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How to Protect Your Small Business from Cyber Attacks
Just because your business is small, it does not mean that you are not on cyber attackers’ radar. You are, in fact, their training ground. That’s because most small businesses do not invest in cyber security. As a result, according to cyber attacks statistics, 28% of all data breaches involve small businesses. Moreover, this number has increased during the covid-19 pandemic due to the digital transformation of many small businesses.
What are cyber attacks?
When cybercriminals, commonly known as hackers, attack a website, computer system, or network to cause some sort of damage, it is called a cyber attack. Cybercriminals do this to gain access to your valuable data, which they can sell off to other criminals on the black market. The stolen data will be later used for more criminal activities such as identity theft.
Top cyber attack trends and threats in 2021 include insider threats from the company staff and stakeholders, phishing attacks, ransomware attacks, cloud-based threats, and IoT devices that are in the developmental stage.
Impacts of cyber attacks on small businesses
If you are maintaining an online store, losing one day’s business can cost you a fortune. A ransomware attack or a denial of service attack can easily block your business for a day. So you need to have a way to resume your business as quickly as possible. Also, small businesses rely heavily on their customers. One minor security breach is enough for your customers to lose their trust in your business. In this day and age, where word gets around social media very quickly, restoring your reputation can be extremely difficult.
How to protect your business
from Cyber Attacks
So how can you protect your business from these threats? Following are some simple steps you can follow to protect your business.
Prioritize Cyber Security
Do not treat security as an afterthought. Instead, treat it as a priority. If sensitive data related to your customers get into the wrong hands, you will lose your customers’ trust, and your business’s reputation will suffer.
Raise awareness among employees
Educate your employees about cyber threats and security. Most issues occur due to the lack of knowledge employees have on the subject. You can educate them about the following:
- Not to install software/software updates and patches from untrusted sources in the company machines or mobile phones as they could be trojan horses or ransomware.
- To use strong passwords and protect those passwords from disclosure.
- Encourage multi-factor authentication.
- How to identify suspicious emails and website links from unknown sources that could lead to phishing scams and ransomware.
- Encourage them to use an approved virus guard.
- Encourage them to use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) when working from home or off-site premises.
- The steps to take in case they face an attack.
Understand your data
One of the main problems in small businesses is that most businesses do not adequately understand the sensitivity of the data involved with their businesses. For example, many online stores handle online transactions but do not employ proper methods to guard their customer’s information, such as credit card details. Therefore, everyone in the business needs to understand the true nature and the value of their data.
Backup your data
Ensure you take timely backups of your data and store it in a secure off-site location or a cloud using an automated backup service that will allow you to access your information during a cyber attack. This is the best solution for a ransomware attack. This will enable you to recover fast and resume work as soon as possible by restoring the data with backups.
Control network access
Make sure only your employees can access your network. You can do this by implementing Virtual private networks (VPN), which will allow you to encrypt your data and secure your connection by masking your IP address when using the untrusted infrastructure. As many hackers tend to piggyback on public Wi-Fi and eavesdrop, encourage your employees to use your company’s VPN when using public Wi-Fi to work remotely.
Limit access to your data
Create user privileges and make sure that only the necessary employees have access to your sensitive information. Remember to revoke access privileges from employees as soon as their employment ends. Most attacks are a result of a disgruntled employee taking revenge.
Connect with the right partners and platforms
If you are using another company to build your website/system, make sure they can sign off on the fact that there are no security vulnerabilities code-wise. Such vulnerabilities can lead to SQL injections or Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, disrupting the regular traffic to your website. In addition, if you are using a payment gateway or connecting to some other businesses via their APIs, make sure they follow the correct security protocols and standards. Their lack of responsibility can harm your business too.
Secure your hardware from cyber attacks
Your hardware also needs protection. If your servers, laptops, mobile phones, or any other electronic device gets stolen, it leads to a data breach. If you maintain an office, make sure it is secure and that those devices are locked up and hard to steal.
Establish a Cyber Security Team
It’s a good thing to have a dedicated team who is responsible for monitoring and keeping track of all the computers & servers used by your employees and ensuring they have installed all the necessary security updates and OS updates in their machines and mobile phones. If your website is hosted on a server provided by an external hosting service provider, your security team can regularly check in with them to verify that your server’s security is up to date.
Create an incident response plan to combat cyber attacks
The employees should know what to do in case of an attack. You can prepare a list of steps for them to follow with the help of your security team. For example:
- Disconnect the machine from the company network and internet to make sure that other machines connected to the same network might not get infected.
- Disabling remote access
- Install any pending security updates or patches
- Maintain your firewall settings
- Change passwords
- How to contact the security team and raise an incident.
- Contact relevant legal authorities and report the breach.
Most of the time, the employees do not know what to do, and they waste time trying to resolve it themselves. This way, they will quickly contact the security team, saving time for both parties.
Invest in business security
For intangibles, invest in antivirus, antispyware, and anti-spam filters. Most companies that provide these services also offer multiple packages that even small businesses can invest in. For tangibles, invest in security cameras and alarms that can protect your office space and hardware. In addition, invest in insurance. Most insurance companies now provide cyber insurance along with their standard business insurance policy.
Conclusion on cyber attacks
Cyber attacks can do severe damage to small businesses. There are a lot of precautions small business owners can take to avoid cyber attacks. Of course, you might not be able to afford or follow all the steps mentioned above. But by adopting at least a few of them, you can minimize the damage significantly.