The Growing Cyber Security Risks for Small Businesses and How to Counter Them

CyberInteractivity and interdependence of devices are increasing with time as the concept of IoT (internet of things) strengthens with time. While IoT pursues maximum convenience for individuals and businesses, it has its associated challenges too. The more intertwined the modern devices become, the higher the risk of cyber security threats will be. Small, medium or large, your exposure to serious internet threats does not depend on the size of your business. If you are a small business, you are exposed to just as many dangers as large enterprises. In fact, the downside for small businesses is that they are not as prepared as large businesses against cyber threats.

So, how are cybersecurity risks are increasing with time and what kind of risks facing small businesses today? Take a look at the many ways cyber threats pose a danger to small businesses.

The Ever-increasing Count of Cyber Security Risks

The BYOD Issue

BYOD (bring your device) is an attribute of IT consumerization. To stay productive and efficient at the same time, more and more companies are allowing their employees to use their own devices to access and use corporate data. An example of this would be a worker using his tablet to open company’s employee-related document repository or an employee accessing work emails from his smartphone. Unless you have strict policies and standards set for your BYOD implementation, your business could be at risk of being infected by malware coming from users’ devices.

Software Update Delays

Do you ever wonder why companies are so adamant at making their users update to the newest software version? This is because of the older versions of the same software, application, plugin, etc. are open to risks of cyber attacks. With small businesses relying on various applications, web applications and plugins for smooth website operations, database works, on-premise security, etc. they have to be extra careful at updating them all. Any non-updated software or application is an open window for internet thieves to jump into your system.

Internal Threats

You have to be extra careful when authorizing access to any of your employees to your network and database. Many of the attacks on big companies in the past have been allegedly perpetrated by “inside men.” Sometimes the threats from your employees are not intentional but rather innocent. The authorized person might have access their account and forgot to log out while leaving the station. Some third person can then take advantage of the situation and cause damage to the system.

Sophisticated Phishing Scams

This is a common issue with small businesses as they don’t have strict protocols for employees to follow before opening emails or social media links. While phishing scam has been around for a time, the new form of this scam is called spear phishing. In this type of attack, the scammer sends email from an address that appears to the receiver as known and acquainted. This fools the person into clicking on the link and letting a dangerous malware (a ransomware at worst) enter the system.

Lack of Cyber Security Knowledge

Sometimes, the problem is not being prepared to face a problem. This is a common case with many small businesses where owners and caretakers are under the impressions that cybercriminals won’t attack them—why would they? They don’t realize the top aspect of cybercriminals, i.e., they don’t believe in discrimination. One of the common indicators of lack of cybersecurity knowledge at a workplace is when employees choose common, easy and predictable passwords for their entry points to the company’s system.

What Small Businesses Have to Do to Counter These Threats

Set Policies with a BYOD Approach

If you want to follow a BYOD approach at your workplace, you better document policies and regulations about it. Make your employees read these manuals carefully, so they know what standards and requirements they have to meet before they bring their own devices into the office. For employees that have to access your system from remote locations, set up a secure VPN.

Gives Employees Cyber Security Training

They won’t know unless you tell them, so make cybersecurity-related training a part of your hiring process. In fact, make internet security related questions a part of your interviews. Tell your employees to log out of their accounts and computers while leaving stations. Ask them to have strong passwords. Facilitate them with applications to not only remember those passwords but also generate random and difficult passwords. Explain to them why such measures matter and what the consequences of not complying with the regulations can be.

Take Professional IT Help

Go for outsourced managed services or hire your own IT professionals to take care of the security-related issues. An outsourced service or the internal IT team will set up a complete system consisting of policies, hardware and software technologies to not only protect your database from cyber threats but also respond in time if you get attacked nonetheless.

Give Authorized Accesses Wisely and Monitor Them

You can give access to sensitive company information and the system to only a select few employees. When you give them access to the system, grant them only the permissions according to their roles. Secondly, have a monitoring system to keep an eye on the activities of these employees. Furthermore, delete the accounts or change the passwords of accounts that are no longer in use because the employees they were created for have left the company.

Choose Third Party Services Wisely

Have proper meetings and consultations before you subscribe to any third party services. To run a business in today’s digital age, you have to subscribe to many platforms or applications as services, e.g., cloud CRM. You want to be sure that you are picking an industry-recognized and reliable partner. They must have the right security measures taken to protect not only their system but every bit of information that goes on their cloud platform from your databases.

Do not forget the security of your website among all this. In addition to your databases, internal software, applications used by employees, etc. you want to update your website plugins and applications in time too.

