According to the research study by the National Cyber Security Alliance, over 70% of companies that get hacked are small businesses. The reason for that is simple. Most of them do not take adequate precautionary measures to protect their networks and do not perform regular data backups. The same study emphasizes that 68% of businesses do not worry about an online hack, while only 33% of them are prepared to prevent a cybersecurity attack and control it when it happens.
An online breach can hurt your business on multiple levels. The loss of crucial data will impact the overall business operations. It also puts your customers at risk of indirectly becoming the victims of financial frauds. This may affect people’s perceptions of your brand and lead to greater customer churn. Given these facts, it’s not surprising that the average cost of data loss is over $3.86 million.
Want to learn how to boost your network security? Here are a few key things to know.
Educate your Employees
When building a cybersecurity plan for your small business, don’t forget that most threats actually come from within. Ask yourself the following:
- What do your employees know about online security?
- Are their passwords safe? Remember that most of them will use their kids’ birthdays or pets’ names as passwords.
- What do they know about email phishing? If they receive a link from a suspicious email address, will they recognize the malicious intent?
- Have they ever installed an unsigned third-party app on their business computers?
- What about the use of personal smartphones? Do they open their business accounts from the places with public wi-fi?
Unfortunately, most of your employees are not thinking about online security. Hackers are aware of that. Statistics say that more than 80% of cyberattacks are caused by employee negligence.
Precisely because of that, you should educate your employees about the kinds of online hacks they may face and let them know how to recognize them. Provide them with the courses and materials needed to understand how to identify an online attack and prevent it. Familiarize them with the importance of strong passwords, regular software updates, and responsible use of technology, social networks and online resources.
You should also build strict security policies. Write them in a plain, easily understandable language everyone would understand. These policies should cover the tips regarding the device and network access, creating passwords, the safest methods of file sharing, reporting procedures on lost devices, and so forth.
Keep your Wi-Fi Safe
Did you know that your organization’s wi-fi is one of the easiest points of entry for online criminals? Yep, that’s true. Still, there are certain steps you can take to safeguard your network.
- Use wi-fi protected access encryption that is based on two key technologies – Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) and Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).
- Enable your router’s firewall.
- If you have a VPN-capable router, use personal VPN to protect your data.
- Choose a strong wireless network name (SSID) instead of the manufacturer’s name. Also, you should create a strong password for your router and ensure only your employees can access the wi-fi.
Use a VPN
Investing in a solid virtual private network (VPN) is one of the most effective ways to protect your data. Namely, a VPN establishes a safe connection over less secure networks. It first routes your data through its servers and, in this way, camouflages your IP address. Most importantly, VPN uses encryption, making sure that, even if your data gets intercepted by a hacker, they won’t be able to use it.
There are many VPN service providers to choose from. For example, the best free VPNs are TunnelBear, Speedify, Hotspot Shield Free, and Windscribe. Sure, if you want to get the most out of your VPN, you could also invest in a paid VPN service provider such as CyberGhost, NordVPN, ExpressVPN, and IPVanish VPN.
Invest in Solid Firewall
The rise of IoT inspires hackers to create more complex and sophisticated malware. Online hacks now consist of multiple layers that will attack different parts of your company’s network at the same time. For instance, by infecting employees’ smartphones, an online criminal can crack your passwords, control your company’s devices, and steal your data. Worse yet, you won’t even notice that.
Unfortunately, many anti-malware programs are not reliable when it comes to the real-time identification of malicious activities. This is why you should invest in a comprehensive hardware firewall solution that offers high security visibility, identifies different threats in real time, isolates them immediately, and prevents any further malicious operations. Remember, irrespective of its costs, solid firewall is the first line of your defense.
Update your Software Consistently
Over half of Windows PCs are running outdated software. Apart from business disruptions, 96% of outdated apps and programs come with serious security vulnerabilities that may make your organization an easy target. Namely, older versions of your software are easier to hack because online criminals are already familiar with their major loopholes and can enter your network uninterruptedly. So, no matter if it is a third-party bookkeeping app, an anti-malware program, your operating system, or your WordPress plugins, you should always keep them up-to-date.
Back up your Data Regularly
By backing up your data, you’re making its multiple copes to make sure they won’t be lost to hardware failures, cyber hacks, or natural disasters. Most importantly, data backups ensure your business’ continuity after the breach.
Now, there are different types of data backups you should consider. First, a full copy of your data every time you back up your system. Second, an incremental backup backs up only the data that has changed since the previous update. Finally, a differential backup is similar to an incremental one. The only difference is that it copies all data that has changed since the previous full backup.
Over to You
Parallel with the growth of IoT and sophisticated cybersecurity methods, online threats will only grow. And, neglecting them will only put a target on your back. Your goal is to take the right precautionary measures, back up your data regularly, and have a solid plan that will help you control an online attack when it happens.
Is there anything you would like to add? We’re listening!
Elaine Bennett is a digital marketing specialist focused on helping startups and small businesses grow. Besides that, she's a regular contributor for Bizzmark Blog and writes hands-on articles about business and marketing, as it allows her to reach even more people and help them on their business journey.