How to Improve Cybersecurity for Businesses: What You Need to Know

Cybersecurity | September 8, 2022

One attack is all it takes, but many businesses don’t seem too concerned. Believe it or not, only 5% of businesses consider cybersecurity to be the biggest threat to their business right now. That is a staggering miscalculation if we’ve ever heard one!

Well, while others walk around with their ticking time bombs, you can spend your time more productively getting prepared. Let’s talk about some simple ways to improve cybersecurity for businesses!

Why Is Cybersecurity So Important?

Cybersecurity is important for everyone, but small and medium-sized businesses need it the most. They are the favorite target for attacks. If you want to know why just think about it from an attacker’s perspective.

Attacking your elderly neighbor may be easy, but the payoff is unlikely to be high. This would be taking a risk without a guaranteed payout. On the other hand, a successful attack against Apple or Google would have an enormous payout, but the chances of success are quite slim.

This puts smaller businesses in the sweet spot for attackers. They typically have enough cash or valuable assets to make it worth their time and they often lack the security necessary to stop the attack.

For this reason, cybersecurity is critical for small businesses, and it’s important to maintain the same standards throughout all of your business practices. Let’s talk about what’s at stake when it comes to cybersecurity.

Protecting Customer Data

Can you think of a worse PR nightmare than telling all of your customers that their data has been breached? We’ve all seen stocks tank, companies go out of business, and reputations destroyed over this. If you process credit cards, maintain member records, or carry any other sensitive data, then this is quite possible.

One attack could compromise thousands, if not millions, of customers’ data. We saw this with the Equifax breach, as well as many others. One attack can easily destroy countless lives, as well as your business.

Preventing Large Payouts

Especially during a ransomware attack, you could find yourself in a position where you have to pay a large sum. On top of that, if you have to remain compliant with certain data protection laws like HIPAA, you could also be subject to fines.

These payouts are no small feat, either. The average payout is over $200,000, and one attack puts up to 60% of companies out of business within 6 months. If attackers know you have access to more, they’re likely to ask for it.

Once they’re in, there’s not a lot you can do about it. Most victims of ransomware attacks have to pay. For most businesses, your data is your entire business, so losing it is even worse than the alternative of paying out whatever they charge.

Common Cyber Threats For Small Businesses

Now that you know what you’re facing let’s talk specifics. These are the most common types of cyber threats you face as a business owner.

Social Engineering Scams

The most common type of social engineering scam is “phishing”, which you’ve probably heard of. However, there are many other types of social engineering attacks. If you’ve never heard the term, social engineering is using psychological manipulation to gain access to a network, file, or other “prize.”

For example, we all know not to send $10,000 to the “Nigerian prince” who is stuck in the Caribbean for some reason. While these classics still exist, these types of scams have evolved immensely in recent years.

While you may think you’re great at spotting these scams, you never know. Some of them can appear as if you’re receiving an email from a coworker. With the rise of deep-fake technology, some are becoming impossible to spot.

Network Infiltration

Weak firewalls, passwords, and other security measures open doors for attackers to infiltrate your network. Once in, there’s very little you can do to stop them. Securing your network is your only defense from these types of breaches.

Password Attacks

We know that it’s annoying to make your password so complicated, but it really is necessary. A compromised password is what led to the Colonial Pipeline breach that nearly shut down the global economy last year. It could happen to any business, big or small.

Ransomware

Ransomware is a specific type of malware that infects your network and locks it. The attacker will then give you instructions on how to pay a particular amount of ransom to unlock your network. Typically, they will do their homework and set a high amount for your company to pay.

In most cases, business owners won’t have a choice, and there’s no collectivist fund to cover these costs. Once in, you will most likely have to pay out of pocket to unlock your data.

Other Malware

There are plenty of other types of malware that can do a lot of damage to your business. Also, there are thousands of potential doors for malware to enter your computer. Some of these are even industry-specific.

For example, watering hole attacks are social engineering attacks that take place in an online portal or “watering hole.” Most businesses have online forums, chatrooms, or websites they regularly visit. In this case, an attacker may attach a piece of malware to this website that infects your network.

Of course, this is only one example, but it is becoming more common. There are countless ways for malware to enter your system. The longer it stays, the more damage it does.

How to Improve Cybersecurity for Businesses

Now that you know some of the most common threats to watch out for, it’s time to talk about how to prevent them. Here are some of the most important tips for protecting business data!

