The vast majority of cyberattacks are directed against small businesses, contrary to what you may have heard on the nightly news. While attacks on big corporations make the headlines, there are tons of small business owners who are victimized every month. In many cases, these attacks are so devastating that the company is unable to recover from the financial loss or the damage done to their reputation.
There are lots of reasons that small businesses are targeted so frequently, beginning with the fact that they don’t usually employ the kind of skilled personnel that would be necessary to anticipate such attacks and take preventive measures. They also tend to store valuable information that can be exploited by an experienced hacker, for instance social security numbers, credit card numbers, and private health information. Small businesses also tend not to take even minimal security measures like storing business-critical data on an offsite backup.
When they are hit by a ransomware attack, they have nothing to fall back on, and are forced to either pay the ransom, or lose the data entirely. Another reason small businesses are often targeted is because they are part of the supply chain for larger businesses, and this provides a hacker with a point of entry into the network of that larger company. Suffice to say, there are plenty of reasons why small businesses are inviting targets to the criminal-minded. Below you’ll find some of the most effective steps you can take to avoid having your small business victimized.
Conduct a security audit of your company
This calls for gathering all the executives and managers employed by your company, and discussing the current state of your cybersecurity. It’s necessary to have some sense of where you’re at today, before you start implementing counter-measures to combat cyberattacks. For instance, is anyone in your company actually charged with maintaining cybersecurity?
This meeting should discuss any measures you already have in place, and how recent the technology is. Keep in mind that cyberattacks grow more sophisticated every year, so measures you installed 10 years ago may be relatively useless today. It’s also worthwhile to consider whether your existing cybersecurity is comprehensive and well-coordinated. If not, where are the potential weak spots, and what are some possible solutions for them?
Designate one person to manage cybersecurity
Find someone willing to take on the task of managing cybersecurity, and this doesn’t have to be someone from your IT department – it can be anyone with some background in data security. Then make sure this individual is capable of researching the most effective preventive measures you can take and get them installed to stave off attacks. Your designated security officer should have a plan for increasing cybersecurity awareness across all departments, because humans are often the weakest link in any cybersecurity scheme. It may be difficult to find someone who is willing to take on this task, given the potential for failure, but it’s one of the most important steps you can take in the fight against cyber crime.
Inventory your assets and prioritize them
Take some time to identify those assets most critical to your company’s operation, whether they be employee data, customer data, or intellectual property. The reason it’s important to prioritize is that you have to assume your data will never be entirely safe, so you need to know what to commit more resources to when devising security measures. You should determine how safe your business-critical data is now, so you can take adequate steps to protect it in the future.
Determine whether you can manage security internally
In many cases, having a comprehensive review of your existing security and deciding what level of security will be needed in the future will point to the conclusion that you simply don’t have the means to handle security internally. Fortunately, there are now any number of firms that specialize in outsourcing security for small businesses, so you can do some research and find one that is within your budget and provides adequate protection.
Alternatively, you may decide that it’s worth your while to simply hire an experienced cybersecurity expert, and put that person in charge of all efforts involving security. Sometimes it’s more cost-effective to simply engage the services of a consultant periodically, rather than to outsource or attempt to staff up to meet the threat. If you do decide to outsource, you’ll need to consider which aspects of your business should be handled by the outsourcing company, and which ones you’ll keep in-house.
You could handle the entire process yourself, but that will probably be an expensive proposition, especially if you have very little cybersecurity in place currently. There’s no question that when it comes to cybersecurity, the best defense is a good offense. By being proactive, you won’t have to live in constant fear of an attack, and the devastating consequences it could have for your business. Don’t let your business be one of those which gets swallowed up within a few months of suffering a cyberattack.
Steps to take in the meantime
It may take some time before you can overhaul your company’s security system, so you should take some useful steps in the interim. First, make sure to educate your employees about how phishing attacks work, and about how cyberattackers like to exploit humans to gain an entry point into a company’s network. Make sure you have a strong password policy in place, so passwords can’t easily be guessed. All devices you have that connect to the Internet should be carefully protected, since these are on the front line and directly exposed to attack.
It’s a good idea to begin using two-factor identification to prevent unauthorized access. Start backing up your data regularly, and make sure a backup is stored offsite, where it can quickly be retrieved in case of a ransomware attack. And definitely make sure you have a solid firewall in place in your network, because this alone can save you from countless attempts at penetrating your system.