You’ve got your business up and running. Everything seems to be going smoothly until a bunch of your information falls into the hands of a hacker. Most small companies don’t survive for six months after something like this happens.
How and why did the cybercriminals attack you? You’re a beginner business with very little confidential information under your belt. There are bigger targets.
Yes, there are bigger targets, but bigger means harder. Hitting small businesses that don’t have a good data protection strategy is a lot easier.
So, how do you keep your passwords out of the wrong hands? What do you do to stop hackers from attacking your computers?
Check out this guide to learn the answer to all of these questions and more.
Common Cyber Threats for Businesses
Before we talk about protecting your business and personal data, let’s chat about what you’re protecting yourself from. Cybercriminals will attack you in several ways. The most popular methods are phishing, malware, and ransomware.
Phishing occurs when a hacker pretends to be a contact that a person can trust. They send an email that entices the user to click on a malicious link. As soon as they click it, the hacker will gain access to all the confidential information in your business.
You would think that scams such as these would be obvious, but they’re not. They’re also devastating because they don’t attack anything technological within the company.
They go after the people. All it takes is for one employee to be fooled by the scam to cause a company-wide data breach.
The second biggest threat that companies face is Malware. It’s a code created by hackers that has the power to steal data and even cripple machines. There are a variety of ways that you can become a victim of the malware.
You could accidentally connect an infected machine to the other computers in your office. You might venture to a website that downloads a malicious code to a laptop.
If you send laptops home with your workers, there’s a chance that they may download a virus by accident. It doesn’t matter how it happens. It’s not cheap or easy to fix.
Until the problem is handled, hackers have an opening to steal your employee’s and customer’s valuable information.
Ransomware is the practice of encrypting someone’s data and forcing them to pay a fee to unencrypt it. This is a pretty popular problem that companies run into because it’s lucrative.
Let’s say that you run a medical business and someone locks you off from your patient’s information. You can’t take appointments or do anything with your spreadsheets until you gain access again.
So, in your panic, you pay the fee. This is the case for most small businesses. They need access to their data, so they feel like they don’t have a choice but to fork up the cash.
Familiarize Yourself With All Data You Collect
You can’t protect your data unless you know what it is you have. Familiarize yourself with every bit of information that you collect. Ask yourself why you need it.
Make a list of everyone who has access to the data. This way, you know who to question if something goes wrong. Most important of all, ask yourself why a hacker may pursue the information that you have.
If you can understand how a hacker thinks, you’ll be one step closer to stopping them from getting their hands on something they shouldn’t.
Don’t Underestimate Cybercriminals
The worst thing you can do as a small business is underestimating cybercriminals. Think about it this way; they can go after a big corporation and get a lot out of it. The problem is getting past their security.
They have tons of protection in place to protect themselves against hackers. Small business startups don’t. While they can’t get quite as much from these little companies, it’s better than nothing.
That means you’re a bigger target than you think. Always be ready for an attack.
Avoid Collecting Unnecessary Info
If you don’t need social security numbers to run your business, don’t collect them. The more confidential information you have, the bigger target you put on your back.
It’s much more efficient to use logins and passwords to identify customers. Gathering client info isn’t the only thing that you should tone down on. Don’t ask for more of your employee’s personal info than you actually need.
Keep Your Machines Clean and up to Date
When your computer asks to perform regular software updates, it’s important to do it. The longer you put it off, the more at risk your computer is going to be.
You see, when companies create a new OS update, they patch in things to fix holes in the security system. The same can be said for web browsers. If you’re forgetful, consider setting up automatic updates.
Check New Devices
Let’s say one of your sister companies hands you a flash drive. There’s some information that you need to pull from it and send to your employees.
You follow the instructions to the letter. Not even a week later, your system is full of bugs. Always perform a virus scan on new devices.
It doesn’t matter if they come from a sister company or the President of the United States.
Educate Your Employees
Your employees are going to be tasked with handling confidential information every day. If you don’t educate them on proper procedures, you risk an accidental breach.
Teach them how to keep their passwords protected. Show them what a fraudulent email looks like. Consider having them learn SQL because the more they work with and retrieve data, the better they will be at protecting it.
It’s not a bad idea to give your employees mobile devices to take home. It gives them the flexibility to work from everywhere. You can allow employees to work at home if you want, which is good for them.
It can be bad for you if you don’t do it right. You’re going to be passing around all kinds of data. Data that hackers can’t wait to get their hands on.
Set up multi-authorization. Your employees will have to jump through more hoops to login to your company website, but that means hackers will have to as well. Keep your network security up to date at all times.
Again, educate your employees. Teach them all about phishing emails and show them what they look like.
Put Authorizations in Place
In a workplace, authorizations are important. Rather than telling you what authorizations do, we’re going to give you an example. Let’s say Jan logs into the workplace.
She’s able to edit databases and print out the spreadsheets she needs to do her job. She has limits, though. If she tries to log into something that only the data management team has access to, the authorization software will stop her.
This system stops everyone and their mom from gaining access to confidential files. The fewer eyes that are on the information the less likely it will fall into the wrong hands.
Data breaches are a lot less devastating if you have backups of your data. Once the virus is handled, you can re-upload the information to the system.
There are a couple of ways to do this, but the most popular is the Cloud. It allows you to store and manage your data. Large corporations need something a little more than Cloud technology, but it works fine for small businesses.
Dispose of Data the Right Way
You have a computer that you don’t need anymore. Time to throw it in a dumpster and forget about it, right? Wrong!
Someone can easily grab that computer out of the garbage and turn it back on. Now all your old private information is in the hands of a stranger.
Before you get rid of any of your devices, you need to format them. Erase any and all of your data off it.
Got any disks? Shred them to pieces.
Creating a Killer Data Protection Strategy
For small startup businesses, a data breach can be devastating. Many companies don’t bounce back from the attack and are forced to close their doors.
The only way to avoid this disaster is to come up with a good data protection strategy. Having a plan in place will keep all your information out of the wrong hands and allow your business to keep on going.
Protecting your data is only one way to keep your doors open. Check out the business section of our blog daily for all the latest start-up tips and tricks.