Small business owners rely on the Internet for everything from ordering stock to keeping in touch with customers. Unfortunately this brings exposure to the increasing threat of cyber security. In addition to stealing money by fraud and deception, cyber criminals may set out to damage your reputation or put you out of business completely.
A business can never be completely safe from the threat of cyber crime, but most online attacks can be prevented by some basic security practices. Online security should be taken as seriously as the need to lock doors and store cash and valuables in a safe. Customers expect and have a right to the security of their data, and it's essential that steps are taken to prevent it falling into the wrong hands.
The following tips will increase your defense against online attacks.
1) Use strong passwords.
Strong passwords are an essential layer of protection. All staff should understand the need to have suitable passwords and the risks of writing them down or sharing them. A mix of at least ten letters, numbers and other characters should be used to create strong passwords. Common words, names and consecutive numbers are particularly vulnerable to hackers.
2) Use security software.
A firewall and antivirus software can prevent the majority of cyber attacks. Don't cut corners with these protections as you put your business at risk if you connect to the Internet without them. Antivirus software must be updated on a regular basis to ensure the latest forms of malware identified and deleted.
3) Limit personal use of company IT equipment.
Accessing personal email accounts and social media on company computers carries a high risk. Staff should be given clear instructions on their role in cyber-security and the dangers of visiting websites not approved for company business. Viruses and worms can be hidden in online games, apps and attachments sent with emails.
4) Protect your website.
A company's website is a valuable resource, and it must be protected. Hackers may attempt to corrupt information on a website or take it down completely. Admin level access should be tightly controlled as this is one of the routes cyber criminals use for attacks. Hackers are constantly scanning websites for vulnerabilities, so software and plugins should be updated regularly to make sure they are the latest versions.
5) Take a cautious approach.
Cyber criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Their methods are constantly evolving, and security software can't protect against all of the strategies they use. For example, cyber criminals might copy the identity of legitimate businesses and use these to deceive you. Common sense and caution are as valuable as antivirus software when it comes to cyber security.
6) Plan for the worst.
Cyber security experts advise that planning and preparing for an attack is essential. Do you have the expertise and resources to deal with a cyber crime within your business? If not, who would you call on after an incident? Having a recovery plan can make the difference between a couple of days loss of business or a long term impact.
The threats are constantly changing in the age where the Internet and technology have become part of everyday life. Small businesses are regarded as soft targets by cyber-criminals, and steps must be taken to protect against attacks.