Many small business owners assume that cyber attacks only happen to big companies, banks or governments. But the truth is, limited knowledge of digital security and lack of defences make small businesses particularly vulnerable to attack.
Research shows that 71% of all cyber attacks happen to businesses with less than 100 employees – and yet many CEOs have yet to invest in a formal defense plan.
With cyber attack insurance premiums running as high as $35,000 per year, prevention is typically the smartest (and most budget-friendly) approach for small business owners.
Follow these four steps to fortify your small business against a cyber attack, and maintain the ongoing trust of your valued customers.
Conduct a Cyber Threat Assessment
75% of small business owners simply don’t know if they have enough cyber security – or the right solutions – to protect their digital assets.
A thorough threat assessment is the ideal first step to knowing precisely where and how your small business may be vulnerable to cyber intruders.
Consider contracting a cyber security specialist to help you analyze your digital ecosystem and data storage practices, in order to identify weak areas and create a security action plan.
Install a Firewall and Anti-virus Software
Cyber attackers use highly sophisticated automated software to seek out and infiltrate poorly defended networks.
Ensure your business doesn’t get caught in their net by installing a firewall that can control incoming and outgoing data and help prevent unauthorized access to your network.
Other practical steps you can take to protect yourself include:
- ensuring your anti-virus software is always up to date
- updating your browser and applications like Java and Flash to the latest version
- protecting your WiFi by making it invisible to outsiders, encrypted and secure.
Regularly Change Your Passwords
Many businesses overlook the importance of regularly changing passwords that guard critical systems and confidential data.
Refresh your passwords every two months, ensuring they are at least 8 characters long and a mix of letters, numbers and symbols. Steer clear of using personal information, like your child’s name or your date of birth, as these combinations are much easier for cyber attackers to guess.
Invest in Employee Training
Employee education is one of the most important defenses against cyber attack. For lack of training, your own team members might inadvertently install malware or release confidential information to a criminal masquerading as a trusted contact.
A staggering 95% of online security breaches involve human error. Ensure your staff understand best practices in digital defense by:
- developing an easy-to-read cyber security guide so employees are better equipped to identify and deal with malware, dangerous email attachments, phishing attempts and other digital threats
- meeting regularly to discuss new potential online threats so team members know what to watch for
- encouraging each team member to speak up immediately if they notice suspicious behavior on your digital network.
By implementing these preventative measures, your company will be well positioned to evade cyber attack – and get on with the business of growing!