You’re busy, have a lot to juggle in your day-to-day, and it’s easy to let virtual security take a backseat. You’ve never had an issue before, so what are the odds? Plus, it’s not like you’re a high-risk financial institution, or have access to sensitive client data that would make you an attractive target.
In reality, small businesses are extremely vulnerable to cybersecurity threats and malicious programs. Think of it this way: it’s easier to pick a pocket than it is to rob a bank, and most cyber criminals are looking for the path of least resistance. Even if it’s a smaller payday, they’d prefer an easier target rather than deal with sophisticated IT teams and cybersecurity professionals.
For more information, take a look here: Why Are Small Businesses Targeted by Hackers?
Let’s work through some common threats you should be aware of, and then we’ll share some practical tips and security protocols to keep you protected.
Types of common cyber security threats
As the name implies, phishing email scams are basically an attempt to get you to open the door to further attacks. Typically phishing is done via email, with a fake, but very convincing, message that encourages you to open a specific file, or click through to a website. The most common goal here is to deploy malware, then ransomware attacks.
Hand-in-hand with phishing, email spoofing involves a carefully crafted email that looks like it came from someone you know. Or, even if you don’t know them personally, at the very least it looks like a legitimate email from a real person. It then typically leads you to a specific action that opens you up to risk.
In this case, visiting a malicious website can initiate a software download that you didn’t authorize, forcing the door open to further cyber attacks and compromised data. A simple wrong click is all it takes, or falling for a phishing email.
Not all websites are designed from the outset to attack. Sometimes another business’ cyber attack can impact you, especially if their website (one you’ve safely visited many times in the past) is hijacked and leveraged by cyber criminals. You might not have done anything wrong, but suddenly you’re compromised.
Ransomeware can render your network or essential computer applications useless until you pay a ransom. Grinding operations to a halt is a scary enough proposition for many business owners to dish out huge amounts of money in a moment of panic.
Practical cybersecurity tips to protect your small business
Educate and train employees
Far and away, the majority of cyber attacks are perpetrated by someone making a mistake. Opening the wrong email, clicking the wrong link, or trusting a website that they shouldn’t have… Open the dialogue with your team, and invest in basic education to help them know what to be aware of and avoid. “Stranger danger” all over again, this time for adults, helping to foster a culture of security.
Taking it a step further, you may want to standardize these measure with company cybersecurity policies.
Use an encrypted password manager
Password managers are secure, encrypted storage systems where you can house and access all your login credentials. In today’s world, this is an essential workplace tool.
Strong passwords and multi-factor authentication
Weak passwords are like leaving your front door unlocked at night with a welcome sign on the door. Make sure your team creates strong, random passwords, and uses two-factor authentication whenever possible (allowing one other form of verification as part of your login – typically a texted code). Facial recognition on private mobile devices can strengthen your basic security practices as well.
Use a Virtual Private Network (VPNs)
A VPN is essentially a private online workspace that encrypts the data being shared, creating a much more secure environment than is possible with a traditional wi-fi network. It also shields you from third-party eyes, greatly enhancing your network security.
Have a backup plan in place
Backup and disaster recovery safeguards you against extending the impact of any workplace catastrophe, whether you’re hit by severe weather that damages servers, or by a severe cyber attack that corrupts your network and data. Make sure you have a plan in place, ready to initiate when (not if) the need arises.
Work with an IT service provider
The size of your business (and budget) may negate the need for an in-house IT or SOC (Security Operations Center) team, but you’ll still benefit from partnering with an IT provider. From software updates (including security software updates and installing security patches) to ensuring you have the best protection in place, it’s important to have professionals in your corner. Identifying and filling security gaps is key.
Do you need help developing cybersecurity plans?
Reach out to us at Teltek! We’re here to help, and would love to connect you with real solutions for your cybersecurity needs.