Animated cybersecurity symbols around a tablet computer

Imagine you’re a small business owner in a thriving marketplace, and you’re looking toward a successful future. Then, your network gets hacked, customer data is exposed, and you find yourself struggling to recover. You’re losing clients. You’ve lost money. Your business insurance is through the roof. This is becoming an all-too-familiar story. According to a 2018 survey conducted by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), 88% of small business owners felt their business was vulnerable to cyberattack. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the cost of cybercrimes in 2018 was more than $2.5 billion. With statistics like these, it’s no wonder national agencies are warning small businesses to take action. Investing in improved cybersecurity for your business now can save your company if it comes under attack by cybercriminals.

Why Should Small Businesses Make Cybersecurity a Priority?

In recent communications, the Department of Homeland Security and the Small Business Association have released information concerning the increasing risk of cybercrimes in small businesses. If you’re a small business owner, it’s essential to understand that those who perpetrate cybercrimes may be targeting you. Because small business owners tend to devote fewer resources to cybersecurity than larger businesses, these cybercriminals know they are more likely to access the information they want without being detected. The main types of security breaches that small business should be concerned about include:

Person using laptop computer
  • Advanced, persistent threats – this means the network was accessed, information was extracted, and the cybercriminal continued to silently probe security limits and remove information over the course of an extended timeframe.
  • Password-based attacks – usually a one-off infiltration, the hacker uses a stolen or otherwise acquired password to get into your system and take information, drain funds, or do other damage.
  • Malware attacks – this form of attack may be singular or ongoing. It uses an outside software to infiltrate your company’s network. From there, the damage to your business is only limited by the creativity of the programmer.
  • Phishing scams – these scams use communications that appear legitimate, including emails, text messages, and social media messages, to access information from users. In your personal life, you may quickly delete suspicious messages without a second thought, but professionally, you may feel the need to further investigate messages (even if they look suspicious) to avoid losing potential business. Cybercriminals know this, and they will take advantage of this increased vulnerability.

1 – Provide Education for Your Team

A knowledgeable employee is much less likely to expose your business to threats from cybercriminals. Create a basic cybersecurity policies and procedures document and make sure it’s reinforced with training. These policies and procedures and training resources should include information like:

  • Appropriate internet usage
  • How to protect client information
  • Password strength
  • How to identify phishing scams
  • What to do if employees suspect a breach

2 – Create a Data Security Plan

In order to train your employees on cybersecurity policies and procedures, you need to have a plan in place. Your data security plan should defend against cyberattacks by:

  • Establishing and maintaining an internet firewall
  • Installing and updating antivirus and antimalware software
  • Creating password strength settings for new users
  • Requiring new passwords at least once a quarter
  • Protecting client data (especially payment and private information) with additional layers of security

3 – Secure Your Wi-Fi Network

Smartphone with text reading security breach on the screen

In addition to an internet firewall, you need to secure your Wi-Fi network. Many businesses leave their network open to encourage customers to visit, but this can also encourage cybercriminals. Having a separate Wi-Fi network for your business functions that is hidden from broadcasting to outside users and password protected is essential. If you do have a Wi-Fi network open to customers, it should still be password protected. Many small businesses have fun with giving out the password in creative ways. Turn it into a puzzle for your customers to solve. Hide the password in your receipt text. There are many fun and creative ways to give patrons Wi-Fi access, and you’re still keeping your business protected.

4 – All Passwords Must be Strong & Frequently Changed

We know we’ve already mentioned passwords a few times, but many small businesses rely on passwords to protect their company information. It’s really important that every user who accesses your business network has a strong password that is changed frequently. There are many ways to establish settings that require complex passwords and prompt users to change them regularly. A best practice is to ensure employees change their passwords once a quarter.

5 – Limit & Monitor Use of Mobile Devices

Mobile devices are now used, almost constantly, as part of running a small business. In fact, research indicates that allowing employees to access company email and other systems via smartphones, tablets, and mobile devices can actually boost productivity. Unfortunately, this brings its own added layer of security risk. Make sure that your systems are protected with robust passwords that are changed often and consult with professionals about how to create increased security for mobile devices. You may also want to monitor mobile device usage (when appropriate). Specifically, if your employees use mobile devices that are owned by your business, you may want to monitor how these devices are being used.

Let IT ArchiTeks Provide Dedicated IT Services for Your Small Business

Many IT security firms offer big security packages that are way outside of your small business budget. At IT ArchiTeks, we do things a little differently. We work with businesses of all sizes to create customized network security, communication management systems, and IT service plans that fit your business needs – and budget. When you’re ready to get started, contact our knowledgeable team. We look forward to talking to you.