Most modern businesses rely on the Internet for ordering stock, making sales, managing orders and keeping in touch with customers. This means they are vulnerable to the increasing threat of cyber crime. Large criminal networks and hacking groups tend to focus on corporations and larger organizations, but small businesses are increasingly under attack by cyber criminals.
Cyber crime takes many forms, and attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated. On-line scams, identify theft and fraud can lead to loss of business reputation as well as financial costs. Phishing attacks can lead to theft of sensitive data and viruses and malware breaching computer systems. Cyber criminals often look for soft targets, so taking simple steps to protect your business can prevent you from becoming a victim.
The following tips will help to reduce the risk of your business being affected by an attack.
- Be aware of the risks.Not having on-line security protections in place is just as dangerous as leaving the door to your business premises unlocked at the end of the day. Don’t think that your business is too small to for cyber criminals to take an interest in it. Being cautious and vigilant are the first steps to preventing a costly attack. Consider what you would do and how your business would operate if your computer systems had to be shut down.
- Invest in security protections.Keeping your hardware and software up to date can significantly reduce the risk of digital crime. Anti-virus software, a firewall and anti-spyware protections should be your first line of defense. Older hardware can be easier for criminals to breach, so consider investing in upgrades on a regular basis. Cyber insurance is available to pay for expert assistance should the worst happen.
- Implement good practices.Having written guidelines about digital security practices can help you and your employees to avoid making basic mistakes. For example, passwords should never be written down and should be changed regularly. Setting security software to update automatically reduces the risk of running versions with known vulnerabilities. Accessing private email accounts, opening email attachments and using social media on company computer systems can open the door to cyber attacks.
- Have back up plans.Believing your business is safe from hackers and cyber criminals can be dangerous. Consider what you would do in the event of an attack, and build a back up plan. Do you have IT expertise within your business or do you rely on external help? Who would you turn to if your systems were compromised? A back up plan may have to include letting customers know that your website will be down and that orders will be delayed. If customer data has been accessed you may have to take legal advice about the steps to take.
- Encrypt important data.Data is the most valuable asset of many modern businesses. Customer names, addresses and financial data must be treated extremely carefully. It can be catastrophic if criminals are able to access your data, so use encryption tools and take all possible steps to prevent it falling into the wrong hands. Data stored on USB memory sticks and other transferable devices is particularly vulnerable. Customer data breaches can lead to criminal actions against businesses, and reputation damage can make matters even worse.
Taking simple steps to protect your business can significantly reduce the risk of becoming a victim of cyber crime. Experts believe that the number and sophistication of attacks will increase over coming years, so it’s important to get to grips with the threat now.