Running A Business

How Safe Is Your Small Business From Cybersecurity Threats?

Mar 08, 2021 • 5 min read
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      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.

      According to the US Small Business Administration (SBA), small business owners should start by conducting a careful audit of their computer security situation.

      “The first step in improving your cybersecurity is understanding your risk of an attack and where you can make the biggest improvements,” the SBA suggests. “A cybersecurity risk assessment can identify where a business is vulnerable and help you create a plan of action—which should include user training, guidance on securing email platforms, and advice on protecting the business’s information assets.”

      When reviewing the cybersecurity of your small business, here are some questions to ask yourself.

      Do You Have the Same Password for Every 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 1 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 LastPass offer password vaults.

      What Antivirus Software Are You Using?

      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.

      Do You 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 keeping hackers out of your data. Make multifactor authentication a habit for your business and employees.

      Are Your Passwords Easy to Memorize?

      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.

      Do You 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.  

      Are 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.

      Do You Regularly Back Up Your Data?

      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.

      What Are Your Employees Doing?

      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 be logging out of their accounts every time they get up from their computer. 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.  

      How Secure Are Your Wi-Fi Networks?

      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.

      Do You 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. 

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      About the author
      Barry Eitel

      Barry Eitel has written about business and technology for eight years, including working as a staff writer for Intuit's Small Business Center and as the Business Editor for the Piedmont Post, a weekly newspaper covering the city of Piedmont, California.

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