Small business owners often neglect cybersecurity as it is not considered a major concern. There is a common misconception that only large corporations, such as Target and Equifax, face cyberattack risks. Consequently, small business owners believe that their data is insignificant compared to the potential gains from hacking into prominent entities like Target. Unfortunately, this mindset has resulted in small businesses falling prey to almost half of all cyberattacks. Hackers target small businesses due to their possession of valuable data and inadequate cybersecurity measures, making them ideal victims.
Through infiltrating a small business, hackers can inflict substantial harm:
- They can gain access to stored data, such as customer credit card numbers.
- They might exploit this information to infiltrate the computer systems of more prominent partner businesses. The incident of the Target data breach in 2014 serves as an example, where hackers obtained login credentials from a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning company that provided services to certain Target stores.
- Hackers have discovered a lucrative opportunity in ransomware, realizing that it can lead to quick financial gains. They employ this tactic by encrypting vital files and subsequently demanding hundreds of dollars as a “ransom” in exchange for restoring access to the compromised data.
A cyberattack can compel you to temporarily cease operations while you strive to regain access to data and restore functionality to websites and systems. This interruption can lead to a loss of customer trust, resulting in long-term damage to your reputation and profits. The financial impact of a cyberattack on a small business can reach up to $250,000.
Nevertheless, there are measures you can take to safeguard your small business against cyberattacks and mitigate the potential harm in the event of an occurrence. Presented below are five such steps you can implement.
1. Ensure Your Software is Up to Date
As a baseline, it is essential for your business to have anti-virus and anti-spyware software in place. However, even more effective protection can be achieved through the implementation of firewalls and data encryption. It’s crucial to recognize that threats evolve constantly, and hackers actively seek out computers and networks lacking up-to-date security measures.
If your business lacks an in-house IT personnel, your vulnerability may be heightened. It is imperative to prioritize the regular installation of security updates or, alternatively, consider outsourcing this responsibility to a specialized small business cybersecurity company.
2. Provide Comprehensive Training to Your Employees
Your employees themselves can pose the greatest security risk to your business. When they access personal email and social media accounts, utilize personal devices for work-related activities, unknowingly open phishing emails, or employ the same weak password across multiple accounts, they inadvertently heighten the chances of hackers gaining unauthorized access to your business data.
Furthermore, establish and enforce a password policy that mandates the use of robust passwords, restricts access to sensitive data to authorized individuals, and enforces regular password resets.
In the case of employees utilizing personal devices for work purposes, establish and enforce a policy that outlines the specific data that employees can access and establishes protocols in the event of theft, loss, or compromise of a computer or phone.
3. Transition Your Data Storage to Cloud-based Platforms
Your own server-stored data is vulnerable to potential attacks, particularly if you have not implemented adequate security measures and fail to conduct regular backups. However, cloud storage providers specialize in ensuring the security of data and actively monitoring for cybersecurity threats.
4. Establish a Preparedness Plan for Effective Response
It is prudent to anticipate that your business will eventually become a target of a cyberattack. Therefore, it is crucial to formulate a comprehensive plan for responding to such an attack and minimizing the impact. Subsequently, organize drills to train your employees on executing the designated plan effectively.
5. Obtain Insurance Coverage for Cybersecurity Risks
Your general liability policy does not provide coverage for losses incurred in a cyberattack, despite the fact that a cyberattack can be equally as devastating as incidents like fire or theft. Fortunately, there are various cybersecurity policies available to address this gap.
Experts recommend seeking a policy that offers both first-party and third-party coverage. First-party coverage reimburses your losses, while third-party coverage comes into effect if you face a lawsuit from entities such as partner companies or customers whose credit card information has been compromised due to a data breach.
As the prevalence of hacking threats continues to rise, it becomes increasingly important for small businesses and their employees to prioritize cybersecurity. By implementing the appropriate combination of software, policies, and procedures, you can minimize the risk you face. In the event of an attack, you will be well-prepared to respond effectively.