Did you know cybersecurity is important for small businesses? It may seem like hackers, malware, and the like are problems for corporations or larger organizations, but in truth, these threats are real for businesses of all sizes.
A Quick Definition of Cybersecurity
Before we talk about safeguarding your small business, let’s make sure we understand the threats we’re protecting against. Cybersecurity refers to safeguarding networks, systems, and other programs from digital attacks. Usually, these attacks are attempts to access, alter, or destroy information and can also lead to extortion and general disruptions to your business.
Why Protection is Important to Your Small Business
Considering cybersecurity is important for small business owners to protect their proprietary data and the personal data of employees and customers. Depending on the type of information you use to run your business, there may be more intimate risks to individuals you work with outside of the threats to your company as a whole. If you store any kind of legal, financial, or medical data, and haven’t already implemented cybersecurity measures, you may be noncompliant with information and privacy laws.
In an ideal world (besides one where these attacks don’t happen), every business would be able to afford and maintain a unified threat management system. Every firewall tool would be kept perfectly updated, every piece of software would be integrated for 360 degrees of protection, and every employee would be an expert in preventing cyber attacks.
All this being said, we understand the time and money it takes to implement cybersecurity measures and the fact many small business owners may not have the resources to prioritize ideal systems. Even if this is the case, it’s still important to take the measures you’re able to for the safety of your business, customers, employees, and yourself.
So we’ve put together some simple, inexpensive actions you can take to add some basic cybersecurity to your small business.
Secure Your Network
One of the first and easiest steps to take is to optimize the software, hardware, and generally the equipment you have. Make sure your Wi-Fi network is secured and password-protected and install anti-virus software on all of your devices. Depending on your budget and resources, upgrading from an older computer to a new device can never hurt.
Improve Your Passwords
This likely isn’t the first time you’ve read about this particular tip but it’s still an important and easy way to safeguard your information. By changing your account and device passwords at least every three months, and making passwords complex (at least 12 characters, mix of upper and lowercase letters, using numbers, no simple words or phrases) you’re already taking great steps to improve your cybersecurity measures.
If that sounds overwhelming, you might think about investing in a password keeper that will automatically generate secure passwords and prompt you to change them when needed.
Draw Up a Plan and (Possibly) Consult an Expert
Having a plan for your cybersecurity measures is always a great idea. Take some time to research your industry and devices to see if there are any threats you should be especially aware of including emails containing viruses and attacks on your website.
As you make your plan, you should also ask yourself the following questions about its implementation:
- How should your sensitive information be handled and who should be able to access it?
- Which kinds of software protection are critical for you to install and which may be optional at the present time?
- How will you maintain your system to make sure updates and scans are completed routinely?
When you’re looking into anti-virus software, don’t automatically go for the cheapest option. Shop around and really weigh the value of protecting your business’s data. Really consider the importance of this investment in your company. If you’re able to get some free or inexpensive advice from an IT professional, they can give you specific tips and recommendations tailored to your systems and data.
Train Your Employees
According to Forbes, on average employees in the U.S. receive an email containing malware at least once per day. While most of these are caught by Junk mail folders or are obvious threats that are immediately deleted, scam emails are getting more sophisticated. Taking the time to train your employees to avoid phishing emails, social media scams, and other potential Trojan Horse-type attacks could mean the difference between safety and a costly data breach.
Back-Up Your Data
Whether you use a secure cloud service, physical hard drive, or both (having both is probably best) make sure your data is being consistently backed up and stored. Many storage platforms and devices make it easy to schedule routine backups so, for instance, every night your information is saved – and preferably encrypted – without you having to do anything beyond the initial setup. These backups will save you a lot of pain and headaches in case one or more cyber attacks succeed.
Be Careful of Third Parties
While we like to think the customers and other businesses we work with mean well and practice effective cybersecurity, the reality is it’s better to be safe than sorry. The information you collect and manage is your responsibility, so before sharing it with a third party make sure you have some kind of verification system in place.
This might involve policies about only providing information to certain people via certain secure channels, and making sure employees don’t use work devices for personal reasons (and vice versa). You might also go on complete lockdown with a policy to never give certain information out. Take time to really consider what works best for your business in order to meet the responsibility you have to protect its data.
These are just a few simple, inexpensive ways to safeguard your small business’s data. As your business grows, so should your cybersecurity measures.
If you’d like to start or expand your Indianapolis-area business, the Build Fund, operated by Renew Indianapolis, may be able to connect you to flexible, affordable, and responsible funding options for your business. Start the process now!