Cybersecurity best practices for small businesses are a powerful set of strategies and protocols designed to shield SMBs from the relentless onslaught of cyberattacks.
A widely spread notion is that only large organizations are susceptible to data leaks, cybersecurity risks, and cyberattacks. As per Keeper Security’s 2019 SMB Cyberthreat Study, 66 percent of small- to medium-sized business leaders think that their business is not threatened by data leaks and cyberattacks.
The last couple of years were bombarded with cyberattacks. Data leaks cost millions of dollars to huge companies such as WhatsApp, Visual Studio (Microsoft), and U.S. Customs and Border Protection in 2019.
But small businesses also suffer at the hands of hackers, and this often gets overlooked. According to Verizon, 43 percent of cyberattacks were targeted at small businesses.
But even then, many small organizations do not take the required safety measures regarding cybersecurity. Apart from putting it on the back burner and lack of resources, SMBs pay dearly when they are hit by any attack. Data leaks cost a lot. And no matter what the cost, such attacks could lead to devastating results.
Last year, Hiscox reported that data attacks cost businesses $200,000 on average, irrespective of their size. For a multimillion-dollar company, that is not a big amount, but it could be a hefty below for a small business that does not have a backup plan to recover from such a financial loss.
Cybersecurity best practices for small businesses
Here are some of the high-level cybersecurity best practices for small businesses:
1. Take a proactive approach
First of all, small businesses have to make sure that a robust network security policy is in place. They must implement the necessary security measures from external access points. Adapting basic security practices such as VPN could prove to be quite effective when you have to share files online.
Taking cues from industry experts, such as GuidePoint’s comprehensive security services, can be invaluable. Adapting the basic preventive measures and implementing industry guidelines like NIST could shape your security policy.
2. Encrypting sensitive data files
Small businesses should encrypt files that contain valuable or sensitive information. These files may contain personally identifiable information, medically sensitive, or legal data that, in the wrong hands, could cause massive damage.
Encryption ensures that only authorized personnel can access this data and other information related to business. This helps with the control and management of business data while protecting your files in case someone tries to infiltrate your business.
3. Security of internal systems
To reduce the possibility of an attack, small businesses have to ensure that their internal IT systems are secured, and the team is dedicated to the task of keeping the business data safe.
You could either benefit from an in-house IT team or hire a service provider. Both have their pros and cons.
An in-house team lets you have tighter cost control as the pay of the workers remains the same, and they are familiar with the business operations and systems. They can respond promptly. But since there is a shortage of cybersecurity professionals in the US and Europe, the salaries are higher.
On the other hand, outsourcing these tasks could be cost-effective, and you have 24/7 support from highly skilled IT professionals.
4. Educate your workforce
90 to 95 percent of successful cyber attacks that occurred were caused by a phishing scam according to Email Security Report. Employees can be at risk if the systems are unable to filter phishing emails. Human errors also are a leading cause.
You must educate your staff so that they can correctly identify a phishing email from a genuine one. Teach your staff about malware, ransomware, spam, social engineering, and other threats.
As these techniques keep evolving, you should ensure that you train the staff accordingly. As hackers are getting better, your training should take that into account.
You must train all employees regarding the right steps to take to prevent data leaks or cyberattacks. This should be done at all levels so that individuals understand what action to take.
Verizon’s annual Data Breach Investigation Report (DBIR) found that C-level executives are at increased risk of becoming a target. In most cases, hackers get access to the email addresses and names of higher-level or higher-management employees, such as directors or the owners of the business.
This makes higher management an easy target for social engineering scams. Since they also have to make important decisions for the business, they don’t need approval from others to do something or take an action that might put the company’s cybersecurity at risk unknowingly.
5. Monitor employee digital activities
This is inevitable. More often than not, data leaks are an inside job. Someone from within an organization could be working as a mole and leaking important information to the rivals. You must ensure transparency in your company.
As it has become a norm to provide employees with phones, you can install employee monitoring software or apps on them to stay on top of their digital activities.
It is a legal practice. And when companies provide their staff with devices or equipment, it is a given that your activities are going to be monitored. Many companies provide employees with smartphones to carry out routine tasks quickly and efficiently.
If your company also follows the practice, invest in an efficient employee monitoring app such as Xnspy. The app monitors text messages, calls, multimedia, emails, locations, and web browsing history. This way, you can ensure that employees are following protocols and acting safely and responsibly.
Also, you get to see what they do during work hours and measure their productivity. The app records data in real time, and you can block sites or apps you think are distracting or inappropriate.
At the same time, you can get proof if you think that a certain employee is acting suspiciously or you are doubtful of their loyalty. The app works with both Android and iPhone.
See that you mention your monitoring policies at the time of hiring or get it in writing in the appointment letter so that there is no ambiguity left.
Cellphone monitoring has proven to be quite successful in catching disloyal employees who could be involved in unethical or suspicious activities that could harm the business or its reputation.
Installing Xnspy could save you a bunch that you otherwise would have to spend on surveillance cameras and other cybersecurity tracking tools. The app is an all-rounder and caters to all aspects of corporate employee monitoring.
6. Cybersecurity screening and management
Another easy yet effective tip is having a strong password management policy. This could bring excellent outcomes as most breaches are caused due to stolen or weak passwords, reports Keeper Security’s 2019 SMB Cyberthreat Study.
Companies need to take serious steps regarding this by focusing on strong and secure passwords. Companies should password-protect all company-owned devices to lessen the risk of potential attacks.
Businesses rely on plenty of devices nowadays for routine tasks such as tablets, smartphones, and laptops. If the devices are not protected, connected to unsecured Wi-Fi networks, or left unattended could pose a massive risk to the company systems.
Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are not immune to cyberattacks, despite common misconceptions. In fact, 43 percent of cyberattacks target SMBs. Cybersecurity is vital for SMBs. Here are some best cybersecurity practices for small businesses:
- Establish a robust network security policy and follow industry guidelines.
- Encrypt sensitive data to protect it from unauthorized access.
- Secure internal IT systems through in-house teams or outsourcing.
- Educate employees to identify phishing scams and evolving threats.
- Monitor employee digital activities legally to prevent insider threats.
- Implement strong password management policies to protect against breaches.
Doing the above-mentioned cybersecurity best practices could prevent small businesses from losing their valuable company data.
I am Andrew Carroll an avid blogger and tech freak.