Digital security attacks and data breaches only get reported by major news outlets when the target is a large, well-known company. However, small and medium sized businesses share the same amount of risk and sometimes are even more vulnerable due to their limited resources and IT budget.
As the head of an SMB, you can't afford to take a passive approach to cybersecurity. If an attacker manages to gain access to your local network, it can bring all business operations to a halt and leave lasting damage on your data, systems, and corporate reputation.
Everyone knows that it's important to install antivirus software and security patches, but in today's modern age of cybercrime and digital threats, you have to do more to prepare and protect your staff. Read on to learn seven critical security tips for SMBs.
1. Keep Security In-House
Within the last decade, as companies have begun shifting most of their digital resources to a cloud computing environment, there's been a movement towards outsourcing and offshoring all IT responsibilities. Businesses can often save money by reducing the need for a local service desk and desktop support staff.
But trusting a third party to control your company's cybersecurity is a risky decision to make. As a business owner, intellectual capital is often your most valuable asset, and you need to protect it as carefully as possible. For that reason, it's wise to appoint a local chief security officer (CSO) who is integrated with all key operations.
2. Watch Out for Social Engineering
A lot of small and medium sized businesses assume that all cyber attacks originate from external sources, but that's not the case at all. In fact, many data breaches come about as the result of internal behavior or social engineering, where an employee is tricked into exposing sensitive information.
No matter how many people are on your staff, it's critical for all individuals to be aware of cybersecurity threats and how to identify them. Research indicates that lack of employee knowledge about data systems is one of the leading causes of hacks or data breaches. Survey data indicates that up to two thirds of US based employees have never used or even heard of ransomware or password protection.
Training courses are a good way to build a security-conscious work culture and protect the company's digital assets. These trainings should be run on a regular basis, such as once per quarter, and updated based on the latest technology trends.
3. Secure Email and Chat
Regardless of what industry your company is in, communication is a key activity to support operations and transactions. Employees expect to be able to interact with one another over email and instant messaging applications. Moving these services to a cloud platform can lower costs and maintenance effort, but you want to make sure your company's sensitive data is never at risk.
Consider investing in a fully-encrypted email or IM system, as these will add another layer of protection to your existing firewalls and intrusion detection systems.Encrypting all internal text communication will prevent hackers from being able to spy on messages or access confidential information.
4. Create a Mobile Security Policy
Every piece of hardware within a corporate network can be targeted by a cyberattack, but companies often shift most of their focus to computers and servers. Nowadays, with employees performing more of their duties on smartphones and tablets, it's become critical for businesses to lock down all mobile devices.
If your company allows staff members to bring their own devices into the office, you must restrict what level of access is allowed. Your IT leadership should develop a mobile security policy that outlines how these external devices will connect to the local network. There are many software solutions available to let SMBs choose which applications can be installed on mobile devices while requiring secondary authentication measures.
5. Prepare for Ransomware Attacks
One of the most common forms of cybercrime that affects small and medium sized business is ransomware. During such an attack, a hacker will infiltrate a single computer or device and then lock out the corporate user while demanding a cash payment to silence the threat. SMBs often find themselves forced to pay these attackers because they are not prepared for the threat and don't know how else to respond to it.
The first step in protecting against ransomware attacks is employee education. Staff members need to be taught to look for suspicious email messages and URLs that could jeopardize their digital security. At the same time, it's important for your IT team to have a comprehensive backup solution that runs on an hourly or daily basis. That way, even if a hacker manages to carry out a ransomware attack, you have the ability to restore operations quickly and minimize data loss.
6. Manage Equipment Disposal
Small and medium sized businesses often require a great deal of computing hardware in order to support their operations. This means that new equipment, such as laptops, servers, or networking equipment, are added to your pool of resources on a regular basis. Companies typically have a series of steps they run through to secure new hardware, but having a decommissioning process is just as important.
If a company throws away equipment without performing any data cleansing, then it can put the entire organization at risk. Cybercriminals will often monitor a company's disposal and recycling process and then obtain hardware to try to steal sensitive information. Even deleting all files from a hard drive is not enough to ensure your company's security. You should use proper data removal tools that will overwrite all bytes on a storage system.
7. Test Your Security
Small and medium sized businesses shouldn't wait for a hacking attempt in order to find out whether their IT systems are secure or not. Being proactive is critical when it comes to cybersecurity. You should set up a dedicated internal team that's responsible for testing application and network security. This process is known as penetration testing and will often highlight threats or concerns before they ever become a reality and harm your business.