Anthony Byers is our favorite “security guy.” Protecting ourselves and families from identity theft, computer viruses, malware, and cyber extortion is just as important as avoiding probate court with estate planning. Both can create big messes. I hope you enjoy his tips as much as we did!
According to the National Small Business Association (NSBA), cyber-attacks cost small businesses an average of more than $20,000 per attack in 2014, more than double the cost of an attack in 2013. Nearly half of those surveyed have experienced a cyber-attack. It is not a matter of if your business will be targeted but when. Understanding some of the most common mistakes will help you discover your system’s vulnerabilities and develop a plan to make your business more secure.
1. “We really didn’t understand the risks.”
Attacks come in many forms, such as viruses, malware, cyber extortion and data theft. Cyber extortionists hold information or systems hostage in exchange for payment. Data thieves will steal client information for use in identity theft rings or other criminal activity. Leaving client data unprotected is particularly bad for business. While losing a customer’s data would likely mean losing their business, depending on the nature of the loss, the client may also seek damages from you in court.
2. “We all had the same password.”
Your business is only as secure as your weakest password. Passwords such as 1234 or password leave access to your network wide open. Passwords should include numbers, letters and special characters. Never share or use company-wide passwords. Do not use your name or birthday as part of your password as these may be easily accessible online. You should also require password updates at least every 90 days.
3. “We didn’t know how to set up security tools and utilities.”
Protect your network with a firewall, which will block any unauthorized access. Use a virtual private network (VPN) to secure your network. Use encryption software to protect data traveling outside of your network. Install antivirus programs on all computers and update them frequently to prevent the latest viruses and malware.
4. “We didn’t install the security update.”
You should complete software updates in a timely manner. Hackers are constantly looking for software vulnerabilities. Software developers, in turn, create updates to fix those vulnerabilities. Failing to update your software is like leaving your door wide open to cyber criminals.
5. “We didn’t protect our smartphones.”
For many small business owners and employees, the smartphone is a vital piece of workplace equipment. It is important to treat security on your smartphone as you would on a desktop at work. Use encryption software, follow password policies, install updates and backup your data.
6. “Our data wasn’t backed up.”
It is vital that you back up your data. Having an offsite backup service will help shorten recovery time from a cyber-attack or other IT disaster. Consult a trusted IT professional about the best options for your business. There are now a number of cloud based backup services that can sync your data on a daily basis. This will speed up the recovery process if your data is damaged or corrupted as a result of an attack.
7. “We didn’t have a cyber security policy.”
A cyber security plan should set clear and concise ground rules for your employees and managers. The FCC offers a helpful online tool that allows you to develop a customized cyber security plan for your small business. You can access the FCC Small Biz Cyber Planner 2.0 at www.fcc.gov/cyberplanner. Once you have a policy you will need to audit the workplace for compliance on a regular basis.
8. “Our employees don’t know about our cyber security policy.”
Once you have a plan in place you must pass that knowledge on to your employees. Provide them with a copy of your cyber security policy and have them sign an acknowledgement that they received, read and understand the policy. Make sure employees feel comfortable reporting potential vulnerabilities and asking questions.