a cybersecurity criminal

So many times, the public looks over small businesses and their needs. But just like any company, these businesses need security, especially cybersecurity.

The lifeblood of small businesses is divided by brick-and-mortar establishments and internet storefronts (aka professional websites). Because of the wide reach of the internet, many small businesses have stayed afloat, even during the worst crisis during the past year. So, it is safe to say that small businesses need cybersecurity to thrive and ensure no interruption of their business. 

In 2020 the Verizon report stated 30% of all breaches were in Small Businesses. Small businesses have become increased targets since Covid due to the ease by which they can be compromised and extorted for ransom. Many times the small business is a gateway to a larger business. As an example, the breach at Target happened via an HVAC contractor.

 

How Bad is Cybercrime?

Unbelievably, the theft of digital information has far surpassed that of physical burglary. So, even though the internet offers so many tools to help small businesses, it can also be a land mine. Whether your business is cloud computing, or you only use email and a website, you’re vulnerable to hundreds of threats, mutating and growing every day.

The truth is, cybercrime is a full-time job for criminals, and they’re always looking for new ways to crack codes and find vulnerabilities, yes, even with small businesses. Sometimes more so because they assume small businesses aren’t as equipped to fight the attack.

 

Small Business and Cyberattacks

So, it’s established that small businesses do need cybersecurity, and as quickly as possible. As soon as your store goes up and the internet becomes aware of its presence, the attackers start developing strategies of the best way to take your business back down.

 

Why Small Businesses Can Be Bigger Targets

Did you know that cybercriminals target small businesses more than larger ones? This may come as a surprise, but if you look at why they do this, you will understand. Small businesses are more vulnerable because:

  • They store customer’s payment information.
  • They also keep other information related to current customers and past customers.
  • Some small businesses may have important intellectual property.
  • They leave an opportunity for stealing data by processing their own customer’s transactions.

 

Common Cybersecurity Threats to Small Businesses

While there are multitudes of cyberattacks, a few common forms tend to threaten small businesses regularly. Understanding these basic types can help you stay alert about other forms of attacks.

Viruses

Basically, viruses were designed to provide access to your systems. They infect, then spread from computer to computer, and even other devices. While some of them are easy to eliminate and prevent, others can latch on tight and become almost impossible to shake.

Malware

This attack was designed with the sole purpose of causing harm to your systems. It’s otherwise known as malicious software. It can come in the form of a virus or ransomware.

Ransomware

This type of attack is manipulative, as it infects and restricts access to your own computer until a ransom is paid. Ransomware is mostly delivered in the form of an email. It exploits a weakness in software.

Phishing

This technique uses email or messages to spread malicious software. You may receive an email stating it’s from a well-known company or even a friend. Inside the email, there will be a link. If you open the link, malware will be released into your system infecting your computer. This form can be dangerous as so many people assume they’re receiving a legitimate email.

 

How to Protect Your Small Business

There are many motivations, but that’s not what matters. What really matters is learning how to protect your small business, the place where you’ve placed your dreams for the future. Here are a few things that might help.

Protect information and update

Make sure your computers are “clean”. What this means is utilizing all updates and anti-viral software. If you must invest in anti-viral software that works, then the investment is worth it. Make sure you have the latest software and run a scan after every update.

Teach employees about security

Implement basic policies across the board for all employees. Insist on using strong passwords and enforce penalties for not taking cybersecurity policies seriously. Also, educate your employees on how to keep vital information and customer data safe as well.

Mobile device protection

Since most employee’s mobile devices are connected to the company network, they usually hold confidential information. Employees should password-protect their devices, use encryption, and keep security apps updated. This safeguards against that line of infiltration.

Use a firewall

Just like any computer, a firewall is useful when hard stopping an attack. It’s the initial response when a cybercriminal is trying to breach systems or worm their way into private networks and data. All computers, whether in the company’s office or in a work at home environment should be fitted with a quality firewall.

Wi-Fi security

Always make sure your Wi-Fi network is secure, hidden, and encrypted. Make sure your SSDI or the network name is not broadcasted. Protect this with a password key so only a selected few can access the router and settings.

Limit employee access

Employees should only have access to certain data systems that they need for their job. Allowing all employees to access all systems and data can possibly cause leaking of information, not necessarily on purpose, but even my mistake, this can lead to criminal activity.

Payment safety

Make sure that you and your company bank are on the same page. Most banks will alert you to things that appear to be fraudulent activity, even if it’s not. They are alert and always want to make sure that you are aware of any transactions going through their system. Make sure you use a bank that works in this manner. It may seem frustrating to wait for a pending payment, but it’s a good indication that your bank is trying to keep your company safe. Also, on your end, do not use the same computer to process payments as you do to search the internet.

Backup information

No matter what it is, back up all information. Some cyberattacks can be so brutal that they can crash your entire system. If you don’t have a backup of any information, it will take forever to get back to the level you were before the attack. Keep in mind, you have critical data when you have a small business, and losing this data can cause problems for you and your customer. Back up everything and backup often.

 

So, are small businesses really at risk?

Yes, they certainly are! And if you’re interested in expanding your small business onto the world wide web, then it’s safe to say that a bit of education about cybersecurity should be on the menu. Do your research, talk to other small business owners who’ve already expanded beyond their physical locations, and build an impenetrable wall of protection with cybersecurity.

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