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Nowadays, running a small business is more challenging than ever before. With multi-million corporations pushing local entrepreneurs out of the market, many companies try to survive by promoting their products and services online. However, this move opens a whole new can of worms. One of the issues it necessitates is taking care of cybersecurity.
Unfortunately, not every small business owner knows much about cybersecurity and how to keep their company safe online. Many guess which solutions can help them outsmart hackers and keep cyber threats at bay. But not everyone is successful in this pursuit.
To create a robust cybersecurity system, you must use time-tested strategies and solutions. Leaving the guesswork behind allows you to keep your employees, customers, and finances safe — regardless of the number of threats you may encounter online.
Here is a list of valuable guidelines you can follow to keep your small business away from cyber disasters:
Backup Your Data
The first step in making your business better prepared for cyber-attacks is backing up your data. Thanks to it, you can sleep soundly, knowing that even if your security systems are breached, you have a copy of necessary files and other information stored elsewhere.
Every reliable business continuity management system (C2 Meridian BCMS) includes data backups — and for a good reason. Without them, you leave yourself vulnerable to more extended periods of downtime than necessary. Ideally, companies should have both on-site and off-site backups to safeguard against multiple eventualities.
For example, you can invest in a separate server to strengthen your on-site security. On the other hand, reliable cloud storage could make for an effective off-site solution. The bottom line is that you should avoid storing all your data in one place.
Perform Risk Assessments
Another excellent way to prepare for cybersecurity threats is to perform annual risk assessments. This way, companies can uncover hazards that threaten their stability and determine which elements of their defence systems require more attention.
Simply put, a risk assessment is a process to identify potential vulnerabilities in the system and patch them up before they become more significant issues. It usually consists of three phases:
- Finding out what could harm one’s business.
- Establishing how possible it is to happen.
- Preparing tools and procedures to eliminate the hazard or combat the issue once it arises.
If you have not done it yet, you should also determine if your business is high or low risk. High-risk companies run a greater risk of financial failure and may require more fine-tuning to avoid getting into trouble. Conversely, low-risk businesses, while not providing as many growth opportunities as their high-risk counterparts, typically involve less risk management.
Use a Password Manager
Many people scoff at the notion that they should improve their password use, but it is true. In the 2018 Ponemon report, forty percent of respondents noted that their companies experienced an attack involving password compromise, with each episode costing the business $383,365 on average. It shows that we still have a long way to go regarding better password management.
One of the best solutions to make this issue disappear is using a password manager. It is software specifically designed to create and store hard-to-breach passwords. With it, you can upgrade your password security immensely, creating long and complex passwords for each of your employees.
Once created, your employees will have access to their passwords in one application — no need to reuse the same password for multiple sites or use sticky notes as reminders. Instead, every team member gets to create a separate password for each site and store them in their password vault — an encrypted database locked behind a master password.
Some password managers can even alert you to phishing sites. They will recognize you are not on the website tied to the password and do not automatically fill in the username and password fields. It will be a warning you should reconsider before going forward.
Train Your Staff
Your employees make for a convenient point of entry for all sorts of hackers and cybercriminals. However, more often than not, they are your company’s first line of defence. Because of that, you might want to educate your employees about the potential dangers of using the web.
To minimise the chance of data breaches and social engineering scams, teach your staff about these subjects. You can use real-life examples and show what might happen if they act recklessly or fail to comply with standard operating procedures (SOPs) and policies.
Additionally, you could invite a cybersecurity expert to give a lecture on cybersecurity and good practices to keep one’s workplace safe. If you want to, you can even ask them to prepare an all-out course on techniques and methods to help your employees follow security regulations that affect your industry.
Understanding the importance of cybersecurity will help your employees stay vigilant and avoid falling into the most commonly employed traps. In turn, it will make your business safer and less prone to cyber-attacks.
Use Anti-Virus Software
Anti-virus software is a classic cybersecurity measure small businesses should implement. This software helps protect computers and servers by scanning files for malware that could harm your system and steal data.
