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5 Tips and Tricks to Boost Small Business Security

Ryan Ayers
Ryan Ayers

Keep your small business safe from hackers using these cybersecurity tips.

Small businesses often fall into the trap of lax security, both online and in person. However, it's essential for small business owners to consider how they can navigate the world of digital security risks and dangers. 

Many small business owners think they're safe from hackers. After all, why would a hacker take the time to go after a small business, when they could go after a company with millions of dollars? In reality, however, the ordinarily-lax data security policies of small businesses make them low-hanging fruit for skilled hackers.

Even if you follow basic practices – such as making sure that everyone changes their passwords regularly, keeping your software updated and priming workers on how phishing attacks work – there are a few other things that you can do to protect your business.

What's at stake for small business owners?

On average, cyberattacks cost small businesses over $50,000 per event, according to a study published by Continuum technology consulting. The losses for large organizations are much more.

In the Continuum survey, business owners who employ 10 to 49 employees revealed that network breaches cost them, on average, more than $40,000 for each incident. Companies with 50 to 249 employees reported losses close to $50,000 per occurrence, and business owners who employed 250 to 1,000 people reported average losses close to $65,000 for each incident.

Here are five tips and tricks that you can use to boost your small business's cybersecurity.

1. Take advantage of cloud security.

By keeping your data on a local server, you can ensure redundancy and maintain full control over your information. Also, you'll have complete control over the security features of your network. However, cybersecurity is a full-time job.

By leveraging cloud services, you can take advantage of built-in security protections. Moreover, cloud service providers are specifically in the business of securing and protecting client data. A reputable company will keep your data safe by ensuring redundancy and complying with the latest cybersecurity best practices.

2. Identify core employees and nurture their growth.

Business owners typically take on more than their share of responsibility. For several reasons, however, it's essential to focus on growing your organization and delegate other tasks to employees.

By delegating responsibilities, you provide employees with opportunities to advance their career. Also, you'll increase employee satisfaction and loyalty. That sentiment compels them to remain mindful of helping to protect the data of the company they've worked so hard to help grow.

3. Don't take paper for granted.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that hackers can't use hardcopy documents to compromise your information. Malicious actors don't need computers to steal your proprietary data. They'll use any method available to access your sensitive information so that they can sell it or use it to create a false identity.

Paper documents that contain sensitive company information are one of the easiest attack vectors for hackers to exploit. There is no data security, just your company information printed on a piece of paper.

Hardcopy security is vital in your offices, as well as at your exterior disposal sites. Accordingly, you should establish policies for making sure employees dispose of sensitive printed information properly.

4. Hire a hacker.

According to the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), 117 cyber-related incidents targeted U.S. businesses and other entities in 2018 – representing more incidents than any other country in the world. If it's in the budget, hire an ethical hacker to protect your company data.

Ethical hackers use the same techniques as malicious actors to protect your company information. They also use special network penetration tools to discover and repair network vulnerabilities. Many business owners employ these professionals to improve their companies' cybersecurity.

5. Know what BYOD means for your business.

BYOD stands for "bring your own device." Today, the practice is prevalent among companies of all sizes.

BYOD practices allow employees to enjoy the convenience of using familiar devices to help with their work, and employers save money on buying expensive technology. However, those savings come with added risks.

Unsecured BYOD devices are easy targets for hackers to compromise. Once they've accessed an employee's personal device, malicious actors may use that device to access a company network. Accordingly, business owners should establish policies regarding BYOD security.

Watch out for frequently overlooked vulnerabilities.

If you think about it, simple office equipment such as your copier, printer and fax machines are also computers. Just as you would protect a computer terminal or mobile device, you must protect your office equipment.

Malicious actors look for any vulnerability. Accordingly, you must secure all your electronic office equipment. Make sure that you've enabled encryption and data overwriting on these essential devices. You should use any security features available for this kind of equipment.

Use password protection and change the password frequently. If you dispose of office equipment, make sure to erase any memory on the devices.

Also, don't assume that your merchant account vendor appropriately manages all your security for your point-of-sale system (POS). Make sure to use strong passwords for your POS accounts.

Additionally, set up a separate administrative account for yourself and user accounts for your staff members. Just like any other computer, use antivirus software and make sure to update the software for your POS terminal regularly.

Get help if you need it. 

Many small businesses can't afford to hire a full-time white-hat hacker, and that's fine. Instead, you can hire a cybersecurity consultant as needed.

A managed IT services provider (MSP) can help you protect your business from malicious cyber activity. An MSP can provide several proactive security services, such as these:

  • 24/7 monitoring
  • Data backup
  • Data encryption
  • Employee cybersecurity training
  • Firewall protection
  • Network protection
  • Real-time threat identification
  • Threat elimination

In addition to finding and repairing weak spots in your company's IT infrastructure, an MSP will help you optimize your network resources.

By partnering with a managed IT services provider, you can ensure optimal network performance and business continuity. Furthermore, your MSP can reduce network downtime, protect the data that is critical for ongoing, sustainable operation and help you plan and implement an information disaster recovery strategy.

As a small business owner, you may not need or have the budget for a full-time IT professional. An MSP may serve as a solution to providing the right level of service for your small business, allowing you to take advantage of all the benefits and knowledge of a full-time IT department, without paying a full-time salary. Your agreement with the MSP should equate to a dedicated IT team.

Small business cybersecurity matters.

Data security is one of the most challenging responsibilities for small business owners. Many entrepreneurs seek the help of experienced professionals to help with cybersecurity. However, it's not a top priority for far too many small businesses in America.

New cybersecurity threats emerge every day. However, a little bit of learning can go a long way toward helping small business owners keep their enterprises safe from online criminal activity. By understanding the threats of the digital domain, businesses are better prepared to manage cybersecurity issues.

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Ryan Ayers
Ryan Ayers Member
Ryan Ayers has consulted a number of Fortune 500 companies within multiple industries including information technology and big data. After earning his MBA in 2010, Ayers also began working with start-up companies and aspiring entrepreneurs with a keen focus on sustainable scaling, professional development and business growth.