Educate Your Staff

Reading this article is a great step in the right direction. It shows that you care about protecting your data. However, if you do enough research to call yourself a cybersecurity expert, it will all be useless if your employees aren’t on the same page.

It’s critical to ensure that everybody with access to your network and data can keep it safe. This means you will have to educate your staff on the cybersecurity standards you expect in your company.

Also, education is the only way to prevent phishing scams and other social engineering attacks. These are becoming harder to detect by the minute, so teaching staff the red flags to look for is crucial. If employees learn to follow up with their cohort when a message seems “phishy,” then the risk of these attacks is greatly reduced.

Employees should also know exactly where and how to report these attempted attacks. There should be protocols for internal reports as well as the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Develop the Right Policies

Because your staff plays such a central role, it’s important to have the right policies in place. These policies and procedures should include:

  • Password standards
  • How often to change passwords (60 to 90 days, ideally)
  • What information can be shared and with whom
  • Which systems to use for which protocols (file sharing, storage, etc.)
  • Where to report suspicious activity
  • Which devices can be used on which networks

The list goes on. Even these simple changes will go a long way toward improving the security of your business’s sensitive data, but there’s still plenty more you can do. Get a professional consultation if you want to figure out the right policies and procedures for your business.

Two-Factor Authentication

While this isn’t available for everything, it’s becoming more widely available for all types of software. When transporting or storing secured data, using a two-factor authentication process is always the best practice.

You’ve likely seen these before. They require a combination of PINs, passwords, biometrics, email/SMS verification, or more. These are very difficult to fake as an attacker.

Ensure that staff knows never to share codes sent to them during these processes. Often, phishing scams will try to send a Google verification code or something similar once they have their phone number or email address. Never share verification codes with anyone!

Use Secure File Sharing and Storage

Why does it cost thousands of dollars per minute to transport the President? Because they’re the least secure while in transport. The same logic applies to your data.

Sending to the wrong email address, having data intercepted, and having weak security between the sender and recipient can all lead to breaches. That’s why it’s important to have a secure file-sharing infrastructure and protocols.

Encryption is the only way to secure files during transport and storage. From there, strong passwords and two-factor authentication will go a long way.

Also, storing data on hard drives or other old-school technology leaves you open to physical theft and other attacks. Using secured cloud storage is by far the best solution. This will require a two-factor authentication that will stop most attackers in their tracks.

Not only that, but safe cloud storage will allow you and your employees to easily access data wherever. This makes safe cloud storage perfect for remote or hybrid workers.

Secure Your Network (Especially Remotely)

Network security is essential for cybersecurity. However, when you have remote workers, there are unique challenges to securing your network. For example, some employees may use an unsecured network at a coffee shop or not have a password on their home WiFi.

In that case, there are too many moving parts for a manager to handle every staff member individually. Instead, use a secure virtual private network (VPN) and insist that staff remain on it when handling company data. This way, you can easily monitor and control the security of your network, no matter where your employees are.

Also, do not allow unsecured devices into your secured network. This opens a door for potential attacks. Offering a “guest” or “personal” WiFi to your network can help staff who want to use their unsecured phones or devices.

Running Anti-Malware Software

Anti-malware software is your best defense against different types of malware that may infect your system. These scans should be run every week at the minimum, and you can set them to run automatically at convenient times. This, combined with professional monitoring, will do a lot to improve your security.

Update Software Regularly

Any program that uses the internet, especially browsers and anti-malware software, needs to stay up to date. The reason they update so frequently is that they are constantly improving to combat new cyber threats. Include regular software updates in your routine cybersecurity procedures.

Get Professional Help

Fortunately, finding professional help for your cybersecurity needs doesn’t have to break your budget. You don’t have to hire an in-house team of cybersecurity experts to secure your networks. You can still have 24/7 monitoring of your systems, resources to educate your staff, and a point of contact to reach out to at any time when you need it.

With the right managed IT services, you can have cybersecurity experts working with your team for a flat monthly fee. These will include the right cybersecurity infrastructure, managed solutions, software, and more. From there, you can rest assured that your systems are secure!

Stay Protected

Now that you know how to improve cybersecurity for businesses put these tips to use and keep your business safe from harm. Remember that nobody plans on being attacked, which can happen at any moment. Protecting yourself is a small investment that will ensure the best long-term security.

Stay up to date with our latest tips for your business, and check out our cybersecurity services for more information!

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