8 Ways Small Businesses Should Approach Cybersecurity17 Oct 2023 | Ryan Yee (Guest Writer)
As a business owner, safeguarding your data is crucial, not just for preserving your financial resources but also for ensuring the security of your customers against cyber threats.
However, you may find it challenging to allocate a significant budget for cybersecurity measures, including anti-virus software and malware.
This article will provide eight approaches to cybersecurity for small businesses, helping you to stay ahead of cyber criminality without breaking the bank.
Why Is Cybersecurity So Important for Small Businesses?
As a small business, you likely have fewer financial and technical resources than bigger enterprises. Unfortunately, cybercriminals are well aware of this. In fact, they frequently target SMEs, as they assume there are far weaker security measures that they can easily bypass.
Since small businesses are more susceptible to cyberattack attempts, putting security measures in place is essential.
As you begin to build your business, it’s important to limit issues that could cause distrust and dissatisfaction. A data breach can go a long way to destroying your reputation, leading to loss of business. Rebuilding trust can take a long time, and your SMB may not survive the aftermath.
How Should Small Businesses Approach Cybersecurity?
Small businesses don’t have the workforce or resources to dedicate themselves to implementing costly and time-consuming preventative measures. Instead, they must adopt proven strategies to protect valuable data from well-versed cyber criminals. Here’s how small businesses should approach cybersecurity.
#1 Carry Out a Risk Assessment
You must identify the sensitive data your business stores to make a full risk assessment. This may include customer information and financial data. Then, you’ll need to assess its value. What would happen if the wrong people accessed this data?
Evaluating potential threats and vulnerabilities within your business will allow you to plan for future cyber threats. With this, you can develop a full-fledged cybersecurity plan adapted to your unique needs as a business.
#2 Train Employees on Security Measures
Your employees need to be aware of potential scams and phishing attempts. Without this training, they may accidentally leak sensitive data that could harm your small business.
Lead regular workshops on cybersecurity best practices. Topics could include:
- Basic cybersecurity awareness — Teach employees common threats like phishing, malware, and ransomware.
- Conduct a phishing simulation — Show examples of real phishing emails, and highlight potential red flags.
- Safe Internet practices — Showcase how to browse the Internet safely and how to avoid risky websites.
- Incident reporting and response — Teach your employees how to report suspicious activity and potential security threats.
By training your employees on how to handle sensitive data, you can defend your business against future attacks.
#3 Use Secure Networks
Using secure technology as part of your business’s infrastructure is a surefire way to prevent cybercriminals from accessing your data. Putting preventative measures in place doesn’t have to cost your business anything — strong passwords, multi-factor authentication, and regularly updating your software are all free yet effective ways to protect your vital data.
Let’s take a closer look at how you can secure your networks and devices:
- Strong passwords — A strong password is your first line of defense against unauthorized access. Encourage your employees to create passwords that are complex, combining uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.
- Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) — Adding an extra layer of security beyond passwords, MFA requires users to provide additional verification methods. These could include a one-time code sent to their phones or the need to sign in to their email accounts. By requiring all employees to use MFA, you can drastically reduce the risk of unauthorized access, even if passwords are compromised.
- Regular updates — Outdated software is more vulnerable to cyberattacks. Regularly updating your software tools ensures that security patches and fixes for known vulnerabilities are repaired quickly. Encourage your employees to enable automatic updates on their devices to protect your data.
For instance, if you use an automatic dialer system as part of your business operations, you must keep it regularly updated, as these systems store personal information valuable to cybercriminals.
#4 Encrypt Sensitive Data
Encrypting sensitive data ensures that even if it falls into the wrong hands, it remains unreadable and unusable without the decryption key. It’s smart to implement end-to-end encryption for sensitive communications, like customer transactions and personal information. Also, be sure to encrypt data stored in databases, file servers, and mobile devices as well as computers and external drives such as USB sticks.
You can also use encryption-based devices as a form of extra protection for your data. For instance, a virtual fax solution incorporates encryption to protect the data held within transmitted documents.
