As a small business owner, it’s becoming increasingly important to pay attention to cybersecurity, especially if your business has remote workers of any kind. While implementing useful security measures can seem tedious, it’s typically easy to do and in the long run can save your company time and money. In some extreme cases, security measures can actually save a business from collapse.
Why Is Cybersecurity Critical for Small Businesses?
Cyber attacks can take many forms, from cyberterrorism and cyberwarfare to cyberespionage. Cybersecurity threats continue to grow each year, so much that the cybersecurity market is expected to be $232 billion by the year 2022. Despite what many people think, online attackers don’t just go after large corporations. Small businesses account for 70 percent of data breaches, and according to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, cyber crime costs Canada about $3.12 billion per year.
You need to protect your business infrastructure. In this day and age, many types of devices are connected online, the internet of things is emerging, and the trend of bringing your own device to employment situations is growing. Protecting your business’ and clients’ data is critical.
Upgrade and Protect Your Remote Workers’ Hardware
While it is not true all of the time, having updated hardware, such as newer computers and newer smartphones, can offer a bit of protection against attack. As vulnerabilities in old technologies are found, manufactures update components of the devices to eliminate security flaws. While parts within the hardware physically evolve and get more secure over time, companies also update their firmware, which is permanent software programmed into read-only memory. You should use some company budget to purchase updated equipment for your remote workers and make sure they have the devices locked with a strong password they change every month. Also, it is a good idea to enable any GPS options on the devices to help locate them in the event they are lost or stolen.
Enforce Operating System Upgrades
Companies such as Apple and Microsoft are always fixing loopholes in their operating systems and issuing updates that are free to download. Even if a security threat does not make the news, many operating system updates have security and bug fixes. Because of this, it’s important all of your employees’ computers, smartphones, and other devices have the latest operating systems running on them. While this seems obvious, data shows many people simply don’t update their computers and devices because the process is time consuming. To ensure you protect your business and its data, you should enforce a rule that all remote employees update all of their devices on a consistent basis. A simple way to do this is have employees regularly send screenshots showing the operating system they are running.
Take Advantage of Software Solutions
On top of the protection you can get from newer hardware and regular operating system updates, you should have remote workers install anti-virus software on their computers. Anti-virus software works by regularly scanning all of your computer’s files for lines of code that are malicious. If it finds something dangerous, it either quarantines the file or deletes it. Anti-virus is a general term used for software that can find all types of threats, not just viruses. Spyware, adware, ransomware, botnets, trojans, rootkits, keyloggers, and more are all detectable, and you can stop them before they cause damage. Typically, anti-virus programs are inexpensive and are either paid for on a monthly or yearly subscription basis. The firms that make this software are on the front lines of cybersecurity, so you can feel confident you are getting a strong additional layer of protection when you subscribe to their services.
Make Sure Your Remote Workers Follow Security Policies and Procedures
Protection against cyber attacks can increase dramatically when employees follow policies and procedures designed to prevent cyber attacks or make them much more difficult to execute. First, you should make sure all devices and systems have strong passwords or passcodes on them so only the employee can access them. If possible, utilize multi-step login verification. This way, if someone other than the employee gets their hands on the computer or device, they can’t login and see or steal sensitive information.
Remote workers often utilize WiFi in public places. If possible, you might want to stop allowing this. Many public WiFi areas have little security and are easy targets for even newbie hackers. Information is easy to steal as it transfers from your employee’s computer to the public WiFi router. In extreme cases, a hacker can gain control of an entire computer that is logged onto a public WiFi connection. Instead, it may be a good idea to provide each remote worker with a secure wireless internet-tethered device they can take with them anywhere. The small expense is well worth the added security.
Next, have a policy on backing up information. Sensitive information shouldn’t only be on the remote workers’ computers. Instead, there should be a secure, centralized location in the cloud where all workers backup their data. While this is something many people know they should do, they often forget. Thus, it’s important to have a policy on backups and a way to track that it is done. Lastly, make sure remote employees encrypt all sensitive data when transmitting online.
Cybersecurity is an increasingly dangerous threat and attacks continue to evolve in complexity. Your small business is especially vulnerable until you implement security measures in the key areas mentioned above: hardware, operating systems, software, and employee policies. Fortunately, a few simple and inexpensive steps can help protect your business and its workers’ devices from cybersecurity threats.