Updated: May 20
A guest post by Chelsea Lamb of Businesspop.net.
For small business owners, it can often feel like your to-do list is never complete. After all, you take on many of the responsibilities of running your business, from the startup stage to growth and expansion. One responsibility that no small business owner should overlook is data protection, especially when it comes to your customers’ data. While you may think that your business isn’t a likely target, 43 percent of cyberattacks are aimed at small businesses.
When it comes to digital security, the threat is real, and being hacked can take a major toll on your bottom line. This may sound dire, but when your small business adopts a smart cybersecurity plan, your risk of falling prey to an attack goes down considerably.
Employees Are Key
Even when you have the best tech solutions for security, there are times when we remain vulnerable to cyberattacks. This is why every person who works in your organization serves as your first line of defense. TechRepublic explains that training employees on data security needs to happen more than once. Adopt a cybersecurity policy, one that incorporates cybersafety into onboarding training, and continually keeping employees up to date on the latest threats.
Another critical element to making employees aware of their role in cybersecurity is to form an incident response plan and ensure your employees are trained in it so they know how to handle a data breach if it ever happens. According to the National Cyber Security Alliance, the first thing you should do is disconnect any computers that may have been affected by your network. The next thing you should do is call in an expert, especially if the attack results in lost data, such as a phishing scam. If you don’t have your own IT department, it’s best to contract with a company that can help recover any lost data while mitigating the damage and getting your business back to normal as quickly as possible.
Put Up the Right Defenses
In addition to equipping employees with the knowledge they need to avoid a scam, all businesses still need antivirus software and firewall security for your network. In addition to having these defenses on your in-office computers and network, don’t forget about any mobile devices that employees use for business.
The best approach to keeping your data secure on mobile devices is the same as you should have in your office — a combination of the right policies and the right tools. Policies should include always keeping screens locked and avoiding the use of public Wi-Fi. Tools might include using a virtual private network (VPN) and apps that allow you to remove data from a device remotely in the event that it’s lost or stolen.
Best Business Practices
In many ways, best practice for cybersecurity should be built into your general business practices. For example, Business News Daily recommends always keeping your software updated, as outdated programs make you more vulnerable to hackers. Making this a company-wide policy (and including mobile devices) is an easy way to reduce your risk; plus, staying current on updates keeps your business running at the top of your game.
You can also improve your network’s security strength by testing it for vulnerabilities. A penetration testing specialist can help identify weaknesses in your network so you can reduce the chances of an attack. You can find qualified freelance pentesters for hire on job platforms like Upwork.
If your business accepts credit card payments, you also need to be aware of PCI compliance, which is a set of standards for keeping credit card information secure. Most credit card processing companies will have systems in place to meet these standards, but that doesn’t mean you should assume you’re covered. Basic practices, such as encrypting customers’ data and changing passwords regularly, can help ensure you’re living up to your customers’ expectations of privacy and protection.
Even as consumers get more accustomed to the benefits of shopping, banking, and doing just about any other transaction online (and on-the-go), data security remains a concern. If anything, hackers continue to adapt just as quickly as the technology we rely on every day. This is why your business can’t afford to fall behind on cybersecurity.