Cybersecurity Best Practices for Businesses
Why Small Businesses Need Cybersecurity
Think that larger businesses are more at risk of online threats than small companies? Think again. According to research by Barracuda Networks, an employee of a small business with less than 100 staff members will experience 350% more social engineering attacks than an employee of a larger corporation.
Small businesses are often the most vulnerable to digital threats. Inc. reported that CyberCatch found that 30% of U.S. small businesses have weak points that opportunists can exploit. And bad actors know this. Smaller companies are attractive to would-be hackers as they are likely to have fewer safeguards than a large organization.
As detailed in our blog about how much cyberattacks cost small businesses, 60% of small businesses who experience a cyberattack fold within six months.
That's why cybersecurity is essential for small businesses. It's just as important to look after your digital assets as your physical property.
So, what are the best practices for Internet security and protecting your business against these risks? We've put together an Internet security best practices checklist to help.
Top Internet Security Best Practices
1. Have Cloud Security
Businesses of all sizes are turning towards cloud storage to ease collaboration. It's become especially helpful in an age of hybrid working. But while cloud solutions have revolutionized the way we can work and share files, not all systems are as secure as you may assume.
It's important to research your chosen cloud platform before you onboard your business onto it. Look out for the highest level of security available. After all, if all your information is going to be in one place, it needs to be safe.
2. Get a Secure WiFi network
You may need to take extra steps to secure your WiFi equipment. Devices will come with default passwords, but these may be insecure. You can protect your network by creating and assigning your own password.
If you're offered a choice of password types, one of the most secure is a WiFi Protected Access II (WPA2) code. Look for this option when setting up a password.
For extra security, you may want to hide your WiFi network from search. This prevents your network name, the Service Set Identifier (SSID), from being visible. You can set up a guest account with a different password if you need to allow people besides your employees to utilize your WiFi. This enables clients and customers to use your WiFi without accessing your primary network.
3. Protect with VPNs and Firewalls
Using the Internet via a virtual private network (VPN) ensures greater privacy as it encrypts your connection-and your activities and data. VPNs can be used to secure your Internet connections while your employees work remotely. An employee's home WiFi is likely not as secure as your small business's WiFi, but a VPN can protect their connection wherever they are working.
Firewalls shield your network by blocking malicious software and unwanted traffic. They stop unwanted outsiders from accessing your private data. Again, this is something that you need to be particularly aware of if your employees work from home. You need to ensure that any and all devices used to conduct work or access business materials are protected with a firewall. Many firewalls also have the added benefit of built-in antivirus software.
4. Establish Segmented and Limited Access
Segmenting access can minimize the damage that can be caused by one employee acting maliciously or a single account being compromised. If employees only have access to what they need, only a certain amount of harm can happen at an individual account level.
Consider who needs access to what. If only a select few will ever need to view a file, there's no need to have this document accessible to all. Keeping documents private is important for data protection and confidentiality too.
5. Provide Employee Training
Internal threats are not always due to malicious behavior. Your employees can cause harm by accident. For example, they may fall for a phishing scam or unintentionally download malware. One way to equip your employees with the skills they need to protect themselves-and your business-is training.
Teaching staff about basic security practices, such as using strong passwords and not opening suspicious links or attachments, can help secure your business. There are many online teaching resources available. You could even have staff take a training course. Whatever you do, keep this training up to date and run regular refreshers as new threats are constantly emerging.
Establishing clear Internet and device use guidelines will also help enforce your cybersecurity expectations across the company.
6. Mandate Secure Passwords
The use of secure, unique passwords across your organization is critical.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) advises that all user-created passwords should be at least eight characters long. NIST suggests that length is more beneficial than complexity (such as adding more special characters), but it's still wise to mix up the type of characters you use.
To encourage better password use across your small business, you can allow your employees to create their own long passwords. They should be easy for them to remember but difficult for others to guess. A company policy that requires employees to change passwords every three months is also good practice.
You can also further protect logins by enabling multifactor authentication. This requires people to present at least two identifying factors, such as a password and a code. Employees can attain the code through an authentication app or text message. Even if a password is compromised, a hacker will not be able to log-in without also obtaining the code.
7. Create Response Plans
Although prevention is better than cure, you should still have a plan in place should the worst happen.
Cybercrime, service outages, and data loss can all threaten your business, but you can mitigate the impact with a response plan. Preparing for an attack and reacting fast can help you get your business back up and running.
If you need help putting together a plan, The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has a tool for creating your own custom cybersecurity planner. This includes a section on incident response and reporting.
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