Affordable Cybersecurity Practices for Small Business

Today’s blog post is a guest post by Lindsey Weiss from Outbounding.com. Thanks Lindsey!

Data privacy has become a huge concern for business owners small and large in recent years. Even with a growing emphasis on data protection, the number of exposed records continues to rise. In fact, 2018 saw 446.5 million exposed records, an enormous jump from the approximately 197.6 million records exposed throughout 2017.

Data privacy has become a huge concern for business owners small and large in recent years. Even with a growing emphasis on data protection, the number of exposed records continues to rise. In fact, 2018 saw 446.5 million exposed records, an enormous jump from the approximately 197.6 million records exposed throughout 2017.

Enterprises are taking significant steps to protect their data, but small businesses have been slower to catch up — only 14 percent of small businesses are highly confident in their cybersecurity. Because breaches targeting large enterprises are the ones that generally receive the most coverage, small business owners make the faulty assumption that they’re less vulnerable to a cyber attack. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth: 43 percent of all cyberattacks are aimed at small businesses.

If you store customer data, including credit card data, email addresses, billing addresses, and phone numbers, your business needs to be concerned about cybersecurity. Even if you don’t store customer data, data security should be on your radar: If a malicious actor injects ransomware into your system, you could be charged a ransom just to resume operations.

Protecting yourself against data breaches doesn’t require an enormous financial investment. There are many cost-effective ways small businesses can guard their data.

Train Employees to Recognize Social Engineering

Employee training offers the best ROI when it comes to small business data protection. That’s because employee and contractor negligence is behind nearly half of all data breaches. If an employee unwittingly clicks on a malicious attachment or shares passwords or files with a cybercriminal posing as a colleague, the integrity of your business is compromised. Social engineering attacks are constantly evolving, so business owners and managers should stay abreast of the most frequently used techniques and train employees how to recognize attacks and avoid falling victim. A few minutes of research and a meeting with your staff could save thousands in data breach recovery costs.

Step Up Your Password Policy

Are your employees using weak passwords like their birthdates, or worse, “123456” or “password”? If you reflexively answered “no,” ask yourself how confident you really are that your staff is using passwords that can’t be cracked. A strong password policy doesn’t simply require a mixture of letters, numbers, and symbols. Rather, it obligates users to create complex passwords that expire on a predetermined schedule, don’t employ common words, and are never used for multiple accounts. If you don’t want to babysit your employees’ password practices, consider using a password manager.

Keep Firewalls and Antivirus Current

Firewall protection prevents malicious actors from entering your system, whereas antivirus and anti-malware software detects and removes threats. These security solutions make up the foundation of any network’s data protection, but too often business owners let them fall out of date. Firewall and antivirus software providers regularly release updates to block new types of malware, but if you don’t update your software, your systems aren’t protected.

Backup Your Data, Then Back It Up Again

If your data is held ransom, will your business be forced to shut down? Data backups keep your business up and running when data is compromised due to a data breach, natural disaster, or another threat. A basic backup strategy for small businesses is a 3-2-1 backup. The 3-2-1 rule dictates that you keep three copies of your data (including the primary copy) and use two different mediums to store them, with one backup stored off-site. Many small businesses accomplish this by storing one backup on an on-site external hard drive and a second backup in the cloud. Both backups must be updated regularly to preserve data integrity.

These steps greatly reduce the risk to your small business’s data, but they don’t eliminate it. If you are the target of a data breach, make sure you take the appropriate steps to recover. Dealing with the fallout from a data breach isn’t pleasant, but addressing it is necessary for the continued success of your small business.

Image via Pexels

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