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Small business cybercrime: How to protect your network

Small business cybercrime is a stark reality for today’s entrepreneurs. While “cybersecurity” used to be a word associated with giant corporations and government agencies, protection against malware, data breaches, and the theft of sensitive information requires critical consideration for small businesses as well. Cybercriminals often target small companies because their networks are inadequately protected. Small businesses also tend to lack the means to pursue the perpetrators after the attack, and many are never able to fully recover. 60% of small businesses actually end up permanently shutting their doors within months of being hacked.

How to protect against small business cybercrime

There are some key ways you can fortify your business against attack. Here are six practices for keeping your small business protected from the bad guys:

1. Don’t store unnecessary sensitive data

Hackers can only gain access to what you store. Data such as credit card information, social security numbers, mailing addresses, etc. should not be held on file unless it is crucial to the process of doing business. Apart from the possibility of stolen data causing harm to your clients, your business may also be held responsible for not protecting their information adequately. All businesses have to comply with standards such as Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI SS). 

2. Use reputable ecommerce sources

Trusted, reputable ecommerce sites have built in security that keeps sensitive client information safe. As an added bonus, they also provide systems to ensure PCI SS compliance.

3. Be vigilant against small business cybercrime

Security risks can remain unnoticed until it is too late. Ecommerce sites provide monitoring tools and alerts that can help you locate and respond to suspicious activity. These tools should be utilized to their fullest extent, but old fashioned manual checkups should also be a part of every security assessment.

4. Use strong passwords

Password strength is a basic, foundational pillar of security integrity. The strongest passwords consist of a series of randomized letters, numbers, and symbols. While these are not as easy to recall or guess as your high school mascot, that’s exactly the point. Avoid using your company name or any sequential characters, and change your login credentials several times throughout the year. Be careful not to use the same password across multiple platforms, and never store lists of passwords online in your documents or emails.

5. Use a firewall

Firewalls are a crucial defense against malicious software and bad actors. By monitoring the activity in your network, a firewall can block unwanted traffic or unauthorized users from gaining access to your system. They can be configured to business requirements and should be chosen carefully for optimum security.

6. Keep your website and software regularly updated

Operating systems and websites should be updated regularly to stay ahead of new vulnerabilities and hacks. Set up automatic updates and keep an eye on urgent security matters that arise between scheduled installations.

Best practices to protect against small business cybercrime

Small business cybercrime may rarely make the national headlines, but it is far more common than the large, corporate attacks that do. Ask yourself:

  1. Does your company store only the customer data required to do business?
  2. Is your ecommerce platform well-known and reputable?
  3. Do you actively check and monitor for vulnerabilities?
  4. Are your passwords strong and regularly changed?
  5. Do you have a firewall?
  6. Is your website and software up to date?

Don’t let your small business become a victim of cybercrime! If you cannot answer yes to all of these questions, it’s time to think seriously about improving your company’s cybersecurity.

Derek Walborn
Derek Walborn is a freelance research-based technical writer. He has worked as a content QA analyst for AT&T and Pernod Ricard.

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