It’s common for small businesses to assume they’re less at risk of cybersecurity threats than more prominent companies. However, they couldn’t be farther from the truth. Cybercriminals target businesses of all shapes and sizes — not excluding the little league players. A robust cybersecurity system is necessary to keep all your business data safe and intact. This article explains the importance of cybersecurity and provides several essential cybersecurity tips for small businesses.
Why Is Cybersecurity Important?
Cybercriminals are well aware that small businesses rarely invest in cybersecurity. Small companies either don’t have the funds to invest in protective tools and software or they don’t believe it’s something worth putting money into. This makes them a prime target for hackers trying to make a quick buck out of vulnerable prey.
Without pragmatic security practices, small businesses face several cyberattack consequences, including:
- Monetary losses due to business disruptions
- Compensating stakeholders for data theft
- Legal fines as a consequence of cybersecurity negligence
- Facing damages to the company’s reputation
- Losing prospective customers and investors
- Charges related to installing updated cybersecurity software and systems
Losses and damages will vary between businesses. To avoid negative repercussions, applying appropriate cybersecurity is the key.
Essential Cybersecurity Tips for Small Businesses
Fortunately, it’s never too late to start strengthening your cybersecurity defenses. Here are a few tips you can start incorporating into your small business:
1. Update Software and Patch Regularly
Regular software and patch updates are two of the most basic principles of cybersecurity. Unfortunately, they’re also the most overlooked essentials. In an automation-dominated environment, many people now rely on automatic updates and installations. The problem is some security updates require manual activation or it won’t start.
Most operating systems have a pre-installed security program that keeps your personal data safe. Once in a while, a flaw can develop or become apparent and developers may release an update or a “patch” to cover up the flaw. As a small business manager or owner, you must ensure all devices used in your daily operations are up to date. Not updating your security software leaves you vulnerable to cyberattacks.
2. Teach Cybersecurity Practices to Employees
Employee negligence is one of the biggest threats to a small business’ cybersecurity. According to surveys, around 40% of security breaches are caused by undertrained or careless employees. The best way to avoid such an unfortunate situation is to train your workers in appropriate cybersecurity practices.
Consider scheduling regular briefing sessions with your workers. Teach them how to use existing and new cybersecurity tools and resources. That way they know exactly how to protect themselves against possible attacks.
3. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A virtual private network (VPN) masks your IP address, making you invisible to third-party users who wish to pry into your network data. This makes it more difficult for cybercriminals to steal your data and track your online activities. VPN providers often offer small business discounts that make services more affordable and sustainable. Before committing to a single program, you might want to shop around or hire a cybersecurity consultant to help you make the best decision.
4. Install Anti-virus and Firewall
Anti-virus and firewall software is essential for every small business. It’s the first line of defense you have against cyber criminals. These programs are designed to detect and eliminate threats that manage to make it into your systems, such as rootkits, dialers, browser hijackers, ransomware, adware, and spyware — to name a few.
Although good anti-virus and firewall software does come with a premium price tag, the benefits you enjoy far outweigh the costs in the long run. With a single subscription, you can protect your entire team from potential cyberattacks. Set aside a budget for anti-virus and firewall software for your business.
5. Employ Multi-factor Authentication for Logins
It’s not enough to use a strong password on your accounts at work. These passwords can easily get leaked by workers or even managers without even noticing what they’ve done. Multi-factor authentication makes it more difficult for cyber attackers to log into your accounts.
How exactly? Well, multi-factor authentication typically has two steps:
Step one, you log into an account using your username and password. Step two, you wait for the system to send you a one-time password to your phone or email.
Unless the hacker has access to your phone or email, it would be much harder for them to open your account.
6. Backup Business Data Regularly
In 2021, a whopping 80% of organizations around the world were hit by ransomware attacks according to surveys. If you haven’t already heard of ransomware, it’s a type of computer malware that encrypts all your files and documents, preventing you from accessing them. You need to pay the attacker to access your data once again.
Having a backup file can save you from losing millions even billions of dollars to a ransomware threat. You can store the data in the cloud online or in a separate physical location, where it’s safe and secure. It’s recommended that you backup your files at least once a week.
7. Avoid Connecting to Public Wifi Networks
Instruct employees to avoid using public wifi networks to access work-related accounts and systems. Public wifi networks are crawling with hackers just waiting for the right victim to make a wrong move. Don’t use the wifi in airports, cafes, or other communal areas if it can be helped. If you or your employees truly need to connect to a network while out and about, consider connecting to your phone’s 4G or 5G hotspot.
Protecting your small business against online threats should be one of your top priorities as a business owner or manager. One small slip could send your business up in flames — and you don’t want that. By practicing appropriate cybersecurity, you can protect both your business and workers from financial ruin. Consider the tips we’ve shared with you today and apply them where you see fit.