Cybersecurity isn’t something that just large corporations have to take into account. The latest research shows that up to 36 percent of cyber attacks are aimed specifically at small businesses. Many cybercriminals target smaller organizations as they often lack a full time IT staff and don’t deploy as robust security measures as larger companies.
In order to protect your business, you need to stay constantly vigilant. It’s important to understand what the top threats to your organization’s IT security are and how to mitigate them. Here are some of the biggest threats faced by small businesses today:
1. Malicious Software and Viruses
In the early days of computing, viruses would simply annoy the user or destroy data. But in today’s world, they have evolved into different categories of malicious software, or malware, that can harm a business in various ways.
For example, a virus that infects a PC can record keystrokes and thus steal passwords and other sensitive information. Malicious software can also turn a computer into a zombie that is used as part of a botnet to launch attacks against other online systems, send spam or perpetrate various types of online fraud.
There are many ways to protect yourself from this security threat. You should only download software that comes from trusted and reputable sources. Keep your operating system and web browsers up-to-date, as software updates often contain security patches that fix discovered vulnerabilities and exploits. Finally, be sure to install anti-malware software on all your devices and allow it to automatically download updates so that it can protect your from all the latest threats.
Ransomware is a specific type of malware that has been increasingly causing serious headaches for small business owners during the last few years. Ransomware works by infecting a computer and encrypting all of the data on it. It then demands that the owners pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars, usually through an anonymous cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, to decrypt their files.
To protect your self from ransomware, you can deploy the same techniques to keep your systems safe from malware in general. It’s also important to keep backup copies of your data at several different locations. There are hundreds of secure and highly affordable cloud-based data backup solutions available to small businesses which you can use to make copies of your most critical files. Backing up your data will not only protect it from ransomware, but will also let your restore files that were lost as a result of hardware failure or user error.
3. Insecure Internet Connections
In today’s business world, a growing number of individuals are working away from their main office location. This often involves using public Wi-Fi networks at places like restaurants, hotels, coworking spaces, etc. While having access to the Internet everywhere you go is certainly convenient, it comes with many cybersecurity threats.
Public Wi-Fi networks can be exploited by cybercriminals to launch a variety of attacks. The most common ones include eavesdropping on data that is transmitted by users, redirecting them from legitimate websites to phishing sites or websites that attempt to install malware on their devices.
While using unsecured Wi-Fi networks for work-related purposes should be avoided as much as possible, some traveling businesspeople may not have much of a choice if they want to get work done while on the road. One way to mitigate the risks of using a public Wi-Fi connection is to use a virtual private network (VPN). This is a type of service that creates a secure tunnel between a device and the Internet, encrypting all data exchanged. This eliminates the possibility for an attacker to monitor the data being transmitted or to hijack someone’s session.
4. Phishing Attacks
Phishing is a type of cybercrime that involves tricking a user to enter sensitive information, such as login credentials or credit card numbers, on a spoof website that is meant to mimic that of a legitimate online service. It’s usually carried out by sending an email or text message to the victim with a link to the spoofed website.
One of the best ways to protect your business from phishing is to exercise simple common sense. Don’t click on links in messages claiming to be from a bank, payment processor or other online service that you use. Instead, type the website address manually to log in. Using security software on your PC and mobile devices also offers some protection, as these apps are able to block connections to known phishing sites.
5. Poor Data Security Practices
Many small businesses fall victim to cybercrime as a result of poor security practices on the part of their employees. Common examples include writing down user names and passwords in a notebook, carrying sensitive business documents on portable storage media or accessing work documents on a public computer and leaving it unattended. All of these can lead to company data and online accounts being compromised.
The best way to fight against poor security practices is to put together a comprehensive data security policy and ensure that all of your team members are aware of it. Educate your employees on the potential security threats they face both when working at the office and remotely.
You should also deploy the right technical solutions to prevent security breaches. For example, you can install security software on all mobile devices used by your employees that allow the device to be remotely wiped should it be lost or stolen.