These days, businesses have less reason to fear burglars and thugs than anonymous cybercriminals. While thieves can steal merchandise or damage property, cybercriminals are much more insidious, and the harm they cause can be orders of magnitude worse. When sensitive information is stolen or financial accounts are hacked, the losses can overwhelm even the most spectacular robbery.
It’s not only large global corporations that are targeted; cybercriminals often go after lower-hanging fruit. In fact, 79% of companies reported having been hit by breaches in 2017. Smaller businesses are often less likely to put a lot of effort into protection from cyberattacks because they consider themselves too small to be targeted. While the potential gains of attacking smaller companies may be less impressive, the task is usually less difficult and more dangerous.
What can you do to avoid being targeted by cybercriminals? Consider these tips.
1. Keep all software updated and regularly patched
One of the most common ways hackers gain access to computer systems is via code defects (known as exploits). Some exploits remain unnoticed for years before they are patched, so if you do not update regularly, you could leave your networks vulnerable to anyone with a little bit of technical knowledge. Exploits can affect all software, from operating systems and browsers to specialized software and more.
2. Invest in a reliable VPN
A VPN (virtual private network) creates a secure connection over a less-secure network between your computer and the Internet. A VPN makes you essentially invisible to hackers so they cannot steal your passwords or financial information or track your activities.
There are many VPN options available. Before you choose a service, determine your organization’s needs and carefully research which one is the best fit.
3. Educate and train your staff
Even if you use the latest antivirus and firewall software, you won’t be fully protected if your employees do not follow the rules of digital security. Over 90% of security breaches happen not as a result of hackers overcoming the network’s protection, but because an employee unwittingly opened up a door – for example, by using a weak password or falling victim to a phishing email. Investing in cutting-edge security software but failing to educate your employees in cybercrime prevention is tantamount to boarding up the windows while leaving the front door wide open.
4. Divide, encrypt, and back up sensitive data
Today, data is a business’s most critical asset; protecting it should be a top priority. Put it behind as many layers of security as possible. Do not keep it in a single source, and divide it into segments. This approach may be less convenient, but in case of a security breach, hackers will not get access to your entire data bank. Use advanced encryption methods to make sure that even if information gets stolen, hackers will not be able to use it (and make sure your encryption software always has the latest update).
Finally, back up your data regularly. Cloud solutions such as Backup as a Service (BaaS) and Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) are the most efficient ways to ensure that this happens.
5. Set up strict limitations on company computers
Make sure your employees cannot install unauthorized software on company computers without approval from your system administrator. This will help prevent malware from infecting your company’s network and reduce wasted time.
These days, cybersecurity can no longer be treated as an afterthought. A security breach can be catastrophic for any business, even those without a strong digital presence. The only way to protect yourself is to prepare and follow the advice above.
For more on this topic, read “Cyber Security: Keeping Your Data And Online Possessions Safe.”