With all of the big fish in your industry — global corporations, store chains, and the like — you may wonder why a cyber criminal would target your small business.
First, a frightening fact: Nearly one in five cyber attacks are against small businesses, according to 2013 Congressional testimony. The reason? Hackers know most small business owners are not worried about an attack and therefore leave their companies exposed to easy hacking.
The really bad news is that a single attack can be devastating. A cyber intrusion typically requires more than two days to resolve and costs a small business $8,000 a year. With that kind of damage, it’s not surprising that 70 percent of small businesses go belly up within a year of a severe data loss.
Given this, I find it remarkable that only a third of small businesses are very concerned about computer security threats, according to the 2013 AT&T Small Business Data Security Poll. Clearly, this situation needs to change. So what are the best ways to thwart a cyber attack?
1. Don’t install an off-the-shelf package and then forget about it. Cyber criminals’ tactics are evolving constantly, and the makers of antivirus packages do what they can to keep pace. Keep your software updated to help protect against the newest threats.
2. Back up business information remotely. Copy your important files to third-party servers in the cloud so your data will be safe in case onsite computers are attacked. Some systems let you retain older versions of files, which can help you track projects easily.
3. Think twice before clicking on a link or attachment that looks suspicious. Teach your employees to be wary of attachments. Refresh training regularly to make sure all employees are knowledgeable. Use a web browser that delivers an alert if a website you want to visit could be insecure.
4. Choose strong passwords. We’re all asked for so many passwords, many of us fall back on using an easy one, like the name of a significant other or a bank card PIN code. This is a bad idea. Here are some ways to create passwords that really work. Teach these principles to your employees and make sure they change their passwords regularly.
5. Make sure encryption protects your entire system. Encryption should protect your server, desktops, laptops, and those little thumb drives that tend to disappear from the office. All a hacker needs is a little hole to launch a successful attack that affects the whole business.
6. Get help to do it right. If you run a small business, security may not be top of mind because there are so many other things to think about. If this is your case, choose an Internet provider that offers online tech support and can do the worrying for you.