As technology swiftly advances year over year, the need for cybersecurity essentials becomes increasingly critical. This is especially true for small businesses that typically need to cut corners to establish early profitability, and for small businesses that often DIY their IT tasks. Discover the most important small business cybersecurity tips that are vital to the safety and security of your systems and data.
What is a Cyber Threat?
A cybersecurity threat is any possibility of malicious activity with the intent to damage or steal data or attempts to disrupt work or life through digital means. In short, a cyber threat means someone who shouldn’t have access tries to illegally access and/or manipulate your systems or data.
Types of Cyber Threats for Small Businesses
Cyber threats can take many forms and use all kinds of access points. It might be something obvious like a virus that access your computer through gaps in your security. Or it could be through a seemingly benign access point like your internet connected multifunction printer. Attacks can take a few different forms, explained below.
Phishing is one of the most common forms of cybersecurity threats. It means a cyber criminal is trying to use email or text messages to trick employees, clients, and contractors into giving them personal information or protected company information.
A watering hole is an attack that is meant to compromise an industry or a group of companies, rather than one specific company. It’s a targeted attack that tries to lure users to a malicious site so they can infect the computer of the visitor and therefore gain access to their organization.
Malware is software that was designed for the sole purpose of malicious activity. It is typically a file or code the is delivered over the internet and infects the user’s computer. It gives the malicious attacker access to the infected computer’s local network so they can steal or manipulate sensitive data.
Drive by Downloads
A drive by download is a malicious program that installs itself on your devices without your knowledge or consent. It can take the form of any unintentional download of files, folders, or bundled software. It’s often part of (attached to) an intentional download that isn’t detected by your computer’s cybersecurity package. Because it’s often part of intentional download, these attacks can occur on any site, not just questionable sites.
How to Protect Small Businesses From Cyber Threats?
There are a number of ways businesses can protect themselves. However, there are some tried and true cybersecurity measures that every small business should implement to have some foundational and basic protections against cyber threats.
- Build in redundancy. That means have a back-up system and check this back-up system regularly to ensure it’s working properly.
- Encrypt everything. Encryption does become increasingly complex as technology and related crimes continue to advance. However, enabling encryption on all communications and attachments is a basic security measure.
- Install Firewalls. While there are some hackers that attempt to work around firewalls, requiring additional security measures, firewalls are a frontline defense against cybercriminals.
- Secure physical assets. Work computers are often used on a multitude of networks, not just the on-site work network. That means all devices that may hold work data or contacts, including computers and all mobile devices, must fall under the purview of IT security regulations.
- Strong Passwords and Authentication. Everyone a the company should understand the value and importance of strong passwords. Passwords should be changed at regular intervals. And double authentication should be required at all opportunities.
- Enforce third party security. Even though you may have no claim on the internal security of your clients, vendors, and other third party relationships, you can require secure best practices in place in order to protect your data. That means they’ll need to protect your data in their systems just as much as you require the protection of your data in your internal systems.
- Avoid freeware. Even though freeware can be a great way for small businesses to get their cybersecurity software and other software, these shortcuts can be more harmful in the long-run. Remember that you get what you pay for and commit to quality cybersecurity.
- Train employees. Cybersecurity isn’t just for the IT team. It’s for everyone. Train employees on cybersecurity basics, such as how to create a strong password, how to recognize secure networks, and how to recognize phishing scams.
- Secure networks and devices. All possible access points, including on-site machines like networked copiers and printers, aare a possible access point for cyber criminals. Install tracking software where appropriate and limit personnel access with login codes, even to copiers. This makes is easier to track activity and pinpoint weaknesses.
- Invest in scanning and monitoring. If possible, invest in ongoing scanning and monitoring of possible breaches. Even if you have to hire managed IT services providers for the work, it’ll help your company become proactive, rather than reactive when a threat is present.
- Keep all software up to date. One of the most common access point for hackers is outdated software. Keep your software updated and you’ll rest easy knowing you have the latest cybersecurity updates installed.
Conduct a security risk assessment. This is a great task for a managed IT services provider. It won’t burden your current IT team, and getting a pair of outsider eyes on your security can reveal previously unknown vulnerabilities.
Even though there are increasing small business cybersecurity threats that can seem daunting or overwhelming, remember that technology and cybersecurity opportunities are also evolving. By ensuring you implement great best practices you’ll be protected against the majority of possible attacks. Follow these cybersecurity tips and you’ll find you’re much better protected than the average small business.