Small businesses across Texas and around the globe have all benefited from the invention of the Internet. Information can be accessed in the blink of an eye and that is just one of the millions of opportunities small businesses can take advantage of using this technology.
The down side is that there are also opportunities for cyber criminals to exploit online vulnerabilities. Each day there are cyber attacks against small businesses. The result? Loss and corruption of sensitive and valuable data or equipment is often the result.
So how should a small business owner be proactive in combatting cyber attacks against their business? We have a list of 10 tips that small businesses can use to help avoid becoming a victim of a cyber-attack.
- Stay Updated – One of the best tips we can give you is to stay updated. Make sure all your software, web browsers, security software and operating systems are up to date with their security patches. It is one of the best defenses against hackers, malware and viruses.
- Use a Firewall – If the malicious code from a hacker cannot reach your system, you are safer than just letting them right through the front door (so to speak). A strong firewall is a security system that prevents unauthorized access to or from a private network. Firewalls can consist of hardware, software, or a combination of both. If your employees telecommute, require them to install some type of firewall for their remote computers.
- Super Strong Passwords – A password of “Admin” or “Password1234” is not going to cut it. In fact, make sure no company passwords make the top 25 hacked passwords of 2017. A strong password will be at least 8 characters (we often double or triple this amount). Be sure to use a combination of letters, numbers and special characters like an exclamation point, asterisk, ampersand, or other special symbol.
- Secure Your Wi-Fi Network –
A secure, encrypted and hidden Wi-Fi network for your small business is highly recommended. Use extra strong passwords when setting up your network. Hiding a Wi-Fi is easy to do during the setup process. There are settings that will not broadcast the name of your Wi-Fi network publicly. Choose to not show the Service Set Identifier (SSID).
- Train Your Employees – Define clear and concise policies and procedures that your employees must follow regarding how to protect company computer hardware, networks and data. Make sure that every employee is well-versed in the dos and don’ts of your company policies and procedures. Also set guidelines on internet usage and make sure all employees know the consequences of not following the rules and guidelines.
- Limit Physical Access to Hardware – only a select few employees should ever have access to your server or network hardware. These employees are trusted with a great responsibility. A disgruntled employee with access can cause some serious damage, theft or loss of sensitive data. Company laptops that store sensitive data are also susceptible to theft. It is a good idea to lock them up whenever they are not in use.
- Backup Your Data – One of the most crucial steps in protecting your data is often one of the most overlooked. Routinely backup your data and keep it in a remote location online or in another physical location outside of the business. In the case of a fire or burglary, then you can easily restore the data, at least up to the latest back-up date.
- Limit Employee Access – Similar to restricting access to computer and network hardware, employees should also be limited on what data and software they can access. No single employee should have admin access to everything. Give employees certain roles within the system and certain levels of access to data they need to perform their jobs. It is crucial that you closely manage anyone that can install software in your system.
- Secure Mobile Devices – Many positions allow employees to telecommute or work in the field where they use a mobile device provided by the company. More often than not, these devices store important and sensitive data. Be certain that all your company’s mobile devices require strong passwords to gain access. Make sure employees use encryption when sending and receiving data as well. There are also good apps available that can help make a mobile device less susceptible to hackers on public mobile networks.
- Use Secure Payment Gateways – If there is one thing hackers are after most, it is credit card information. The best way to keep your customer’s card information safe is to use a trusted payment gateway. Website’s that accept online payments must also be kept updated with the latest security. Cyber-criminals are relentless in their pursuit of system weaknesses where they can get in and steal information. Cyber-security experts are constantly developing better and better ways of preventing the bad guys from hacking systems, but this battle is constant. If you want to know how devastating it is to compromise your customer’s data, just ask Equifax.