If your small business collects consumer data or payment information, it can become a target for hackers.
Although media reports typically focus primarily on hacks affecting high-profile brands like Starbucks and Target, nearly half of all cyber attacks are directed towards small businesses. Because many of these firms lack the infrastructure and security protocols necessary to prevent cyber attacks, they are an easy target for hackers looking to steal personal information like credit card details and social security numbers.
If you run a small business, here are some strategies that can help you prevent cyber attacks.
VPNs, or virtual private networks, are a must for any business that manages customer data. If your employees use public wi-fi, personal computers, or mobile devices, or if they work with company data anywhere outside of your office’s secure network, they’re putting the company at risk. A VPN creates an encrypted connection between devices to obfuscate and protect data being transferred. VPNs are relatively inexpensive and can provide a huge boost to overall security without revamping your entire network.
Secure servers and transfers
Your security strategy should also include protecting the data on your company’s servers. While it’s OK to place some trust in external hosting providers, many businesses opt to manage their customer data themselves. An IT professional on your team can create a secure network that protects sensitive company data. Secure servers are also important if you have an internal network for employees to use. Servers’ exposure to the Internet can be limited when you manage connections yourself instead of relying on external hosting or storage.
One of the easiest ways a business can become compromised is by using the same password between accounts and devices. If a hacker obtains your email password and the same account information is used to manage customer databases, employee email accounts, or sales data, hackers can easily turn a single password breach into millions of dollars in damage.
Password managers like 1Password and LastPass address this problem by creating unique passwords for each account and storing them automatically so you don’t need to remember them. Using a series of encryption algorithms and tools like fingerprint recognition, password managers can secure your personal and business accounts.
Regardless of what security strategy you implement, you should always have a plan in place should you experience a data breach. This plan should include ways to notify customers and employees about the breach, what you’re doing to protect their data, and how you’ll be protecting them moving forward. If customers use the same account information for multiple services, the effects of your data breach could be farther-reaching than just a single account loss if the hackers try the same login information for other accounts.
While there is no one-size-fits-all security solution, software suites called data prevention tools (DLP), or PKI tools, can cover many of the most common areas of data breaches. Bundling features like encryption software, antivirus scanning, and automatic monitoring of communication patterns, data loss prevention tools can be a powerful element in your security strategy.
These tools typically work by encrypting the majority of data transferred within your network and detecting irregular patterns. If it detects abnormal activity such as an unknown connection or an irregular data transfer, the software can notify network administrators or take automatic corrective action to prevent a breach before it starts.
Cybersecurity requires constant strategic evolution, as cyber criminals are constantly coming up with new ways to hack networks and perform data breaches. Small businesses must stay especially vigilant and adapt to the newest trends to keep their customers’ data—and their own—secure.
For more on cybersecurity for small businesses, see How To Protect Your Small Business From The Alarming Cost Of Cybercrime.