The fact that cyber criminals target small business owners isn’t something you see in the media very often. Cyber attacks on large corporations and governments has received a lot of attention from the media. Some of the stories include how millions of shoppers have had credit card information that may have been compromised and the company executives who had to figure out a way to recoup the hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue. Cyber criminals also target small businesses and small business owners even more frequently.
While some entrepreneurs might think their businesses aren’t large enough targets for cyber criminals, the security breaches at large businesses prove otherwise. The root cause of both attacks was a relationship with a small business partner who had access to their network. In Target’s case, the hack went through their server’s connection to a heating, air conditioning and refrigeration firm based in rural Pennsylvania that managed their billing services. To be blunt: cyber criminals target small business!
This is a perfect example of how companies are now connected to clients in more ways than ever before. Whether your computers connect to clients through Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), servers that host password protected sites for your clients, or if clients are simply filling in mailing list info on one of your websites, you’ll need to make sure the information and connections are secure. If they aren’t, a cyber-security breach could compromise and use that information against your clients, betraying their trust in the process — a deal killer in business. Ensure that doesn’t happen by improving network security, here’s how:
Tips to prevent cyber criminals from targeting your small business
- Update your computer, operating systems and applications as frequently as possible:
Microsoft, Apple, Adobe and other vendors regularly release patches for their applications and operating systems. These updates resolve critical flaws in the software and prevent attackers from accessing your systems. While you may need to test a few features to make sure they still work, it’s well worth it since patching is the best way to protect yourself.
- Back up your data:
One way cyber criminals target small business is through Ransomware. It quietly encrypts all the important data on your computer with a secret key that’s sent to the attacker. Once that’s complete, the user receives a message informing that that all their business data is being held hostage unless they pay a sum of money to an anonymous account in the next few days. The hackers then threaten to destroy the keys which would result in all the data being lost. If this ever happens to you, don’t pay. Just clean your computer, reinstall the operating system and restore all your important business data. Backups make this solution possible.
- Install anti-virus software on all of your computers:
Yes, even Apple products. Anti-viruses provide warnings and prevent infections as they happen. They protect users from attacks via email, attachments, web sites, contaminated PDF files, and more. No AV is perfect, so there’s always a chance you’ll get infected anyway but they’re always worth it since software updates will catch up to the viruses and help you eliminate them later.
- Promote good business-computer habits:
That may mean implementing an acceptable use policy with guidelines like ‘Don’t browse dangerous web sites on company computers’. More importantly, make sure employees follow the policy and understand how to mitigate the risks of infection. Here are some other points you can add to your policy:
- don’t browse suspect web sites
- don’t use unknown USB keys or DVDs
- don’t open email attachments from parties you don’t know or trust
- don’t click on email links — do your own typing.
- Protect yourself from cybercrime risks:
Add cyber coverage (sometimes referred to as ‘data protection insurance’) to your insurance policy. Make sure your cyber insurance solution includes coverage for laptops, tablets, smartphones, USB keys/flash drives and similar portable devices. A good cyber insurance policy not only covers your business’ liability in the event of a covered data breach or a downloaded virus, it also covers certain “offline” events where physical files or documents end up in the wrong hands.
These are just a few of the ways that you can ensure your following best practices so when cyber criminals target your small business, you aren’t an easy target.