Are you a small business owner who regularly collects and stores personal information from your customers, employees, and business partners to provide products and services? If you do, then you need to be aware of the need for cyber security and that according to the statistics released in December 2016 by Small Business Trends, at least 43% of cyber crimes are directed at small companies. A more worrying factor is that having fallen victims to data breaches, close to 60% of such businesses close shop within 6 months.
Check out the graph below that indicates the various methods hackers and cyber criminals use to get into your digital systems. The figures you see have been collected as a result of surveys in which small business owners were asked to reveal the channels used by hackers to access their networks.
Now that you have a clear view of the possible attacks, you might want to explore the different forms of cyber security that can protect your enterprise. The first factor you need to understand is that every company is unique in the products it offers and the kind of digital security it needs. Your best bet is to call in an expert IT security team that can evaluate your systems and make appropriate recommendations about the steps you need to take.
1. Regulate the Use of Devices
Make sure that only authorized personnel are allowed to access the devices that contain sensitive information. Segregate user accounts for each employee so you can track their activities in case of a data breach. If you have a BYOD policy where employees use their own gadgets for company operations, replace it with economical hardware that you can purchase and install on the company premises.
If your staff needs to work from remote locations, assign refurbished laptops and cellphones that contain all the necessary protective applications to deter cyber attacks. Direct employees to inform you right away if they lose any of the gadgets that contain sensitive information. Pay special attention to the use of mobile phones that are often used with public networks and stolen easily.
2. Restrict Access to Personal Information
Allow only those employees to access information who absolutely need it to provide services to customers. Get only licensed software technicians to install the cyber security software you need for company operations.
3. Install Firewalls
Firewalls are an extremely handy cyber security tool that can be used to protect both hardware and software. By installing firewalls, you can add an extra shield that prevents cybercriminals from accessing your IT network. Most operating systems like Windows come with built-in firewall protection but you can also add them separately to servers and routers.
4. Data Backup and Recovery
Adopt a cloud-based data backup program and save all important business data and sensitive information at regular intervals. All data vital for your business operations like human resources files, databases, electronic spreadsheets, word documents, financial data, files containing details of accounts receivable and/or payable, and client-customer communication should be saved on the cloud. This practice can help you recover the data in case you’re locked out of your digital systems as a result of Ransomware.
5. Protection from Malware, Spyware, and Viruses
Look for the most sophisticated antivirus and antispyware software that can protect your web browser and systems from malware. Should you get the protective applications from licensed providers, they are likely to send you updates and patches from time to time that can counter the newest developments in the field of cyber crime. You could also configure your systems so that updates are downloaded and installed automatically.
6. Secure Your Internet Connection
Aside from firewall protection for your Wi-Fi connection, also make sure that is secure and has the necessary encryptions and passwords. Install it out of plain view and set up the router or wireless access point so that it does not give out the network name or Service Set Identifier (SSID) as it is also called. This cyber security tool can prevent hackers from accessing your company systems through your Wi-Fi.
7. Integrate Security Practices and Protocols
Institute detailed protocols of how employees must collect, store, and use customer information. Make it very clear that you will hold workers accountable for the sensitive data placed in their care and the penalties they’ll incur in case of a data breach. Have strict security practices in place for employees retiring or quitting the company in case they have been privy to the information stored in your database.
8. Train Your Employees and Expect Compliance
Train workers carefully in the company policies with respect to cyber security. Educate them on the importance of using secure internet connections to access company data from remote locations. Do not permit the downloading of games and applications without permission on company devices and warn them about the threats of phishing emails and opening unknown attachments. Also, talk to them about the possibility of revealing company secrets by posting on social networking sites.
9. Institute a Robust Password Protocol
Have a robust password protocol in place by which employees must change passwords regularly. You could also consider using password-generating applications to create complicated and secure passwords. In addition, install multi-factor authentication that asks for added information aside from the password
10. Institute Strict Practices for the Use of Payment Cards
Contact your bank or card processing partners to check that only the most reliable and licensed equipment is in use. If needed, enter into agreements with them regarding the anti-fraud and other cyber security practices they use. Separate the devices that process payments and conduct other company operations. Prepare to adopt the more secure chip card technology or EMV as it is also called.
As hackers continue to use more sophisticated methods to target your company systems, you’ll need to stay a step ahead of them. In addition to the tools listed above, consider additional strategies like protecting browsing pages, biometric fingerprint recognition, full disk encryption, secure data destruction of hard drives, and anti-spam software. The time and funds you invest in the protection of the enterprise can save you from the significant losses you could incur in case of a data breach.