With nearly all businesses now operating in virtual space in some capacity, the threat of cybercrime has unfortunately become a common reality that small business owners must face. Without the tools and funds of a large corporation, defending your business against cyberattacks may seem daunting. Fortunately, there are still affordable and reasonable steps you can take to protect yourself.
Upgrade your software
Software developers regularly release newer versions of their code that not only add new features but also patch security risks that hadn’t previously been discovered. Though you should strive to keep all of your software up to date, the most important thing to keep updated is your computer’s operating system.
Many businesses continue to use Windows XP even though Microsoft has now completely stopped supporting the system, which means it no longer receives security patches and updates. “That means computers running the outdated software are now much more vulnerable to cyberattacks and hackers — and these criminals know it,” Julia Campbell warns in a March 2018 article for TheBalance’s Small Business.
In other words, simply upgrading your computer or purchasing the latest Windows operating system for any computer that’s part of your business could go a long way toward improving your cyber security.
Train your employees
Your employees should be trained in cyber security best practices. Founder and CEO of Patriot Software Mike Kappel recommends setting up a cybersecurity policy for your business that includes procedures for keeping customer, employee and vendor information safe, as well as protocols employees should follow in case of a breach.
He advises employees to create strong and unique passwords for all of their accounts and to set up two-factor verification whenever possible. “This requires a two-step sign-in process that adds another layer of security to accounts,” Kappel explains in a November 2017 article for Forbes. “Employees will need access to another device or code to complete the sign-in process.”
According to the Hiscox Cyber Preparedness Report 2017, employee training helped roughly 70 percent of United States companies to significantly reduce the number of cyber hacks and incidents.
Protect your email
One of the most popular cybercrimes is email theft, and given that most individuals’ accounts are directly associated with their email, it also represents one of the biggest areas of risk. Of all the passwords you use across all of your accounts, your email password should be the most secure.
“Cyber criminals buy and sell login IDs and passwords, Social Security numbers, credit card digits and other on darkness sites,” writes Steve Morgan, founder and editor-in-chief of Cybersecurity Ventures, in an October 2017 article for Entrepreneur. “If a small business has its email addresses accessible to hackers, the results can be devastating.”
One of the best — and free — ways to protect your email is to set up the aforementioned two-step verification, which virtually every email app offers, including Microsoft Outlook, Gmail and Yahoo Mail.
It’s not all digital
Worrying about cyber security can easily make one forget that not all threats come from the internet. It’s equally as important to keep your computer or servers away from criminals in the physical world. Locking away all of your business’s electronics and permitting access only to trusted IT staff and key personnel can go a long way toward protecting your information and your operations.
Preparing for cyberattacks is a little bit like insurance. It can seem like a costly, even unnecessary investment if you think you won’t need it, but one that dearly pays off if you do. Given the propensity of cyberattacks in the modern age, taking small steps to protect yourself is well worth the trouble.