Imagine receiving a letter from your doctor’s office saying your personal information had been compromised. You might feel nervous, not to mention a little less trusting. This came to mind as I read about a recent data breach affecting as many as 90,000 patient records. The culprit? An employee opened a malicious email attachment, which allowed patient names, Social Security numbers, and other data to be stolen from the computer.

A malware attack or other cyber threats can put a company’s information at risk. Yet for medical practices, financial services firms, and other businesses with sensitive client and patient data, the stakes are especially high. Securing that information can be particularly challenging for small firms with limited IT resources.

Here are three examples of how businesses can help stay protected. The examples are fictitious, though the problems and solutions are real.

Medical practice: Keep cyber threats at bay

The owners of a small medical practice know a data breach could cripple their business. Not only would a large breach ruin their bottom line, but it could destroy their reputation, too. Given the day-to-day demands of running the practice, working with a remote tech support service would help safeguard data with minimal disruption. Specifically, the service could help:

  • Strengthen anti-virus and malware protection. Technicians could scan computers over a secure Internet connection to detect and remove viruses and malware—prime entry points for hackers. The technicians could also review anti-virus and anti-malware applications so they are working optimally.
  • Back up data securely. Remote support services may include secure online backup, which can help keep files safe and accessible in the event of a hardware crash or outage. Since backup is automatic and continuous, employees don’t have to do anything.
Government consulting firm: Safeguard communications

A tech consultancy that works with government agencies needs a secure email channel. Leaked information could jeopardize projects and client relationships. A network-based firewall service would help protect communications while freeing staff from configuring firewalls onsite. Using the service, the tech firm could:

  • Secure email messages. Network-based firewall services inspect inbound and outbound traffic and take action according to users’ security policies. This would help prevent sensitive data from leaving the firm’s network and block harmful traffic, such as links to phishing websites within emails. The services could also extend firewall protection for remote employees, since there is no hardware or software to install.
  • Prevent malware intrusion. Advanced intrusion detection features within the service could help protect users from cyber threats. The firm’s managers could also configure the service to block access to specified websites, which minimizes the threat of malware intrusion.
Brokerage firm: Protect client access

The head of a small brokerage firm is concerned about the rise of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks targeting small businesses. She knows these attacks — in which hackers take down websites by flooding them with virus-infected computers — could damage client trust and discourage new business. To help ward off this threat, she could use an Internet security alert service to:

  • Intercept potential threats. Security alert services work by examining Web traffic for viruses and other threats. If abnormalities are detected, the owner would be notified of what actions to take.
  • Reroute harmful traffic. The service could help deter a DDoS attack by directing malicious traffic away from users’ networks. Valid traffic would be allowed to pass through so business can continue as normal.
What have you done to protect your business against cyber threats? Please share your tips.