guidelines, and standards on how to protect their data is ahead of the curve when it comes to cyber attacks. With these strong security policies in place and documented, businesses can identify and assess cybersecurity risks both internally and externally.

      Bottom line

      Cybersecurity threats are increasing and can impact small businesses as greatly as large ones. Denial-of-service attacks, phishing, and SQL injections are a few types of attacks businesses may face. To protect against these threats, small business owners should train employees on cybersecurity best practices, use antivirus software and firewalls, create unique and hard-to-memorize passwords, avoid sending sensitive data via email, and keep all machines up to date. By implementing these practices, small businesses can minimize the risk of a cybersecurity attack.

      About the author
      Sean Peek

      Sean Peek has written over 100 B2B-focused articles on various subjects including business technology, marketing and business finance. In addition to researching trends, reviewing products and writing articles that help small business owners, Sean runs a content marketing agency that creates high-quality editorial content for both B2B and B2C businesses.

      Share Article:
      Table of Contents

          Running a business guide

          Get a copy of the guide in your email.

          Business insights right to your inbox

          Subscribe to our weekly newsletter for industry news and business strategies and tips

          Subscribe to the newsletter

          Subscribe to our weekly newsletter for industry news and business strategies and tips.