Although the world of cybersecurity can be daunting, understanding cybersecurity for small businesses and its ins and outs is necessary for small business owners to protect their online systems and processes. Brick-and-mortar stores use security measurements like video surveillance and security taggers to prevent theft and security risks. Digitally, small business security is the same. Online parts of small businesses like client lists, data, and payment information also require safety measures.
Cyber attacks can devastate a small business, so it is essential to take steps to protect against them. Investing in cybersecurity, educating staff about risks, performing penetration testing, and working with trusted providers can help reduce the risk of an attack and minimize the damage if one does occur. So…what does this even look like in practice? How can leaders begin to learn about cybersecurity for small businesses and take steps to protect their own? In this article, we’ll answer these questions and more, helping set small business owners up for success.
The Basics of Cybersecurity for Small Businesses
In a nutshell, cybersecurity is the practice of protecting electronic information from unauthorized access or theft. Cybersecurity is essential for individuals, businesses, and governments alike, as it helps to protect sensitive information and prevent identity theft, fraud, and other online crime. In practice, this looks different depending on the measures taken, but all with the goal of keeping digital assets secure. Installing firewalls and antivirus software, encrypting data, and continuously monitoring devices are some of the standard cybersecurity methods used in small business IT.
What Makes Small Businesses Vulnerable to Cyber Attacks?
As more and more information is stored online and it becomes easier than ever to run a business through a laptop and Wi-Fi connection, small businesses are increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks. In fact, a study by Fundera found that 43% of all cyber-attacks target small businesses. There are several reasons for this. First, small businesses often can’t afford a trained and dedicated IT, staff, meaning that they don’t have anyone on hand with expertise in cybersecurity.
This can result in less experienced staff who are not as familiar with cybersecurity risks and the best practices to prevent them. Steps to mitigate risk in larger companies such as widespread VPNs and firewalls, agentless asset discovery of all devices, and enforcing network segmentation are typically absent in small businesses. Small businesses also often hold customer data that is just as valuable as that of larger companies. Finally, small businesses are more likely to use third-party providers who may not have adequate security measures in place. All these factors mean that small businesses can be easy targets for cybercriminals looking to steal data or disrupt operations. They often target the companies with the most holes in their practices, which makes small businesses especially vulnerable to cyber-attacks.
Common Cybersecurity Threats for Small Businesses
Small business cyber attacks can be brought on in several ways. Here are some of the most common cybersecurity for small businesses threats:
By looking at servers to find unencrypted passwords, tapping into databases, or using reused passwords from third-party sites that were compromised, cybercriminals can gain access to passwords. This potentially exposes employees’ email or third-party platform accounts and gives the hacker access to sensitive information like credit card numbers or bank account information. It also risks cyber criminals being able to access client lists and internal company documents. In 2020, 81% of data breaches were due to poor security credentials.
Phishing and Email Scams
These use official-looking emails or web pages to guide victims to enter sensitive personal and financial data, which is then used for resale or access to their accounts. Exercise caution on any email you receive, making sure to take an extra moment to verify its legitimacy. A few other things you should be on the lookout for are odd salutations, suspicious domains, or non-standard attachments.
These DOS (Denial of service), SQL injection, and drive-by attacks target websites and servers. DOS attacks submit mass amounts of service requests so that the system resources are overloaded and fail to function. SQL attacks read and modify the contents of databases. Lastly, drive-by attacks insert a malicious code into the computer system that will infect it, then capture and transmit sensitive data.
Cybersecurity for Small Businesses Tips for Protecting Yourself
Have a plan for all devices
With the convenience phones allow, you and your employees are likely checking work emails on your phone, opening up a potential vulnerability to cyber attacks. Make sure to include mobile device security in your small business security plan – not just laptops at the office and home. One weak link means that your entire network could be compromised.
Employee training on best practices
While there are countless simple steps your team can take to prioritize cybersecurity, there’s no way to ensure these practices are widespread without proper training. Employees should be aware of different types of cyber threats and standardized policies to prevent them.
Have up-to-date software and systems
This means continuously updating software when you are notified of a new and improved version, especially for any application that deals with sensitive information or network security. And make sure you have trustworthy antivirus software installed on all devices that handle company data.
Earning consumer trust is vital for a small business at any stage in its growth. Your clients should feel comfortable granting you access to personal information and know that all your transactions are secure. That said, trust that takes time to build can be instantly broken in the event of small business cyber attacks. Cybersecurity for small businesses means being proactive in taking steps to ensure your systems and processes are as technologically secure as possible and protect your brand and reputation. It also puts your customers first, and they can rest peacefully knowing that the business they do with you is secure. We know that achieving 100% security against cyberattacks is an unrealistic goal. Still, with a few steps in the right direction, a proactive mentality, and the right resources and support, small businesses can make sure that it’s too difficult, time-intensive, and unprofitable for malicious hackers to attack them. And becoming aware of the issue is your first step in the right direction.
Being Proactive with Cybersecurity for Small Businesses
To stay ahead of cyber attacks, a penetration test can identify flaws in your network and web applications. A penetration test, sometimes known as a “pentest,” is a certified cybersecurity assessment meant to examine the security of your infrastructure by exploiting vulnerabilities securely. This test identifies your infrastructure’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as how to address vulnerabilities, while also providing an overview of your organization’s security concerns.
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