Cyber Security Recommendations for Small Businesses

Integral IT - Cyber security recommendations for small businesses

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The Internet allows businesses of all sizes and locations to reach new and larger markets and provides opportunities to work more efficiently using computer-based tools. Whether a company is thinking of adopting cloud computing or just using email and maintaining a website, cybersecurity should be a part of the plan.

The theft of digital information has become the most commonly reported fraud, surpassing physical theft. Every business that uses the Internet is responsible for creating a culture of security that will enhance business and consumer confidence. Statistics show that companies with less than 100 employees are affected by 76% of cyberattacks. Why? Because hackers know that these are easy to get to due to a lack of proper security system protection and expertise.

So, what are some of the cyber security recommendations for small businesses and startups? Setting up a new business can be a daunting task. Suddenly you are responsible for other people’s wages, paying business taxes, and trying to make a profit. The last thing you want to happen is to have your business hacked.

Being hacked can result in your customers’ and employees’ sensitive information being stolen and your business losing money. We see new companies forgetting about cyber security all the time. They are so focused on getting the most for their money regarding technology that they don’t take the time to make sure it is safe to use. Ensuring that your business is secure against cyberattacks is not a quick process – but it is worth every second when you think about the alternatives. It is not an activity that you can cut corners on, but again, it is more than worth all the effort.

Now that you understand why it is essential to protect your business from cyberattacks, let’s look at five ways you can do this in a way that doesn’t break the bank.

  1. Keep Your Software Up to Date

Let’s start with the easiest point to act on, but it gets overlooked frequently. It would be best if you made sure that all desktops, laptops, tablets, phones, and other devices owned by your company are kept up to date. You also need to make sure that you keep track of the software and any security flaws that might have been exposed.

We know that this sounds incredibly simple, but you would be surprised by how many people don’t update their computers because they think it is a waste of time. They keep pushing the “remind me later” button until they have a queue of half a dozen updates that need to be downloaded. Why is it important to keep the software on your devices up to date? Many devices won’t run unless they are completely updated – this is a trick that companies use to make sure that people update regularly.

It is also worth noting that most updates that Windows and IOS ask us to install are patches on the security system. When the teams of these companies notice a flaw in their work or become aware of a new security threat – they create an update that will solve the problem. Not updating the software leaves you exposed to any of these issues. So, what can you do as a business owner to make sure that all of your devices are entirely up to date?

For devices that are used in a store, or in-house, that multiple people have access to, I recommend that you set aside one evening a week to do a technology audit and make sure that everything is as up to date as possible. When it comes to individual computers or laptops, I recommend that you set up some chain of accountability so that people must report to a supervisor that they have updated whenever a new update is released. Alternatively, you may want to turn on automatic updates on all company devices.

  1. Pick a VPN

VPNs are Virtual Private Networks. They are an excellent tool for small businesses that cannot afford their internal network or team members who work from home.

VPNs are important for employees to use at home because their cyber security is likely weaker than in any of your office buildings. An employee trying to access sensitive or essential information from a more extensive network can create a weakness in the security of the whole company. You should also ensure that anyone accessing your company network or work-related via public Wi-Fi uses a VPN. So, how do you implement the usage of VPNs throughout your business?

It would help if you start by choosing one brand of VPN that you want your employees to use. It would help if you tried to avoid free software and VPNs. They will take the risk of being hacked greater. There are many affordable VPN options, and many will offer a small business discount or multiple license discount. Then have everyone in the company install the VPNs. They can then turn the VPN on whenever they need to access sensitive information. Luckily, most of them also have browser extensions to make the process easier. This is an easy and inexpensive way to beef up your business’s cyber security.

  1. Human Firewall Tactics

Did you know that over 90% of malware attacks come from a phishing attempt and 47% of cyber security breaches happen because of employee negligence? One of the best things you can do to decrease the chances of you being hacked is to make sure that all your employees are IT-literate. Where should you start with this kind of training, and does everyone need to go through it? Good question.

We recommend that all of your employees go through the same cyber security training to be 100% sure that everyone has the proper base knowledge to keep the company safe. Start by talking through the dangers of Phishing – this is something that you may have to learn about yourself too. Make sure that they are aware of little details like the fact that it is possible to change the destination of a hyperlink without changing its appearance. It would help if you also talked to your staff members about not opening emails from addresses they don’t recognise and be aware of suspicious messages or links that they are sent from within the company.

A small amount of vigilance from your team members can make a huge difference. Some scammers will also try to get passwords or other vital information over the phone. Remind your employees that banks, electric companies, and other third-party services that you use should never ask for personal information or the company’s bank details. If they are suspicious of a phone call, they should hang up or pass the caller on to someone more senior in the company.

  1. Anti-Virus Protection and Firewall

Two pieces of software are essential to keeping your business safe from cyberattacks and if your business does not have either of these, then sort it out ASAP! We are, of course, talking about anti-virus software, AVS, and firewalls. Anti-virus software is designed to detect and neutralise any threats to your business network, computer systems, or devices.

Modern anti-virus software can protect users from malicious browser helper objects, BHOs, browser hijackers, ransomware, keyloggers, backdoors, rootkits, trojan horses, worms, and malicious malware LSPs, dialers, fraud tools, adware, and spyware. The good thing is that anti-virus software does come at a cost, but it is a relatively small cost compared to the value they can offer you. You must install anti-virus software in combination with a firewall, as this will provide you with complete protection against malicious software and cyber-attacks. Anti-virus software protects the hardware, while the firewall protects the network that the hardware is running on. The word firewall was first used to refer to computing software in a 1980s film about hackers.

The word firewall refers to a security network that works within a company or home network that monitors incoming and outgoing network traffic. The firewall blocks any suspicious traffic and can establish a barrier between anything it thinks is trying to attack your computer. Once you have installed anti-virus software and a firewall, you must make sure that you have adjusted the settings to what the manufacturer recommends. This can be done individually on each computer or in one go using the network settings.

It is recommended that you keep track of the software provider’s recommendations for the settings, as these may change when new breaches and dangers are discovered. You will have to purchase firewall software for your network, but its protection makes it more than worth it.

  1. Back-Up Your Data Regularly

One of the things that makes ransomware so effective is that many people and small businesses do not regularly back up their data. Most ransomware attacks involve locking you out of your computer, phone, or device and refusing to let you back in unless you hand over a considerable amount of money. If you haven’t backed up your data, then paying the ransom is the only chance you will have to get your data back. Some hackers may give you access to your data again; however, it is not unknown for hackers to leave devices locked after they have gotten their money.

If you backup your data online, on a cloud like AWS, or physically in a separate location, you will be able to wipe your computer to remove the ransomware and then download all of your data again. This will save you from having to pay any money to hackers. You are also more likely to be able to get your business up and running again more quickly this way.

When you are backing up your data, you mustn’t just back it up on your computer – you either need to back it up online or on an external device that is not connected to the internet. And how frequently should you back up your computer, and how can you ensure that it is done regularly? Depending on what kind of business you run and how busy it is, you may need all staff members to back their computers up at least once a day. Although, most companies may be able to get away with backing up once a week and situationally after any critical work has been done.  To ensure that everyone backs up when they should be, make it part of their daily checklist and have someone responsible for checking up on this.

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