Ultimate Cybersecurity Checklist for Small BusinessesVanessa Venugopal
Last year, when the pandemic hit, a drastic change happened. People are asked to stay at home, businesses are closing, people are losing their jobs, and the number of deaths due to Covid-19 reached hundreds of thousands in a day. However, despite the negative impact of the pandemic, online businesses and e-commerce shops thrived. Also, the so-called gig economy became in-demand.
The global retail trade of e-commerce has increased from 14% in 2019 to 17% in 2021. Also, most retail stores find a way to move their business from a brick-and-mortar to an online shop to cope with the lockdowns and limited contact.
Luckily, our digital world has made it possible for business owners to get sales and extra income amid the pandemic. But as more businesses and individuals move online or to the cloud, the number of cyber-attacks increased. In the first half of 2020, over 36 billion records were exposed due to data breaches. About 58% of the billion records involved personal data.
As we continue conducting business online, we would expect plenty of data stolen and victims of scams.
But if you wish to avoid online threats or you don’t want to end up losing your business due to data compromise, investing in the right cybersecurity tools and practices can help protect your online business.
Cybersecurity Threats Encountered by Small Online Businesses
Small businesses are often targeted because they lack online security. Most small business owners believe that their business is too small to be noticed by cybercriminals. Last year, 28% of online attacks were on small businesses.
Ransomware is an online attack that encrypts personal or organizational data by revoking the right to open or access a file or the whole device. It requires the victim to pay so they can retrieve their data. Most victims of ransomware attacks are left with no choice but to pay the ransom or let go of their data.
Small businesses are often a target of this attack since they are more likely to pay the ransom and aren’t prepared for any data loss.
Whether it’s a business or an individual, we often take for granted the use of creating secure passwords until we experience our accounts being hacked.
Small business owners experience this threat as they don’t educate their employees regarding the benefits and need of creating strong passwords. Therefore, employees create passwords that are weak and easy to guess. Furthermore, it has become a habit to use a single password on multiple accounts.
When data from a business has been accessed, it could put employees, customers, and the company at risk.
The problem with this is that most small business employees are given access to multiple accounts they don’t necessarily need. Hence, when they have no idea how to spot early signs of attackers or are negligent, they can accidentally leak the data.
A phishing attack is the number one reason for data breaches. It happens when someone pretends to be a part of the company and asks employees to click on a link. When employees click on the link and sign in, their credentials will be stolen and used by the hacker. Hence, having access to thousands or even millions of data.
Some phishing attacks are easy to recognize, but now they are becoming far more complicated. There are software programs that can detect phishing emails.
Malware can vary from trojans to viruses. Its existence can put a small business at risk by harming the employees and customers. Malware can come from multiple sources, such as files downloaded from malicious websites, spam emails, and connecting to infected devices.
Malware attacks are expensive and time-consuming. Therefore, businesses must use strong defenses against such threats.
When small businesses encounter any of these cyberattacks, various scenarios can happen, but the worst is the need to close a business due to financial loss.
But there are ways small businesses can protect their data and customers from threats. With the necessary tools and practices, they can avoid losing their data due to negligence or for any reason at all.
If you have a small business or are planning to open one, you need to invest in cybersecurity. Protecting your company’s data can save you plenty of money and time.
Here, we have sorted out a cybersecurity checklist you can use to see if you have all the necessary tools to protect your company.
Educate Employees About Cybersecurity
As mentioned, the lack of employees’ knowledge of cybersecurity is the number one reason why most businesses are at risk. Dedicating money and time to educating your employees regarding threats online can help your business in the long run.
They should learn about the telltale signs of cyberattacks, what to do, and how to avoid them.
Take time to update the employee’s manual or handbook, provide materials on the latest cybersecurity practices, and handle workshops on cybersecurity.
Furthermore, provide educational materials or tips to your customers to protect themselves from threats. Your customers’ negligence can also place your business at risk.
Routine Updates, Check-ups, and Backups
Maintaining the security of your organization is a continual process. There is a need for monthly or yearly check-ups on your equipment, cybersecurity strength, employee knowledge, data storage, and more. With regular check-ups, you can ensure that your security system is operational and that it may require an upgrade.
