10 cybersecurity tips for startups and small businesses – words Alexa Wang
Cybersecurity is an issue that businesses of any size have to take seriously if they store sensitive employee and customer data or process payments.
The saturation of the business space with cyber threats has reached the point that even small businesses like brick-and-mortar stores have to take steps to avoid falling victim to them. In this guide, we want to cover 10 basic tips that small businesses can use to jump start their cybersecurity efforts.
1. Educate Your Staff about Cybersecurity Attacks
The first step to defending your company’s assets against cyberattacks is to research, raise awareness, and create training courses for your staff about them. Many cyber attacks are highly technical in nature and difficult for non-technical staff to understand or recognize. This makes training essential to keeping your business on its guard. For example, non-technical employees may not understand that it’s important that they use strong passwords to stop network intruders from gaining access to their user accounts. Be sure to include all the common cyber attacks in your training program, such as malware, phishing, password cracking, denial-of-service attacks, man-in-the-middle attacks, and malvertising.
2. Create an Overall Security Best Practices Plan and Implement It
You’ll also need to create strong security policies for employees to follow and then enforce them. These policies must go beyond the well-known network attacks that we normally associate with cyber attacks because cyber criminals also use other tactics such as phone impersonation and onsite infiltration of your business. You’ll need to cover physical security of your premises, access restrictions to sensitive data, and measures to detect and stop insider fraud. If you don’t have these other security measures in place, a cybersecurity plan won’t be comprehensive.
3. Harden Your Internal Network with User Access Controls
It’s difficult to stop all network intrusions because you’re not always aware of vulnerabilities before they are exploited. The good news is that it’s possible to setup your internal network to stop intruders from stealing sensitive data or otherwise harming your business. Data breaches happen because of lax security and access controls inside corporate networks. Limiting administrator privileges to key users and enforcing strong password policies stops intruders from accomplishing their goals if they do get in.
4. Design Information Systems that Minimize Cybersecurity Risks
If you have an e-commerce business that relies on a web presence to conduct transactions with its customers, you’ll need to take a hard look at the security of your website. This is especially true if you are building your own web apps in-house. Online retailers are a frequent target of cybercriminals who typically steal user account and payment method data. For business that use cloud services like hosted VoIP, look for providers like Epik Networks who own and manage a private internet network that doesn’t route your data through the public internet.
5. Hire Cybersecurity Consultants to Test Your Defenses
The difficulty of cybersecurity is knowing all of your company’s vulnerabilities and anticipating ways it may be attacked. The range of possibilities is large, but it only takes one security hole for an attacker to succeed. One of the best ways to maintain an effective cybersecurity plan is to hire cybersecurity professionals who specialize in testing your defenses for weaknesses. They’ll do what cybercriminals do, and let you know exactly where your weaknesses lie if they’re able to breach your defenses.
6. Keep Your Company’s Software Up-To-Date with Security Patches
One of the primary weaknesses against network attacks are security holes and defects in the software your company uses. This includes operating systems, third-party applications, in-house applications, and developer tools. It’s critical that you ensure that all patches and security fixes released by vendors are installed to prevent cyber attacks that might exploit them. You may want to create a formal process if operating system patches can potentially interfere with your own systems.
7. Backup and Encrypt Sensitive Customer and Company Data
Another way to enhance cybersecurity is to prevent your company from being crippled if its mission critical data is destroyed by an accident or a cyberattack. Creating a formal data protection plan is important to prevent data loss. You can backup important data at a remote datacenter or duplicate critical systems to mitigate unseen disasters at your primary location. Encryption is also critical to preventing data breaches from releasing personal and financial information. Cybercriminals who breach your internal network won’t be able to use encrypted data if they do gain access to it.
8. Protect Your Website against Denial-of-Service Attacks
Denial-of-Service (DoS) and Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks are a type of network attack that’s impossible to prevent from happening to your company’s websites because they come from external sources. If it’s imperative that your customers have access to your websites at all times, then you will need to implement a protection plan. There are companies that specialize in defeating these types of cyber attacks, and they can help if you think you may become a target.
9. Train Your Staff to Spot In-Person, Phone, and Email Fraud
Cybersecurity blurs the lines between normal fraud and network attacks more than most people understand. Cybercriminals will often use impersonation, misdirection, physical theft, and bribery when your network security is difficult to breach. Many data breaches occur because someone on your staff is tricked or bribed into helping cyber criminals gain access to your internal network. This makes it important to ensure you security policies and plans take all of these avenues into consideration and train your staff to recognize them as tactics cyber criminals may use.
10. Create a Disaster Recovery Plan
Finally, if you have a company that relies on information systems to operate, you should create and maintain a disaster recovery plan. Cyberattacks represent one type of disaster that can unexpectedly bring a business’s operation to a halt. There are others that can cause the same type of disruption and damage, such as natural disasters, employee errors, and hardware failures. A recovery plan anticipates the types of disasters that can take place and plans the steps needed to mitigate them as quickly as possible beforehand.
Cybersecurity is a large topic to cover and can be intimidating for a small business or start-up to tackle, but it isn’t one that can be set aside as unlikely to impact your operations. Today’s threats are both technically sophisticated and ubiquitous. They come from various parts of the world and scan continuously for potential victims. Following these 10 basic cybersecurity tips will make sure your business isn’t the low-hanging fruit cybercriminals are looking to pick.