Cybersecurity threats can be a serious issue for businesses of any size, but they're even more of a risk for small businesses. Small businesses tend to be the main target of cyberattacks due to their increased vulnerability. It’s estimated that 43% of all cyberattacks were focused on small businesses, increasing significantly over the past few decades.
The main reason that these businesses are targeted more than larger businesses is due to the lack of focus they often have on cybersecurity. Taking the proper steps to invest in physical and digital security measures can often become a large investment of money. The harsh truth, however, is that falling victim to an internal data breach is typically more costly than the original investment in security would be. Data breaches cost companies an average of $3 million. This number is solely focusing on the cost of repairing the damage and sending out notifications, not the downtime in production that is lost, which can be equally as damaging.
What Are the Threats?
Phishing Emails - These compromises come in the form of a phony email. The cybercriminals who send these emails pose as inside employees or other trusted outside parties to gain access to an employee's email server. Usually, they include a link, attachment, download, or they will ask for private information in order to trick unsuspecting employees into downloading ransomware.
Website Hacks - These are also referred to as watering holes. This happens when legitimate business websites are hacked by cybercriminals and infected with malicious software. Typically a site owner is unaware that this attack has taken place. They are caused by clicking on a link, downloading software, or revealing sensitive information.
Drive-by-Downloads - When a company has outdated software and improper security precautions in place, it becomes easy to penetrate the network. In this case, a website will install software onto a computer without needing to request permission first.
Weak Passwords - When employees use weak passwords, this leaves their devices and data at a high vulnerability. Many cybercriminals utilize cyber bots that cycle through a combination of passwords and numbers rapidly until the correct one is uncovered, allowing them to have an easy point-of-entry.
6 Tips to Protect Your Small Business Networks
- Training - The best way to protect your small business against cyber threats is to continuously host educational training sessions on various topics of cybersecurity for your employees. It’s hard to expect employees to know how to protect themselves without ever providing the proper training and policies. If you lack the bandwidth to carry out this task, consider hiring an outside firm to conduct these trainings for you. A proper educational program should cover such topics as:
- Data Privacy
- Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Policy
- Public Wi-Fi Safety
- Data Storage/Management
- Safe Internet Habits
- Physical Security
- Social Media Habits
- Disaster Recovery Plan - A cyberattack occurs every 39 seconds. This means that your small business could become the next victim of an attack at any time. Being prepared with a disaster recovery plan can save your team a great deal of money and time. There are many procedures and policies that you will need to consider when creating this plan. For example, you'll need to make sure all legal obligations are met first, then handle any internal issues that may have caused the breach, increase your public relations efforts, and then perform an audit to find any necessary updates that need to be made.
- Encryption Software - Protecting your employees' devices begins with proper encryption software being installed. These days, as hackers have become wiser, it’s become apparent that more than a simple password and antivirus software is required. Consider purchasing and downloading these useful software options on to your employees' devices
- VPN -A virtual private network or VPN is beneficial for anyone working off of unsecured servers. A VPN will provide employees with a secure private network that hides their IP address from any cybercriminals who may be lurking on the public network. This software can be used on both computers and mobile devices.
- Cloud storage - Employees transmit a great deal of data each day, whether it’s sensitive or not. Having a proper place to manage and store this data, such as a cloud storage system, allows a more secure data storage option for the business, employees, and clients. These systems are backed by the highest levels of security available today and also allow for virtually infinite storage levels.
- Email encryption software - When sending an email you want to make sure that there is no chance of it being intercepted, but in the event that it does become intercepted you’ll want to have the contents encrypted. Email encryption software works by sending the email, and all its attachments, in a format that is unreadable for anyone that was not granted access to the file.
- Software Updates - Updating any software whenever an update is available is extremely important. These updates become available after holes in the security of the software are discovered and repaired. These repairs will ensure your security.
- Remote Employees - If you have employees that work remotely, you know how hard it can be to communicate with them and ensure they are following the policies that are set in place. Providing these employees with extra training on the risks of unsecured public wireless networks and guaranteeing their devices are equipped with VPNs and other important software can help alleviate this issue.
- Physical Security - Finally, lock all devices when the office closes and protect internal servers/routers with a physical lock. This includes practices such as putting your computer to sleep when taking a break, installing security cameras, and having an access control system on your door so only authorized access is granted.