During routine maintenance, ensure that all software and operating systems are up to date. If it requests an update, never hit the remind me later option. Instead, you can schedule a time you need an update, or you can perform it at the moment. It is crucial to know that updating your operating system and software reduces the risk of data loss as it patches security holes from previous versions.
Avoid these weak points by setting automatic updates on all your software, network, and operating system.
Cybercriminals are experts at intercepting data transferred from one network to another. They have multiple ways to manipulate your customers by making them click on malicious ads, viewing data transferred or shared, and slowing down the speed of your site.
Here are tools you can use to keep your network connection private and safe from prying eyes all the time.
- Firewall: It’s a tool that’s built into your wireless router. It prevents internet-based attacks by blocking malicious traffic and stopping the spread of viruses into your network.
- VPN: It is a military-grade encryption technology used to protect the transfer of data from a network and provide a different IP address. Unauthorized individuals would not have access to the data. VPNs are great when you are accessing your company’s files using a public Wi-Fi connection.
Make it a Habit to Back up Data Regularly
Threats like ransomware can lock you out of your company’s data and files. Your option is to pay the ransom (without guarantee of getting it back) or lose it completely. However, you can avoid this scenario by constantly backing up your data.
When companies back up their data, they can continue business as usual as it’s easy to restore it when needed.
You can schedule regular backups, store data on the cloud, and check your data recovery process.
Create Strong Passwords
Make sure that you and your employees are creating passwords that are strong enough to keep hackers out.
It is crucial to know that a complicated password can keep your accounts and data safe.
Employers should inform their employees to avoid using personal information when making a password. Also, each account should have different passwords. If they want to keep business accounts safe, here are some tips on how to create a strong password.
- Include upper and lower cases
- Add numbers in between
- It must be more than 15 characters long.
- Add symbols
- Don’t use dictionary words
Complicated passwords are difficult to remember. However, there are tools available to store as many passwords as needed. You can easily log in to your account when using password managers.
Multi-layer Account Protection
Businesses are required to use multiple layers of protection to make sure that accounts are safe. One practice to keep business accounts safe is by implementing two-factor authentication (2FA).
With 2FA, you don’t only have to enter your password when you need to access an account. It would request a PIN, code, or biometric credentials to access your account. 2FA will inform you if someone is trying to login into your account because you’ll receive an SMS or email of the code or PIN.
Get an Antivirus Software
Some antivirus software programs are packed with tools and features that protect your business from email spams to boost your device’s performance. Some antivirus programs can secure a single device, while there are those for small businesses too. You can check our online store if you want to get the best and lowest price on security software for your business.
Most businesses provide access to their data to all of their employees, even those who don’t require them. If you want to keep your data safe, limit access to admins only. Also, grant access to software installation to admins or trusted employees.
When an employee leaves the company, remove their access to their accounts or change passwords to shared accounts to make sure they won’t access them anymore.
Evaluate Mobile Devices and Implement BYOD Policies
Using personal devices to access data is common for small businesses. It cuts down on the cost. However, when there are no policies implemented, it can be an entry point for hackers.
Take note of how many devices are used to access company data. Instruct your employees to practice safe web browsing and avoid downloading unnecessary files. You can also provide a security solution that can protect multiple devices in your company. Kaspersky Small Office is an excellent choice when you want to protect up to 25 users. Also, you can try the Kaspersky Total Security for the overall protection of different OS.
Protect Your Email
Email is the most common route of phishing attacks. They carry malicious links, and you can also accidentally send them to others. Therefore, make sure to use email providers and software that can filter spam and malicious emails.
As technology advances and security solutions are getting better, cybercriminals are smart enough to adapt to change. So, keeping updated on cybersecurity news, practices, and tools can help you implement new changes as soon as possible. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about risking your business.
With emerging threats and the pandemic, business owners should be cautious to keep their data safe to avoid slowing down or business closure. With the cybersecurity audit checklist provided, you can go ahead and take note if you have already implemented them in your company.