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4 Ways to Protect Your System from Malware

malwareFor a business, the benefits of going digital are immense and hard to miss out on, especially if it intends to surpass competitors. However, every business is susceptible to a few drawbacks that come with going digital, like ransomware and malware. Within the last decade, the number and risk of cyber-attacks have grown significantly.

This means that businesses need to improve their countermeasure strategy to prevent huge losses and high-risk security breaches. An attack from malware can disrupt daily operations, damage your hardware, and gain access to confidential data, putting business plans and customer security at risk. Well-renowned companies like Uber, Yahoo, and Twitter have been on the receiving end of malware, which means bad news for small businesses and companies.

Here’s how you can protect your Business Systems from Malware

Although there’s no way to avoid malware attacks completely, you can always take preventative measures that significantly reduce the risk. By implementing a well-planned strategy, you’ll be able to avoid future attacks and boost your company’s reputation.

Tread with Caution

For starters, you and your employees need to act with caution, which comes first before implementing any anti-malware software. If you’re careful about what emails you open and what websites you visit, the risk of falling victim to a malware attack becomes much larger.

Hence, the best way to avoid malware from spreading through your system is not to open emails or attachments that come from people and senders that you can’t recognize or haven’t added. Usually, hackers spread malware through a system by sending a zip file or PDF with malicious intent. They choose such files because computer users click on them unknowingly and don’t realize the mistake they’ve made until long after.

That’s why, make sure that your employees only open attachments that they’re expecting, and anything else should go to the junk folder.

Enforce Adequate Security Measures

You’ll need to bring in experts to equip your systems with top-notch security to prevent a potential attack. They’ll be able to analyze your system’s current security and evaluate whether there were any phishing attempts to eliminate the risk before it affects the computers.

They can put a firewall in place to regulate the kind of traffic that goes through your business’s network. Based on the security you’d prefer, this firewall can come equipped with an anti-malware feature that eliminates the threat and blocks malicious bugs from affecting your system.

However, some users can make the mistake of turning off the firewall which increases the risk of cyber attacks immediately. For this reason, remember to keep the firewall activated to receive news about incoming threats in real-time.

While you’ve called in a cybersecurity expert, make sure to improve the system browser’s privacy settings. This boosts computer security at a basic level and helps employees understand the effect of a single bug.

Keep Your firewall Strong, and Your passwords Stronger

Let’s not forget the importance of a strong password. Nowadays, it’s becoming effortless for hackers to guess a password right by entering strings of different combinations of letters and numbers. So, this makes it essential that employees regularly change the passwords for the email address accounts.

With each combination, a hacker grows closer to guessing your password correctly, so shortening the timeframe between your next password change can greatly reduce the risk. For a strong password, use a combination of different letters, numbers, and symbols. Don’t use your birthday, maiden name, or the name of a celebrity.

Have Backup on Standby

No matter how well you defend yourself, there’s always a chance that harmful malware can make its way into your system and breach your security protocol. In these cases, the worst-case scenario is that you’ll lose complete access to critical data and confidential customer information.

The only way to avoid losing critical data is to rely on a remote server that regularly updates itself with newly added data. It should work to create many backups based on your system multiple times throughout the day.

Not to mention, your backup data should hide in such a way that it can be re-accessed easily during an emergency. An efficient backup and recovery solution can mitigate the effects of a data breach or failure by recreating virtual servers and restoring data in a limited time to allow as minimum disruptions as possible. However, it would be best if you remembered how a local backup, as long as it’s connected to a computer, is also susceptible to malware, rendering it useless.

Assess Your Security Measures through a Professional IT Expert

It’s not enough to employ a firewall and expect your business’ system to be immune to malware attacks. To stay ahead of cybersecurity breaches, you should be consistent in upgrading your firewalls, anti-virus software, and detection applications. These applications go through updates quickly and often, making it crucial that you consistently improve your security approach with refined measures.

Each day, the requirements for robust cybersecurity change, and it’s impossible to keep up with them if you want to run a business. This calls for a professional’s work because even if it regards online security, you’ll have to make the biggest decisions. Calling in a professional IT expert can greatly benefit your business; you’ll be able to make well-informed security decisions, and they’ll give you better advice as to what you need to change.

As technology becomes more powerful, cyber-attacks become even more vicious and discreet. Now, hackers can use malicious files to breach into a system quietly and leave with important data. Although this takes a lot of preparation, the execution takes only a couple of hours. Yet, for a business, the disastrous aftermath of a breach lasts for years. Therefore, you must hire the right IT experts and employ high-performance firewall applications and security measures to avoid losing data.

