A Guide to Cybersecurity for Small Businesses

It’s not a surprise for anyone that in the digital era, businesses are increasingly reliant on technology. However, this reliance also brings with it several risks, especially in the realm of cybersecurity.

Here are a few ideas that will help business owners understand the major risks associated with cybersecurity, as well as several ways to mitigate them.

The Problem

Hackers use a great variety of tools, platforms and services to attack businesses, making them lose money, disrupting business operations, and damaging a company’s reputation.

Often, it starts with a successful phishing campaign. Cybercriminals send fraudulent emails that seem to come from legitimate email addresses, such as techsupport@businessname.com. How is that even possible? Any email account can be hacked, but often the bad guys will use email spoofing, sending emails that seem to come from a known address.

Email protocols were designed many decades ago, and they have quite a few flaws. They can’t authenticate the email source on their own, for example, so malicious actors can easily change metadata, sending messages that seem to come from the company’s tech support, the CEO, etc.

Once an unsuspecting employee clicks a link in a genuine-looking email, a piece of malware is installed on that computer, and then it starts to spread, taking over the entire network. Then, it is only a matter of time until hackers extract sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords, client lists, financial information, and more.

Networks can also get infected when people visit shady sites and a piece of malware – software designed to damage computers – is installed on their computers. With ransomware, a form of malware which encrypts computer data, cyber criminals request money in exchange for the decryption key, which may or may not be delivered in the end.

Data breaches can occur when third parties get unauthorized access to company data. This can happen when business software isn’t properly designed and/or patched, for example. Sometimes one of the employees will make it possible for hackers to get access to sensitive data.

Finally, with denial-of-service attacks, cyber criminals try to make a network resource (server, etc.) unavailable to its users by attacking the services of an Internet-connected host.

The Solution

The good news is that businesses can protect themselves against these risks. Here are several key steps that can be taken.

Educate employees. Teach them how to avoid common threats, such as phishing and malware. Some platforms will even offer a gamified approach to cyber security training, helping employees learn faster about potential security threats.

Implement proper security measures. Install proven antivirus software, and use hardware-based firewalls. Update operating systems and software applications regularly.

Always back up company data regularly. Ensure critical business data is stored online and offline.

Hire an IT security consultant if needed. If your business is targeted by hackers, work with a cybersecurity professional to get advice that is tailored to the needs of your business.

Cybersecurity threats have the potential to disrupt business activity. However, by understanding the risks highlighted above and by implementing strong security procedures, companies can protect themselves and their clients from attacks.

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