Protecting Your Business from Cyber Threats
Risk management is a key component in any successful business plan. In today's world--where data breaches are common occurrences--it's especially important for business owners to understand the digital risks they face. Are you doing all you can to mitigate the risk of a cyber attack?
Understanding the risks
Many small-business owners may think their organizations hold little appeal to hackers due to their small size and limited scope. However, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA), this naivete may actually make them ideal targets. Small businesses are keepers of employee and customer data, financial account information, and intellectual property. Their systems, if not adequately protected, may also inadvertently provide access to larger supplier networks. "Given their role in the nation's supply chain and economy, combined with fewer resources than their larger counterparts to secure their information, systems, and networks, small employers are an attractive target for cybercriminals," reports the SBA on its cybersecurity website.
Consider the following tips compiled from information supplied by the SBA, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
1. Assess: To protect your organization, you must first understand your vulnerabilities. How are your systems protected? Do you collect and store personal information of customers and employees, such as credit-card information, Social Security numbers, and birth dates? If so, how is this information stored and who may access it? Do you have a Wi-Fi accessible to employees and customers? How do your vendors and other third-party service providers protect their information? It may help to engage a professional to help identify your risks.
2. Protect: Ensure you have firewall and encryption technology protecting your Internet connections and Wi-Fi networks. Make sure your business's computers have antivirus and antispyware software installed and updated automatically. Require employees and others who access your systems to use complex passwords that are changed regularly. Keep only personal data that you actually need and dispose of it securely as soon as it no longer serves a business purpose. Back up critical information and data on a regular basis, and store the backups securely offsite. Assign individual user accounts to employees and permit access to software and systems only as needed. Be especially cautious with laptops and company-assigned smartphones. Question third-party vendors to ensure that their security practices comply with your standards.
3. Document: Establish clear security policies and procedures and put them in writing. Cover such topics as handling sensitive or personal information, appropriate use of Internet and social media, and reporting vulnerabilities. Clearly spell out consequences for failing to follow the policies.
4. Educate: Develop a mandatory employee training program on the importance of cybersecurity. Explain the basics of personal information, as well as what is and isn't acceptable to post on social media. Employees could unknowingly release information that could be used by competitors or, worse, by criminals. Ensure that employees understand the risks associated with phishing emails, as well as "social engineering"--manipulative tactics criminals use to trick employees into divulging confidential information.
For more information
Business owners who want to learn more can find a wealth of helpful information online. In addition to visiting the SBA's cybersecurity website, business owners might want to review "Protecting Personal Information: A Guide for Business" and "Start with Security: A Guide for Business," both available on the FTC's website.