Cyber attacks can be devastating for businesses of any size, but the risks are multiplied for small to medium-sized businesses for a multitude of reasons.
- SMBs often lack formal preventative measures and procedures, exposing their organization to more risk.
- They often feel that they cannot afford to upgrade their security systems, or do not understand the value relative to the cost.
- These companies often view IT departments or employees as unattainable.
From outdated technology to uninformed employees, cyber threats lurk around every corner.
But luckily there are precautions you can implement to protect you and your customers’ private data, without expert assistance or insurmountable costs.
Don’t be the next business to fall victim to a cyber attack. Learn how to protect your company with these helpful tips from Credibly.
Educate Your Employees About Spam and Phishing
Despite the belief that larger business are at greater risk for cyber attacks, small or new businesses are often easier targets for hacks and fraud. This can be attributed to the limited capacity for information technology support.
Fortunately, you can reduce your cybersecurity risk by educating your employees and implementing internal cyber policies to help them recognize threats and respond accordingly. To properly teach your employees, host an educational session and teach them what risks they are most likely to come across, such as spam and phishing emails.
Spam messages are unsolicited junk emails that can carry viruses. If you receive a spam message, it’s best not to click any links within the email body. Instead, report the message as spam and delete it from your inbox.
Phishing emails, on the other hand, are targeted attacks attempting to get you to provide sensitive information (typically disguised as coming from a business or colleague you trust). Don’t be lured into providing their personal information, such as passwords, usernames and credit card information – this mistake can be costly.
Teaching your employees to identify phishing and spam emails is a great first step in reducing your risk of cyber threats. And if you’re ever unsure as to whether an email is safe or not, you can always contact the sender by phone to confirm.
Pro Tip: If you’re suspicious about a link in an email, hover over it (but DO NOT CLICK) and the target URL will display in the bottom left corner of your browser.
Write a Cyber Policy for Employees
When establishing a written policy for employees to follow, start by creating policies for the most basic procedures. Topics should include requiring strong passwords, updating those passwords regularly, enforcing consequences for policy breaches, and appointing a go-to person for all cyber questions.
In order to use strong passwords, your employees must first understand what a strong password consists of.
- Passwords should be more than 13 characters.
- They should utilize of both lower case letters, uppercase letters, and special characters (“!”, “?”, “*”, “#” etc. ).
- They should never personal information as the bulk of the password.
After these initial passwords have been set, require employees to change their passwords once a month to stay one step ahead of hackers. Make sure that everyone is truly mixing up their new passwords (rather than appending one new character). If this seems too daunting, start using a password manager.
Other topics that should be covered in your cyber policy:
- Protocols, procedures, and contacts (for both everyday troubleshooting and emergencies)
- Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), user access, and account recovery methods
- Storing sensitive information
Even if you don’t have a designated IT professional in-house, designating a point-person for all questions and troubleshooting can be extremely helpful.
Utilize Email Encryption
Setting up email encryption can help filter out unwanted emails and access to your inbox, greatly reducing your exposure to spam and phishing attacks.
Email encryption uses an authentication mechanism to prevent unauthorized personnel from accessing and reading your email messages and only allowing authorized personnel in.
Most large email platforms come with built-in encryption, but that might not be enough. Depending on what type of information you handle daily, consider using a second form of encryption for certain individuals such as human resources professionals or executives.
If you aren’t sure whether you need a second form of encryption, run a test on your email service to see if it is using transport layer security (TLS) by using a tool like CheckTLS. From there, you’ll have a better understanding of what your security vulnerability looks like, as well as where you can make improvements.
Lock Down Your Devices
Unprotected devices are obvious targets for cybercriminals, yet many small businesses fail to lock down their devices. Ensure your devices are secured by installing antivirus, firewall, and anti-spam software.
These tools help protect you from outside intruders and malware (malicious software designed to infiltrate internal networks without your knowledge or consent). A few great options include: Bitdefender, Norton, Webroot, Kaspersky and Panda.
Keep in mind that viruses can be a serious threat to stored information, not just the device. Viruses break down the immunity levels of your system, increasing vulnerability to hackers and intruders.
Next, consider upgrading your defenses with multi-factor authentication (MFA). MFA is a security system that requires two or more steps of authentication to verify a user’s identity prior to granting access.
This makes it more difficult for an unauthorized individual to access personal information such as physical location, network, database, or social media account. If one factor is compromised (i.e. username and password), the attacker still has multiple barriers to breach before successfully breaking in.
Pro Tip: Always make sure your account recovery methods are up to date so you don’t lock yourself out.
Recovering from cyber attacks can cost you large sums, but it can also cripple your business by tarnishing your reputation. Don’t let your company and customer-base fall victim to these attacks.
Protect All Systems And Utilize The Cloud
With the business world becoming digital first, your communication tools may need to be upgraded as well. From phone calls, emails, and virtual meetings to scanning and printing documents, multiple devices are used to conduct business every day.
Consider implementing cloud capabilities to ensure these devices all have the same security measures in place. Choosing certified secure unified communication tools can make switching devices seamless, intuitive, and safe.
Switching your information to a secure cloud also makes it easier for authorized personnel to work from anywhere they need (giving them the flexibility to work from home or check in at the office while traveling).
To ensure the cloud system you choose is guaranteed to keep your accounts safe, check for privacy and security certifications such as the Skyhigh Networks CloudTrust program.
While it may seem daunting, prioritizing cybersecurity and data protection can ensure the prosperity of your business. After all, without proper security measures, your money, employee data, and customer information is all at risk of being compromised.
Follow these cyber security tips to ensure that you’re doing everything in your power to protect your business and customers.