Picture this: you’ve worked tirelessly to build your small business from the ground up, only to find that a cyber attack has exposed your sensitive data, leaving your business reputation in tatters. In today’s world, the threat of data breaches is all too real to be swept under the carpet.
Small businesses in the Uk would benefit from taking actionable steps to protect their data and intellectual property from cybercriminals. In this informative guide, we’ll share five tried-and-tested cybersecurity tips to help you bolster your business cybersecurity and protect your customers’ vital data from cyber threats. Take a look at our articles on insurance to make sure you also consider cyber insurance for your business.
So, let’s get to it!
1. Strengthen Passwords and Utilise Multi-factor Authentication
Let’s start with the basics:
A strong password is your first defence option against cyber attacks. Avoid using obvious information (like your pet’s name) to create one. Anyone with a personal relationship with you or strangers who pay attention can easily breach your defences.
Remember the time when “password123” was all the rage? Yeah, those days are long gone! Today, you must mix uppercase and lowercase letters, symbols and numbers.
Running multiple accounts under the same password is a big no-no. It’s a one-way ticket to having your data breached without difficulty. It might seem like a stretch to remember all those different passwords. Luckily, “password managers” are there to help.
These handy tools store and generate secure passwords for you, making it a breeze to manage your online accounts. Some popular options include LastPass, Dashlane, and 1Password.
For an extra layer of security, consider multi-factor authentication (MFA). This authentication requires users to provide additional proof of identity (such as a fingerprint or a one-time code sent to their phone) before gaining access to an account. Many online services now offer MFA, so ensure you enable it whenever possible.
2. Train Employees on Cybersecurity Best Practices
Here are reasons to train your employees on the importance of employing cybersecurity best practices in their dealings.
Train employees to spot phishing emails that trick them into revealing sensitive information or downloading malware. Teach them to beware of red flags such as misspelt domain names, urgent requests, or suspicious attachments.
When in doubt, they should double-check with the sender before clicking links or opening attachments.
You should treat sensitive data like the crown jewels – encrypted and locked away! Teach your employees to encrypt sensitive customer information. They should only grant access to those who need it. Therefore, they minimise the risk of data breaches and ensure compliance with data protection regulations like GDPR.
Mixing personal and business devices is like mixing oil and water – they don’t go well together! Encourage employees to use company-issued computers for work purposes only and set clear policies for remote employees to follow. You will prevent security risks that could compromise your business data.
3. Regularly Update and Secure Software and Hardware
Operating system and software updates may seem like a hassle, but they’re crucial for data security. These updates often include patches for security vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit. So, make it a habit to “regularly update” your devices and, where possible, enable automatic updates to stay ahead of the game.
These act as digital bodyguards, protecting your devices and networks from malware and other cyber nasties. Opt for a reliable solution like Norton, McAfee, or Webroot, and set up regular scans to keep your systems in tip-top shape. Remember to update the software as new threats emerge daily.
Your mobile devices, computer and connected gadgets can be vulnerable to cyber-attacks. To safeguard them, encrypt data on cell phones and tablets, and ensure that all connected devices are password-protected and running the latest software. When it comes to cybersecurity, every device needs protection!
4. Implement Network Security Measures
An unsecured Wi-Fi network is heaven for cybercriminals and hackers. To keep them out, change your network’s default “service set identifier” (SSID) and use strong encryption methods, such as WPA2 or WPA3. Additionally, consider setting up a separate guest network for visitors to prevent unwanted access to your business data.
Knowing who’s on your network and what they’re doing is crucial for maintaining network security as a small business. Implement access control lists (ACLs) to restrict user access based on their role and regularly audit user activity to identify suspicious behaviour.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is like a secret tunnel that encrypts your internet connection and keeps your data from prying eyes. It’s particularly useful for remote employees as it allows them to securely access your network from any location. There are many VPN providers, so research and select the right one.
5. Backup Data Regularly and Plan for Disaster Recovery
As the saying goes, “better safe than sorry!” Schedule regular data backups using cloud-based systems or external hard drives, and test your backup regularly between backups to ensure the integrity of your crucial data. This way, even if disaster strikes, you can quickly bounce back.
A well-thought-out disaster recovery plan is your lifeline when cyber threats or other catastrophes hit. Outline the steps for data restoration and include a communication strategy to keep your employees and customers informed during the crisis.
Ransomware attacks can be particularly devastating for small businesses. Educate your employees on the risks and implement preventive measures, such as blocking access to suspicious websites and limiting web browsers more prone to attacks. An ounce of prevention against a ransomware attack is worth a pound of cure!
Endpoint security solutions protect your business devices, such as computers, mobile devices, and tablets, from malware and unauthorised access. These tools typically include antivirus, anti-malware software and additional features like device management and encryption.
Intrusion Detection and Prevention Systems (IDPS) help you monitor your network traffic for suspicious activity, such as hacking attempts or unauthorised access. These systems can detect and block potential threats in real-time, reducing the risk of a cyber attack for small businesses.
MFA is a security measure that requires users to provide multiple forms of identification before granting access to a system or account. This added layer of security helps protect your small business cybersecurity from unauthorised access, even if an attacker has compromised a user’s password.
For small businesses that lack the resources or expertise to manage their cybersecurity, partnering with a Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) is an excellent choice. MSSPs offer many services, such as network monitoring, threat detection, and incident response, allowing businesses and you to outsource your cybersecurity needs to experts.
MDM tools help you manage and secure mobile devices used by your employees, such as smartphones and tablets. These tools can enforce security policies, remotely wipe lost or stolen devices, and prevent unauthorised access to your company computer and business data.
Email security tools help protect your business’s email communications from phishing attacks, spam, and malware. These tools can include features like email filtering, encryption, and secure file transfer. Therefore, it assures your business’ email communications are confidential.
Encryption tools protect sensitive data by converting it into unreadable code without a decryption key. Encrypting your data at rest and in transit ensures it remains unreadable and secure even if it falls into the wrong hands.
While not a tool in the traditional sense, security awareness training is a crucial component of your SMB’s cybersecurity strategy. Regularly training your employees on cybersecurity best practices helps them recognise potential risks and respond appropriately, reducing the risk of human error leading to a security or data breach.
There you have it; five actionable tips to help you shore up your small business cyber security, protect customer data, and fend off many data breaches.
By implementing strong passwords, training your employees, keeping your software and hardware up to date, securing your network, and regularly backing up your data, you’ll be well on your way to safeguarding your business’s reputation and future success.
So, don’t wait – start putting these five tips into practice today and sleep a little easier knowing that your business-critical data is protected!