Small businesses are an integral part of the United States economy, totaling an impressive 28.8 million entities, collectively making up 99.7% of all businesses in America. Even though these smaller organizations don't have the same amount of employees, capital, and resources as large corporations, they largely perform similar functions.
Unfortunately, small entities are particularly prone to cybersecurity breaches. Because they have less money, fewer employees, and less knowledge in dealing with these problems, criminals find it easier to target small businesses than larger ones. The extent of cyber attacks are likely more prevalent than one would think - in 2016 alone, roughly half of small businesses were breached. It's impossible to prevent anybody else's actions, especially in the digital realm, in which criminals need only a computer connected to the Internet to potentially cause significant financial loss to organizations they target.
Fortunately for you, here are several ways to safeguard your small business from attacks facilitated through today's ever-advanced technological world.
Creating a safe place to swap documents and communications
In face-to-face meetings, business executives and representatives share ideas, sentiments, and documents in paper and verbal forms. They're often tucked away in conference rooms without many passerby, reducing the chances of people hearing them, potentially diverting confidential information to unauthorized sources. However, in today's technological age, data room providers have begun offering secure digital chatrooms for important business meetings to take place.
Virtual data room providers protect information shared within, not only programmed to prevent malware and other harmful files from rearing their ugly heads at inopportune times, as they often feature one or more administrators that take physical control in the event of emergencies. Physical conference rooms might have hidden cameras or microphones, or be vulnerable to people eavesdropping outside their immediate areas. Virtual data rooms eliminate these possibilities, keeping businesses safer from cybersecurity issues because information is significantly less likely to be leaked.
Never trust on-site data storage
Some businesses store important information in their single building, or somewhere on their campus, if they own multiple facilities. Either way, harboring sensitive data on-site is never in the best interest of cybersecurity. Even further, purchasing equipment to save mountainous troves of information is expensive. Installing them is difficult, requiring the assistance of experienced information technology professionals. Lastly - and most importantly - on-site servers can be hacked into by forceful intruders or unauthorized users posing as IT service providers.
Instead, your business should opt for cloud storage. Information is easier to access, as every employee with login credentials can access the cloud from computers of their choice, be it at work, or home. Saving data in a cloud is significantly cheaper than doing so on your organization's premises. Best of all, cloud servers are warehoused in secure, nondescript locations that only service providers are aware of, decreasing the likelihood of data breaches.
Even if a hacker or other unauthorized user doesn't gain access to your organization's computer network, cloud storage effectively backs up data in the event of inadvertent deletion.
The only barrier that separates most email accounts, employee logins, and admin accesses from unauthorized users are passwords. Unfortunately for the sake of convenience in the workplace, a simple password won't keep determined hackers away from your accounts. A password management company, Keeper Security, found that 123456 was the most commonly used password in year 2016, making up more than 16% of the 10,000,000 passwords reviewed by the organization. Some criminals can access accounts by manually guessing passwords. However, certain equipment exists that can guess more than one billion password tries per second, making even the most abstract, unguessable codes able to be discovered with enough time on one's side.
Multi-factor authentication simply involves multiple players of security. For example, your business' back door has a keypad lock. After inserting the correct code, a text message is sent to your personal phone. The SMS message provides you with yet another code, this time different from the one you and your employees remember. Every login to technological devices or sites on the Internet should feature at minimum two layers of security, if not three. Even though it takes a few seconds longer to deal with 2FA (two-factor authentication) and MFA (multi-factor authentication), taking these precautions are integral in preventing unauthorized users from hacking into your devices.
Train and educate, then train and educate some more
Computers are complex, as are smartphones, tablets, the Internet, and virtually everything with an electronic current other than a lightbulb. They consistently become more thick with codes and features, decreasing their ability to be easily understood, with the added bonus of helping the world's population. While not every employee at your organization will become a IT expert or earn a Ph.D. in computer science, every business should require its workers to undergo rigorous training regarding: common ways cybercriminals coerce employees into gaining authorization to facilities and computers, what's trending in cybercrime, and how to behave when using computers (behaving like an adult just doesn't cut it).
If your business has a highly-trained, fully-certfieid, experienced technological security professional, consider delegating training responsibilities to him or her. Otherwise, you should consider purchasing online training courses and cybersecurity awareness programs for employees to learn from at least once every week. It might seem overkill, but not when remembering 60% of small businesses fail in the six months following cybersecurity attacks, typically costing $690,000 to remedy the damage caused.
Outline cyberattack response protocol and inform employees of them
A sweeping majority of organizations that bounce back from cybersecurity breaches - even mitigating them before any real damage is done - have emergency plans in place for responding to digital threats. Effective protocol are closely tailored to the businesses that employ them, rather than relying on a centralized, static set of guidelines and rules for every organization. You should undoubtedly - even if you employ 100 cybersecurity experts - consult at least one expert in cybersecurity consulting, contracting them to develop personalized emergency response plans for your organization.