Cybercriminals routinely target small businesses, because these businesses do not have sufficient security systems in place to deter attacks, and are often unaware of the threats that they face.
But no matter what the size of the business is, cybercrime has increased exponentially in the past few years with losses in 2015 alone coming to a total of more than $15 million. With a large majority of banking and financial transactions happening over the internet, cybercrime has become a very lucrative option for criminals. Big corporate accounts are hard to breach, and personal accounts do not have much financial value, thereby making a small business cyber attack most promising and lucrative.
Small businesses need to build a work culture that emphasizes security, and carries out sustained cyber security upgrades that protect financial information, sensitive company details, and private customer data.
Here are a few things that you need to do in order to ensure that your small business stays safe and secure.
1. Be Aware of the Threat
In today’s workplaces, where remote employees and mobile workstations are the norm, it becomes very hard to maintain security and safe accessibility of data.
Most businesses – small as well as big – rely on cloud-based technologies to carry out online transactions, store and backup data, and enable easy access to information. But the very same technology also makes it very easy for criminals to siphon off funds and data from virtually anywhere in the world.
It is extremely important that you take enough precaution and embed stringent safety protocols into all organizational processes. This must include embedding a safety policy that permeates into the entire business strategy of your small business. Cyber security must be of foremost concern, whether you make a payment to a vendor, respond to a finance-related email from a customer, or improve or modify any existing business process.
2. Educate and Empower Employees
Employees are your first line of defense against hackers and cyber criminals. Educate and empower them to protect and safeguard company data, customer information, and corporate account details.
Employees should be trained to identify phishing emails, scams, and fraudulent communication. Any mail asking for confidential information and passwords should be immediately reported to the email service provider. File phishing complaints against domains and blacklist them.
Employees should be cautioned against downloading anything, and should not click on links in emails that may trigger the installation of malicious software. Once the hackers have gained entry into your IT systems, they can access anything from internal communication systems to operational technology.
Though it might seem more of a hassle, inform your employees of the need to use complex and unique passwords, and make it mandatory to change passwords at least every three months. This will ensure that personal and corporate information is not easily exposed. You can also consider installing free password management software systems that help manage and remember passwords. Some of the most popular free password managers are LastPass, True Key and Norton Identity Safe.
3. Consider Additional Safety Features
You can also take security a notch higher by going for two-factor authentication features that allow you to be an active participant in cyber security actions.
Users are required to enter an authentication pin code that is sent to a designated mobile device in order to enable a transaction. This double level of security prevents a hacker who has your password details from completing fund withdrawal or other actions. In some instances, users are requested to input their fingerprint to gain access, thereby reducing chances of fraud greatly.
Additional safety features allow small businesses to protect important financial details, intellectual property, and business plans.
4. Make Cyber Security a Board-Level Responsibility
Board members and CEOs are concerned about generating profits and increasing sales. Cyber security measures do not add to the bottom line. So, these concerns get little attention during board meetings and strategy planning discussions.
Experts are of the opinion that unless and until cyber security starts to have a bearing on brand value and market positioning, it will not be a priority for business owners and profit-centered managers. Ensure that your small business places accountability for online security and safety on top-rung executives. This will help in speeding up decision-making, and facilitate fund allocation for implementing safety protocols.
Small businesses must also wake up to the fact that customers of the future will be more demanding on corporate cyber security initiatives. They will not want to do business with a brand that does not take the confidentiality of customer data seriously. So, investing in cyber security becomes important from an ROI perspective, as well.
5. Keep Software Updated
The latest anti-virus software packages and other security applications offer a high level of protection to your IT systems and networks.
All machines and mobile devices used for company business should have malware, spyware, and firewalls installed.
There are many instances where highly critical business data related to business models, business contacts, and client information are stolen or spied upon by direct competitors. It is very important that you have the right safety protocols in place to detect and ward off such fraudulent activities. If you suspect a security breach, you will require the services of a Dallas business litigation attorney to help you seek out legal remediation, and to ensure that the erring parties pay for their crime.
Pay heed to notifications asking you to upgrade your operating systems, browsers, and other anti-virus software packages and applications. If you do not upgrade in a timely manner, chinks may crop up in your safety armor, making it easier for cyber criminals to pry their way in.
6. Learn From Others’ Mistakes
According to cyber security experts, 71 percent of cyber attacks are targeted at small businesses, because they are the easiest to hack and the most lucrative.
One in two small businesses in the U.S. has reportedly been a target of cyber attack. Understand where they made critical mistakes and learn from them.
Employees have unintentionally leaked information or downloaded malicious spyware, in many cases. Check whether you have imparted necessary training to your employees. Ensure that you do not continue working with outdated software, and never be ignorant or dismissive about potential dangers.
Ransomware is often the favorite weapon of criminals against small businesses. Make sure that your data is protected against encryption.
Guard Yourself Against Cybercrime
There is no fool-proof strategy to counter cyber crime. The best you can do is to invest in cyber security software and applications, educate employees, and always be proactive in your approach. With the right steps, making your business cybercrime-proof will not be difficult.