Small businesses, just like large businesses, rely heavily on information technology to store, process and communicate information. However, unlike large businesses, many small businesses don’t consider themselves at-risk for cyber-attack, to their detriment, when in fact protecting their information against cyber threat should be a priority.
Small business owners need to be aware that their employee and customer data, bank account information and finances and intellectual property are all enticing to a cybercriminal, who preys on small businesses that have weak or nonexistent cybersecurity. In fact, theft of digital information is the most commonly reported fraud, eclipsing even physical theft. Furthermore, research has shown that unmanaged administrator privileges are some of the biggest IT security threats to a small business, yet many fail to take the time to set up the proper access limitations for non-admin employees.
To ensure your information is safe, it is imperative to adhere to the following five cyber security tips:
No. 1: Secure your computers and networks. Ensuring your computers are protected against viruses, spyware and other malicious code is essential. This can be achieved by installing antivirus software and antispyware and updating them on a regular basis. Networks can be secured by utilizing firewall and encrypting information, and if you have Wi-Fi it can be hidden by setting up the wireless access point or router so it does not broadcast the network name. Additionally, if you have employees that telecommute, their home systems should also be protected by a firewall.
No. 2: Educate your employees. Ensuring the security of a small business’ data is not only up to its owner, but its staff as well. Employees need to be educated about cyber threat and how to protect the company’s data. This is especially imperative in regards to using social network sites, and employees should be taught how to post online without revealing any sensitive company information. They should also be required to use very strong, case-sensitive passwords, and to change them every so often.
No. 3: Backup critical data. Any business, large or small, should have backup copies of its critical data, such as financial files, accounts receivable/payable files, electronic spreadsheets, etc. This should be done regularly, and stored offsite or on the cloud.
No. 4: Safeguard mobile devices. Due to the fact that millions of people use their mobile devices for just about everything, including work-related matters, employees should be required to password-protect their mobile devices, especially if they contain confidential information or can access your business’ network. Other measures for safeguarding mobile devices include encrypting data and installing security apps, which can prevent cybercriminals from stealing information when a mobile device is on a public network.
No. 5: Limit access to information. It is important to not provide just one employee with access to all of your data systems, but equally important to limit access to data for other employees, including the authority to install software. As a small business owner, make certain that your employees are only given access to specific data systems required for their job duties.