As a small business owner, you have a lot to worry about. Profits are slim (if they exist at all), paperwork has to be filed for employees, vendors are a hassle, clients are ever-demanding… the list goes on and on. The last thing you want to worry about is a cyber attack. And for many small business owners, the risk of being hacked is thought to only affect big businesses. After all, they’re the ones with the big bucks, and so hackers have the most to gain from them.
As we’ve mentioned before, small businesses are often the greatest target for hackers. Why? Because large corporations usually have very strong cyber security protocols in place that protect them from most attacks. Small businesses, on the other hand, often have relatively weak defense systems that are easily breached.
Moreover, even if you do set up a strong security system when you open your business, the task of keeping it updated may fall to the wayside as more immediate concerns come to the forefront. Yet, not focusing on cyber security can be costly: A breach can cost about $160 per customer to repair.
Chances are, you don’t have the initial capital to install and maintain the same level of security as the big corporations. But, you probably don’t have the money to fix a data breach, either. So what can you do to get out of being stuck between a rock and a hard place? By using your budget wisely.
Here are 7 cost-effective cyber security tips for small businesses:
Stay Up-to-Date on New Risks
How much time do you spend reading the news every day? Whether it’s news about the world at large or about your industry specifically, you probably spend at least a couple hours a week reading up on it. Make sure cyber threats are in your news rotation. You should be vigilant about new threats that could be made against your business so you can protect yourself against them. One of the easiest ways to make sure you’re always up-to-date is to set a Google alert for the topic.
Invest in Proper Security Measures
There are a few good free antivirus programs out there. But, those should be reserved for personal use, not for your small business. Be sure you do your research and buy a highly reputable antivirus. Often, these cost about $50 to $100 per year — a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of a breach. In addition, use firewalls and web filtering tools to make sure every aspect of your business is secure.
Download Software Patches as Soon as They’re Available
Whether for your POS system or for your antivirus, hackers are always looking for a crack in your software’s protocol to break into. Often, as soon as a threat is detected, the software developer will send out a “patch” to cover the hole in security. Be sure to download these whenever they’re available. You may not get a notification it’s available, so check regularly (at least weekly) to make sure everything is updated to maximize security.
Use Phone In Addition to Email
If you are dealing with sensitive information, sending it over email is an easy way for hackers to get their hands on it. If you send or receive any important information digitally, be sure to set up a phone call to confirm it’s authentic. This is called “two-step verification,” and it can be a great way to make sure scammers aren’t able to gain sensitive data simply by sending an email. This goes for speaking with clients, vendors, employees, banks, and more.
Use Encryption Services
If you store sensitive information on a local computer or a server, use an encryption software to keep it secure. The process is pretty simple and relatively cheap. By encrypting data, it becomes an unreadable mess of characters to prying eyes. Only those who have the right key can actually see the right information. Keep your key secure; only you and maybe your most trusted employees who actually need the data should be able to access it.
Train Your Employees
For small businesses, having employees who know proper cyber security measures is vital. Training your employees can greatly reduce the risk of being hacked. Not only should employees know proper practices, but following them should be a part of your company’s culture. Employees should be well-educated on:
- The warning signs of an attack
- Proper practices to ensure cyber security
- The right ways to respond to an attack
Be Prepared for the Aftermath of an Attack
No matter how many of these cyber security tips for small business you follow, you will still run the risk of coming under attack; after all, hackers change their tactics seemingly every day. You should be prepared to recover quickly after being hacked. The easiest way to prepare is to have digital and physical backups of your data. At least weekly, you should back up data on a physical platform, such as a thumb drive or an external hard drive. You can also store data securely on a cloud for easier recovery. That way, if a virus or attack forces you to completely wipe your computer, you still have all of your vital information.
Cyber attacks are becoming increasingly common. Unnecessarily running the risk of falling victim is a quick way to lose the trust of your customers and even go out of business. By ensuring your company is prepared to defend against and recover from a cyber attack, you have a greater chance of success with your business.
At Company.com, we know running your small business is a passion that takes all of your time, and losing it all to a hacker is a thought that probably haunts your nightmares. Take this pressure off your chest not just by following these cyber security tips for small businesses, but also by letting us handle it for you. Contact us today to learn more about how we can keep your small business secure, and to start a free trial of our premium software package.