Remember, antivirus software comes with different features, so make sure to choose a program that suits your needs the most. For example, some solutions offer real-time protection and automatic updates, while others require manual scans.
In addition to anti-virus software, you should also install anti-malware applications on your devices. These programs act as a second layer of defence, scanning for malicious activities on your network and keeping them from spreading.
For the best results, combine antivirus and anti-malware software in order to keep threats at bay from all angles. There are plenty of reliable options available online to help you out with this task.
Use Two-Factor Authentication
If you are using cloud storage, then you should consider adding two-factor authentication (2FA) to your security setup. This method involves using a secondary means of verification when logging into an account. It’s usually in the form of one-time passcodes sent via email or text message.
The goal of 2FA is to prevent hackers from accessing your account even if they steal your credentials.
Secure Your Premises
This piece of advice might feel a bit out of place. Nevertheless, securing your premises is as crucial as fortifying your virtual entry points. Many attacks that take place in cyberspace originate from an oversight made in the real world.
Fortunately, you can do several things to reduce the risk of thieves gaining access to your workspace. For example, installing an entry phone is a good idea. You can also hire a receptionist to make visitors identify themselves before entering the office.
If you want to go all out, consider issuing passes or signing visitors in and out. This way, you will severely limit the possibility of unwanted visitors entering your workspace.
Other ideas worth mentioning include:
- Securing car park gates,
- Installing a silent alarm,
- Investing in CCTV,
- Ensuring your locks are effective.
When you are highly concerned about your business’ safety, do not be afraid to speak to police and neighbouring businesses. Perhaps you can cooperate with them to make your local area safer.
Still, do not make your premises seem like a fortress. It will only discourage your customers from visiting your office and make your company look bad.
Install Software Updates
Finally, you should keep all your devices and operating systems up to date. Otherwise, you may expose your company to numerous unnecessary risks.
Many operating system vendors regularly provide patches and updates to their products. This way, they can address security problems and improve functionality. If you decide not to update your software, you essentially deprive yourself of these free benefits.
To give an example, Zoom, in its August 2022 update, enhanced the experience of its users by providing them with many new features. They range from easy access to cloud recordings and additional shapes for the in-meeting Whiteboard experience to increasing support for interpretation to 25 custom languages and enhanced labelling in the compose box for chats and channels that include external users.
Furthermore, using outdated software not only prevents you from adding new features that come with the latest versions but also can negatively affect your performance. For instance, other programs that depend on the piece of software you failed to update could start crashing because they become incompatible with the older version of the software.
Overall, updating your software protects you from harmful malware, ensures compatibility, and gives you access to the latest features. It is a straightforward way to prevent cybercriminals from accessing your system.
Conduct Regular Tests
If you have implemented all the aforementioned measures, you still need to conduct tests — i.e., attacks from outside your network to discover weak spots in its defences. After all, the most effective way to learn about potential weaknesses in your system is to simulate an attack from the outside. tests let you identify any vulnerable points in your network before cybercriminals do it for you — and at no small expense.
Leaving vulnerabilities exposed in your network can lead to devastating consequences if a cybercriminal finds them first and exploits them to steal sensitive information or take over your system completely. Thus, testing is vital to ascertain the safety of your assets online. Conducting regular tests proves to be an excellent habit for every company that wants to stay ahead of the game in today’s fast-evolving cybersecurity landscape.
The Bottom Line
In today’s highly digitalized world, one cannot overestimate the importance of cybersecurity. Businesses of all sizes need to employ robust cybersecurity measures to protect themselves and their clients from numerous dangers that lurk online. Even if you consider yourself a small fish in a pond, you may become the target of a cybercriminal.
Besides securing your company’s Wi-Fi network, you could use a password manager, create backups of critical data, and keep your software up to date. Performing risk assessments and training your staff about cybersecurity is also essential.
Regardless of which methods you decide to employ, always stay aware of the potential risks of using the web. It is the only way to avoid cyber-attacks that can cause irreparable damage to your operations and reputation.
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