Are you in search of ways to prevent cyber attacks against your small business? According to a Statistics Canada survey about cyber crime, at least one out of five Canadian companies experienced an attack in 2017, and the numbers are expected to increase in 2018 and 2019. Small businesses were the most affected, and shockingly, only a small fraction of the affected reported the matter to the relevant authorities.
But why are small businesses at high risk of cyber attacks? As a small business owner, you use the Internet to connect with customers, sell products around the world, and communicate internally. Unlike large businesses, your small firm may lack adequate technology and defences to prevent and counter cyber attacks.
You may also be providing goods or services to larger enterprises, and hackers may use you as a middleman to have easy access to larger companies. Whether you’re in the manufacturing industry, hospitality industry, or you offer services online, your business has crucial information that’s valuable to any cyber attacker.
What Cyber Criminals Are After
A crafty cyber criminal may want to infiltrate your servers, sent emails, and employee desktops to look for contact lists, customer records, and employee information. According to the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, a cyber criminal may be looking for your credit card numbers and company banking information. Once the hackers access your firm’s valuable information, they may find a way to access your system, compromise your servers, and infect your firm’s computers with viruses or malware.
How to Protect Your Small Business from Hackers
Cyber attacks may be so devastating that you are forced to cease your business operations. Many cyber attacks can cause huge financial losses and take an emotional toll on you. Some of your employees may put down their tools if they are continuously harassed online. With new cyber threats surfacing every year, it’s imperative that you take some basic precautions to protect yourself and your company from cyber crime.
Back Up Your Data Regularly in the Cloud
With the rise of cloud storage services, it has never been so simple and affordable to back up your firm’s valuable information online. While having your data available on the cloud doesn’t mean that your services can’t be compromised, at least you’re protected from ransomware and other certain types of attacks. Ensure that you back up your company’s critical data weekly or biweekly both online and offline. Having offline copies of your data ensures that you have access to information in the event that there’s a cyber security incident.
Train and Educate Your Employees
Employees are often more responsible for cyber threats, and they represent the weakest points in your system. Get all your employees on board and instill better cyber security practices in them. Educate them to be wary of unsolicited messages, emails, pop ups, and risky URLs. Be sure to encourage your staff to use strong passwords and change passwords every few months.
How to Create a Strong Password
A strong password may be the difference between a hacked computer system and a safe company. Here are tips on how to create a strong password:
- Avoid using personal information, such as your initials and nickname, and the name of your child or pet
- Avoid common patterns and words, such as “password” and “abcd”
- Use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols
- Make your password longer
- Use a unique password that no else in the company uses
Invite an expert in the field of cyber-threat prevention to train your employees how to prevent cyber attacks. You may also encourage your workers to take up courses in cyber crime protection. Once your employees are properly trained and educated in how to prevent cyber threats, put up posters everywhere to remind them of the cyber protection rules to follow.
Develop a Strong Security Policy
The first step toward securing your small business against cyber crime is to develop strong cyber security policies and ensure that they’re consistently implemented. Ensure that all employees are aware of the policy and put measures in place to ensure that they follow it. Write out a security protocol for your company and send it to every stakeholder, including employees, suppliers, and customers.
But how do you create a strong security policy for your company? You may ban employees from using personal emails on company computers and other devices that connect to the Internet, and allow only company devices to be connected to the Wi-Fi. You may also state in your security policy that all passwords must follow certain formats. Prohibiting your staff from opening links and emails that are unrelated to your company may also be helpful.
Encrypt Your Data
To ensure that you’re not the next cyber crime statistic, enlist the services of a third party vendor to monitor and encrypt your data. Alternatively, you may utilize some of the latest technology to encrypt and protect your small business data. You can find free software online to help you encrypt data.
What is data encryption? Essentially, encrypting data means that you’re using software to create a series of passwords for your data. This implies that the user must have another password to access your information. Data encryption is essential to protect sensitive information, such as bank routing numbers and employee social security numbers. Be sure to share passwords only with people who require access to your systems.
Use Anti-Malware Protection
Malware is any software designed to damage, disrupt, and gain unauthorized access to your network system. The most common examples of malware include rootkits, bots, adware, bugs, and viruses. Trojan, worms, and spyware are other types of malware that can gain access to your computer system. This malicious software is transmitted to your systems through emails, websites, and Wi-Fi.
Install anti-malware protection in all your company devices to improve cyber security plans and prevent cyber attacks. Be sure to shop for the latest antivirus programs, and update your computer systems regularly. As with other software, there are plenty of free anti-virus programs on the market. Read online reviews and conduct thorough research when buying or using anti-virus programs, because some of them aren’t authentic and may contain malware.
Get Regular Risk Assessments
All the above can help offer cyber security to your small business, but you still may need a professional to assess your systems to know how well they’re protected. Regular risk assessments help you understand what you need to improve or install to further protect your systems. You may complete free risk assessments online to evaluate your systems if you don’t want to invest in software or a third party vendor.
As a small business owner, you’re responsible for protecting yourself and your company against cyber attackers. To protect your company’s valuable information, you need to create stronger cyber safety policies, educate your staff about cyber safety, encrypt your data and use stronger passwords, and promote device security by installing anti-malware on your company’s computing devices. You may also lock your network and ensure access to only authorized users.
Do you want to automate your businesses processes and stay in control of your business finances? Or, do you want to stay organized and ready for tax season with everything in one place? QuickBooks Self-Employed app helps freelancers, contractors, and sole proprietors track and manage their business on the go. Download the app now.