 

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5 Steps to Create a Good Back Up

Back upThere is no denying that back up or securing your company’s data is of paramount importance. Whether it is a client’s files, project details or any important communication, everything needs to be securely saved in a digital format. Losing important data can have ethical ramifications and it can be professionally catastrophic.

That is to say, cyber security must not be taken lightly. No matter whether it is your family picture or any other important document, data protection is important. Many of us consider downloading anti-virus software enough when it comes to protecting valuable files.

However, this software can easily be hacked as soon as hacker gets access to it. That means finding other solutions that help you recover your valuable data is crucial.

That is where you need to implement a backup strategy in order to prevent data loss permanently. Whether you are analyzing your existing backup plan or implementing it for the first time, here we have included five important steps to help you create an effective backup plan.

Before we get into the details of creating back up data, it is essential to understand why it is vital.

Why You Should Have a Backup Strategy?

If you are a startup, you need to understand that your business reputation is one of the most important aspects to strengthen your relationship with your customers. Losing a customer’s personal data may raise questions on your credibility.

According to a recent survey conducted in 2017, an average data breach costs around seven million dollars. This is a significant impact that very few companies can afford. Another survey estimated that approximately 60% of firms that lose data due to any reason close within five months.

Not to ignore, companies are at risk of losing valuable data permanently. Malware and viruses can destroy it and are some of the most dominant threats to data security. However, 60% IT professionals consider that careless employees are a significant risk to personal or professional data.

There is no doubt that these risks can bring financial instability to your company. Without a proper backup system, both your company’s reputation as well other assets are at stake.

Steps to Create Backup

1. Assess the Backup Needs of Your Company

Assessing the backup needs of your company is the first step. You need to consider several things. Here we have broken it into three important points.

What Company Data needs Protection?

To answer this question precisely, everything needs to be protected. Losing even minor data files permanently can be of high risk. To put it simply, all of your data is crucial to keep everything operational.

Consider these questions for both long and short-term benefits.

  • Do you need to restore data?
  • Do you need an ability to recover data?
  • Do you need uninterrupted services to be available to your clients?
  • Do you need to implement back up strategy for your operating system, databases, configuration, and applications?

All these questions will help you make a comprehensive data backup strategy. Plus, considering these points before devising a backup strategy will set a clear direction for the right backup solution.

What Data Risks you have?

Considering your data risks is vital to prevent the risks of cyber crime. You need some of the best back up strategies to protect data from professional hackers.

Here are some important considerations:

  • Have your systems been hacked in the past?
  • Are your careless employees the reason for poor security?
  • Is your location safe in terms of weather-related damage?
  • Can your clients also access the company’s data from anywhere?

These questions can be really helpful to identify risks that your data faces.

2. Evaluate Best Backup Strategy Options

Once you have determined the backup needs for your business, you need to evaluate various backup strategy options you have. Here are some backup options you can choose according to your setup and needs.

Software Solution

You may buy software backup that can be less pricey than investing in hardware backup.  You can easily install them on your systems using a separate server for them. Installing software backup may be an ideal option if your business infrastructure is dynamic.

Cloud Services

It is an offsite backup facility that allows users to run their backups and stores them in the vendors’ cloud infrastructure. It is secure and affordable, but often not suitable for companies that have sensitive data and/or are subject to various regulatory requirements.

Hybrid Solutions

One of the popular and advanced options is implementing a hybrid backup solution. It is a combination of cloud backups that comes with multiple data restoring options. Not only does it provide you with on-site backup, but you can also recover data from the cloud network.

3. Budgeting

Creating a budget for your backup solution is the third step in your plan. You need to review all your options with their cost in order to choose what suits your infrastructure best. Cloud-based back-ups are more affordable in terms of capital expenditure for most startups. Make sure you estimate the cost of:

  • Data lost due to a disaster or data breach
  • To  train staff to manage backup

4. Implement

You have reviewed both your backup solution options and their cost, and now it is time to implement your chosen option. Make sure that your infrastructure has technology expertise both in hardware and software installation.

No matter what backup option you choose, they need to be properly configured. Plus, proper backup is pivotal to maintaining a stable, healthy and ethical practice. That is why they need to be implemented appropriately.

5. Test and Review

To avoid catastrophic data loss and minimize the risk of inadequate data recovery, testing your backup solution is essential. There may be serious flaws in your implemented backup strategy. It is always better to test your backup solution routinely before completely relying on it.

Simulate some real scenarios to protect major data loss just by deleting a single file.

At the same time, keep reviewing your backup strategy as technology is advancing at a rapid pace. Timely reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of your plan will allow you to adjust your backup strategy for the better.

Final Thoughts

Overall, implementing the most effective backup strategies is undeniably the safest option to protect your crucial data.

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