#5 Install Firewalls & Antivirus Software
Firewalls and antivirus software are the first steps in deterring cybercriminals from accessing your sensitive information. Here’s how to install and set up your own antivirus software for your small business:
- Assess your safety needs — Before choosing firewall and antivirus solutions, assess your business' requirements. Consider the number of devices you use in your business, your network architecture, and the data types you handle. This will help you choose the right software for your needs.
- Choose a reliable solution — Research reputable firewall and antivirus software providers. Look for products that offer comprehensive protection, regular updates, and good customer support while meeting your business’ requirements.
- Install firewalls and antivirus software — Follow the instructions given by the software provider. Check for customizable settings that you can use to tailor the software to your needs.
- Regularly update and maintain your antivirus software — Turn on update notifications and ensure you regularly update your software. This will ensure that you’re always protected against potential threats.
#6 Secure Your Payment Processes
If you’re a small business taking payments online, you must secure your payment processes, especially given the financial data involved. Implementing strong security measures protects your business and customers, as well as building trust and credibility. Here’s how to secure your payment processes:
- Choose a payment gateway — Select a payment gateway that meets Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) requirements. Your payment gateway bridges your website and the payment processor, which ensures that payment data is encrypted and transmitted securely.
- Encrypt your web browser — Implement encryption protocols like the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or Transport Layer Security (TLS) to ensure your data is safely transmitted between your website and customers' browsers. This prevents the interception of sensitive information during transmission. To add extra protection for customers, ensure your website is secure by opting for a trusted OnlyDomains domain name.
- Communicate with customers — Clearly communicate your security measures to customers. Show your security badges within your website to ease customers' minds. By showing customers you care about their security, you reassure them that their financial data and information are safe.
- Limit your data retention — Minimize the amount of payment data you store on a regular basis. Try to avoid storing unnecessary customer data. If you don't store it, it can't be stolen. Delete customer data every 30 days to help avoid information falling into the hands of cybercriminals.
#7 Create an Incident Response Plan
Creating an Incident Response Plan is a proactive step that empowers your small business to handle cyber incidents effectively, helping to minimize their impact. Doing this demonstrates your commitment to cybersecurity, building trust with your customers and partners. Here’s how to create your own Incident Response Plan:
- Determine your most critical business assets and data that needs immediate protection. Consider your customer data, financial records, intellectual property, and operational systems.
- Identify potential cybersecurity threats that your business has faced in the past or could face. These could include data breaches, ransomware attacks, and phishing incidents. Understanding the possible scenarios unique to your business will help you prepare for any future attacks.
- For each identified scenario, outline specific response strategies. This might involve isolating compromised systems, notifying customers of data breaches, contacting the authorities, and taking steps to reduce their impact.
#8 Take Out Cybersecurity Insurance
Cyberattacks can lead to substantial financial losses, which can be detrimental to small businesses. This could include costs for data recovery, legal fees, and regulatory fines. Cyber insurance will help reduce these costs, providing financial support to help your business recover from a serious data breach.
If your business faces a cybersecurity incident, it could damage your reputation. This may lead to customers losing their money, dramatically reducing their trust in your business going forward. Cyber insurance typically includes coverage for expenses related to reputation management to help rebuild your customers’ confidence in your business.
Protect Your Small Business from Cyber Threats
In today's digital age, cybersecurity is not just a concern for large corporations, but a major consideration for small businesses too.
The increasingly ubiquitous nature of cybercrime and the sophistication of cybercriminals means small businesses need to take proactive measures to safeguard sensitive data, maintain customer trust, and ensure that business operations continue uninterrupted.
Our guide offers several actionable tips to help boost your small business’ cybersecurity. Start putting them into practice, and you’ll be in a much better position to prevent and tackle any potential cyber threats in the future.
Ryan Yee (Guest Writer)
Ryan is an award-winning copywriter, with 20+ years of experience working alongside major US brands, emerging start-ups, and leading tech enterprises. His copy and creative have helped companies in the B2B marketing, education, and software sectors reach new customer bases and enjoy improved results.
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