You must have heard about the stories of cyber attacks on businesses. Unfortunately, it has become quite common. Daily, small companies face cyber attacks, leading to substantial financial loss and sometimes even worse.
According to the Small Business Administration (SBA) survey, 88% of small businesses fear for their security because of cyber attacks. Though there are several solutions to prevent these attacks, not all small businesses can afford them, and they become indecisive in opting for the right option that can safeguard them against the attacks.
Impact of the cyber attack on small businesses
Hackers are continuously growing in numbers, and businesses need to be prepared in case of any unexpected cyber attacks. Often businesses have to shell out a large amount of money to prevent such attacks by hiring security consultants or taking other measures to prevent cyber attacks as they can cause massive data loss and other damages and hence need an immediate response.
Sometimes, cyber attacks lead to significant interruptions and disturbances to the organization leading to a loss in revenue. Hackers often use different methods to carry out these attacks; they may infect the computer system with malware or inject malicious code into the server, which blocks access to the site.
Business Reputation Can Get Negatively Impacted:
Whether it’s a small or a large business, the brand name is always the first impression for the customers; it builds trust, loyalty, and the customers’ willingness to purchase from a company. However, a business that becomes a victim of large cyber attacks may find its brand name and reputation tarnished. In addition, reputational damage leads to customer loss, directly impacting the business income.
Loss in Revenue:
Cyber attacks cause devasting outcomes for the business. When a cyber attack hits, small businesses suffer damage to their reputation, pricing, employee trust, loss of employees, and much more. However, cyber attacks will significantly cause a loss in revenue, hence the financial loss. Data breaches investigation report says 43% of small businesses have been a victim of cyber attacks.
Being a small business owner, you can take a few steps to protect your organization from cyber attacks and the damage they can cause. But first, let’s explore and cover tips to prevent cyber attacks at the first place from targeting your business.
7 Ways to Prevent Cyber Attacks from Targeting your Business
1. Upskill Employees
Nowadays, cyber attacks are becoming increasingly common. And one of the most important things you can do is upskill your employees regarding cyber security as it will be your first line of defense. The employees handle the system and know the sensitive information, so they must understand how to keep themselves and your company safe.
These are a few things you should know to upskill employees.
I. Create strong passwords
Strong passwords are one of the primary aspects of unbreachable security. Unfortunately, on average, 24% of Americans have used weak passwords such as “abc123”, “name123”, “godname123”, and “abc456”. These passwords are easy to guess and can be cracked by anyone, so they provide very little protection. Easy-to-guess and simple passwords can lead to a data breach, and essential data can get leaked. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that your employees are proficient in creating secure passwords containing upper-and-lowercase letters, digits, and symbols.
In addition, always remind them to use different passwords for different accounts and to keep changing the passwords every 60 to 90 days.
II. Identify Phishing Emails
This is the most common way hackers access a company’s systems and sensitive information. A hacker will send an email that looks like it’s from a legitimate source.
Hackers can be very smart, so catching them at the first strike is very important. E.g., www.bankofamerica.com is the actual website of Bank of America, but the hacker will trick you by sending an email from www.banksofamerica.com, which will look legitimate, but it isn’t.
How can you identify if the website is legitimate or not?
While opening a website, you can check whether it has a secure connection (HTTPS) or not. If the website does not provide a secure connection, it cannot be genuine, and you should not trust it. However, nowadays hackers are advanced, and they create an exact copy of the website with a secure connection, which makes it even more difficult to differentiate. Then, you can check to whom the SSL Certificate is Issued. You can check that by performing the following steps:
Step 1. