The internet offers businesses loads of opportunities to reach a broader customer base, connect with international suppliers and even save costs. However, the online world also makes you vulnerable to scams and security risks. These days, it seems that we’re hearing a lot about data theft, malware and ransomware. Every other day you hear about a data breach and the fines associated when businesses fail to protect their data. With incidents of cyber attacks doubling over the past 2-3 years, it is very important for businesses to protect themselves from digital security threats.

If yours is a small business you may think, why would anyone spend their time targeting you when there are so many larger companies in the market? You cannot be more mistaken. Reports suggest that almost 58% of cybercrime targets are small businesses. Why so? Simply because they are much more vulnerable with more digital assets and less infrastructure and data security expertise like that of the larger companies.

When it comes to digital threats, no company is too big or too small. If you maintain some data which is of value to you and your customers, then it is likely to be valuable to cyber criminals as well. These criminals can reach everywhere. Hackers are getting more advanced and skilled in infiltrating business networks. Today, hacking tools and scripts are easily available on the darknet giving ample opportunities to terrorists and other such criminals. They can easily access a wide range of infrastructure like servers, PCs and get to valuable data like financial records, medical records, client details and more. Criminals then can use this information as leverage for ransom or can sell it in the black market.

A single cyber attack can tarnish your business’s reputation among your customers and cause a financial burden to you and your customers. Hence businesses should take preventive measures by putting an effective cybersecurity plan in place.

First things first. As they say, identifying your enemy is the first step to an effective defence. So, what exactly is a digital threat? Any effort to disrupt business, steal data or compromise with the existing framework of systems can be called as a digital threat. Just like extreme weather is a fact of life on earth, accepting that your company’s data is at a constant risk is the reality of the digital era. Though technology has opened the doors to digital threats, it has also provided us with many tools to prevent and also recover from digital threats. Read on to find out how to get basic security for your business.

1. Invest in Anti-Malware software:

Installing an anti-malware software is the bare minimum requirement for any business. Any malware created with malicious intent can be called as malware. Ideally, you should choose software that protects against malware like viruses, data and identity theft, ransomware, spyware etc. You need to be confident that your software is capable of detecting, preventing and safely negating the threat before it makes any changes to your system. Many risks go undetected until they leave your system irreversibly damaged. Therefore, installing anti-malware software is pretty essential.

2. Secure all devices that connect to the internet:

With the rise of ‘Bring your own device’ policies in companies, the security risks faced by companies has also increased. In such cases, businesses have to create security plans for a wide range of hardware, software and operating systems. You’ll have to enforce password protection, restrict/prohibit the sharing of sensitive information over public Wi-Fi and track all equipment issued by the company.

Educate your staff to be mindful of the devices that they use for business purposes. Employees should be careful while using USB sticks or portable hard drives since they can accidentally transfer an unknown threat directly into your business system. Also, before discarding any software or equipment you need to ensure that no sensitive information is on them.

3. Install a firewall:

A firewall helps to block connections from malicious and unauthorised sources. Both Mac and Windows now offer basic built-in firewall. However, studies suggest that almost 75% of threats occur outside the firewall. Hence businesses need to be extra cautious to adopt an approach that takes into account the constant onslaught of threats from the internet.

4. Regular backup:

Taking a regular back-up of important data – from customer records, employee information, financial records etc is of utmost importance. Thus, even if you face cyber attacks, you can easily restore your data thus lessening the damage. Employing different types of backup methods is a good way to ensure the safety of your important files. You can also use Cloud services for your backup. You can get free or low-cost storage facilities through Cloud and also avail the benefits of easy file sharing and document collaboration.

Other options for backup are using external storage devices like USB or hard drives. They should be stored offsite and not left connected to the computer as then the portable devices can also be infected from cyber attacks. Keeping your backup in a separate location will help you recover your data quickly and easily.

5. Restrict and monitor access to software& hardware:

Cybersecurity does not involve just protecting your business from outside threats. Threats may originate from within the company too. According to the studies conducted by Verizon it has been found hat around 1 in 4 data breaches have originated within the company. So, you can adopt a policy of least privilege. This means, restricting the permissions to a bare minimum to get the work done. Thus the data access of each employee is reduced thereby reducing the risk of a data breach.

If your company handles sensitive data you may also restrict physical access by implementing security checks, fingerprint scanners, password-protected control panels to maintain access control.

6. Regularly update your software:

You should make it a point to regularly update every software on every device. In software updates, developers include patches to plug any hole that they may find in the security of their product. Try to avoid any delays for your software update as this makes you vulnerable for a cyber attack. Always remember, many cybercriminals exploit the flaws in the security of an operating system or software.

7. Encrypt your data:

When you encrypt your data, you translate it into another form or code so that the data cannot be read by unauthorised persons unless they have the password or key. Some programs are coded to even destroy the data if someone tries to hack your system.
There are many free and paid encryption tools available. Whatever means you choose to do it, encryption helps to protect sensitive and confidential data.

8. SSL Certificate:

If you are a website owner, you may have definitely heard of SSL certificate. It is a global standard technology that enables encrypted communication between a web browser and a server. This helps to prevent theft or tampering of sensitive information by hackers. Https or an SSL certificate will assure your website visitors that they are not on a bogus website. Google has already made it mandatory for all websites to have an SSL certificate. Also, take note to install the later versions of TLS since the earlier versions are vulnerable.

As I mentioned earlier, you should be aware of the threats that you are facing and the same holds true for your staff too. Following are some steps that you can take towards enhancing cyber security awareness:

1. Educate your employees:

You should take time to train your staff on the fundamentals of cybersecurity. This involves educating them to create strong passwords for their accounts and being aware of their responsibilities while using the internet. Employees should be able to identify signs of phishing and should be aware of the risks of using public Wi-Fi while working outside the office. These steps will help to keep your business safe.

2. Cyber security policy:

It is always better to put things such as policies down on paper irrespective of the size of your business. A formal cybersecurity policy will establish the rules and security controls regarding the usage of internet and company devices. According to recent studies, in spite of the growing threat of cyber attacks, almost 61% of small businesses do not have a formal written cybersecurity policy in place. A basic cyber security policy needs to provide guidelines regarding the following:

  1. a) How to deal with sensitive data
  2.  Password creation and storage
  3.  Appropriate use of email and internet
  4.  How to secure mobile devices used for business

3. Be informed of the latest digital threats:

You may or may not conduct online transactions. Digital threats are a real cause of concern for all businesses. It is wise to be informed about the latest scams and security risks that are threatening businesses. Once you are well-informed, you can plan for any scenario that has the potential to affect your business.

If you do not have an IT related background, all this information may be a bit overwhelming to you – and rightly so. So why not hire a digital security professional to patch up your system for you? They can conduct a threat assessment and then carry out the necessary patchwork for your business. Then you can rest easy knowing that yours and your customer’s data is secure. You’ll be able to assure your customers that your business is ready for any kind of digital threat.