Cyber Security for Small Businesses

March 2nd · 5 min read

Criminals view small businesses as an attractive target for cyber-attacks because they typically lack the resources needed to implement the safest security infrastructures. Because of this, more and more small businesses are seeing firsthand the damage that cyber-attacks have on their companies.

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Impact on Small Business

While larger companies are often in the news for security breaches, more often than not, they have the financial resources to bounce back from a breach. When it comes to small businesses, a breach usually means the company is going under. Here are some of the ways that you may find your small business affected by a breach:

Fines and Fees

When your small business experiences a data breach, you are required by law to report the security breach to your customers and other entities. If you choose not to do so, there are some hefty fines to pay when it gets discovered that there was a breach occurrence. Those affected by the data breach may choose to file lawsuits resulting in substantial legal fees and potential payouts to victims. Data breaches also affect your company's reputation if not appropriately addressed. To salvage the reputation of your small business, it is advisable to hire PR professionals to repair your brand image and bring lost customers back to your business.

Brand Reputation and Value

The reputation of your company and how others perceive it plays a huge role in whether or not someone feels confident doing business with you. A data breach is a massive threat to the reputation of your small business, alongside providing quality support.

How severely a breach will affect your business's reputation depends on several things:

  1. The type of data that was breached.
  2. How quickly a response and security actions were taken.
  3. What steps were taken to inform affected individuals
  4. What has been done to prevent the problem from occurring again in the future.

Even with a flawless post-breach plan, your reputation will never be as it was prior to the data breach.

Lost Revenue

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The amount of lost revenue associated with a data breach can be hard to calculate. In the aftermath of a data breach, customers and potential customers will be understandably wary about doing business with you, knowing that data held in your care was made visible to others. Especially if it is later found that criminals used the data.

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What Threats Should Small Businesses Be Aware of?

New threats are continually emerging for small business owners and consumers alike. However, there are a few main types of threats that everyone should be aware of.

Malware

Malware includes any software intentionally designed to cause damage to a computer, server, client, or network. Malware includes things like spyware, viruses, ransomware.

Viruses

Viruses are a type of malware that infects devices and then spread from one computer to the next. They are intended to provide criminals with access to your internal systems.

Ransomware

Ransomware is another type of malware, but this works by locking users out of their devices until a ransom is paid to the criminal in exchange for unlocking the device. Ransomware is typically contracted through phishing emails and unpatched vulnerabilities in software programs.

Phishing

Phishing is a type of attack where criminals use email or malicious websites to infect your computer(s) with malware or harvest your sensitive information. They are designed to appear as legitimate organizations and instruct users to visit a website to download an important file or confirm account information to access portions of their accounts.

What can I do to protect my small business?

The exact steps that you'll need to protect your small business from online threats will vary depending on the type of business you run, what data you collect and store, and what information your employees can access. The following are some basic tips that work for small businesses of all types.

Keep Your Operating System and Software Up To Date

Don't put off installing updates that your operating system recommends and those associated with software installed on your computer. These contain important security updates, and from the time they release the update until you install the update, hackers have an easy road map outlining how to exploit any security holes that you haven't yet patched.

Install Browser Protection

Browser protection is among the cutting edge of online safety technology. Products like Guardio scan each of the websites that you visit and extensions that you add to ensure that they're free of malicious code and scams. They catch things like phishing pages and keyloggers that often go unnoticed, even to the savviest individuals. When a malicious site or extension is found, these products block the offending website or extension and let you know why. They also alert you when a website that you're visiting is still too new to be trusted. Browser Protection keeps you safe by stopping threats BEFORE they reach your device, instead of afterward like traditional antivirus solutions.

Teach Your Employees to Use Strong Passwords

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A strong password contains at least 12 characters and includes both alphanumeric and special characters like exclamation points, periods, dollar signs, or percent symbols. Instruct employees to avoid using their names, the names of their loved ones, their profession, or any other personal information within their passwords as this makes them easy to crack. You can learn more about creating a memorable, secure password here: How to Create a Strong Password That You Will Remember.

Help Your Employees Understand Why Cybersecurity Matters

Most of us understand that security is important, but most employees struggle to see the "big picture" that you, as the owner, can see. By explaining to them the impact that a security breach has on your small business, they'll be able to better understand the magnitude and consequences of making poor choices online. The earlier you get employees on board with cybersecurity, the easier it becomes to develop a safety-conscious culture within your business. Educate existing employees immediately and then integrate cybersecurity training into your company's onboarding process.

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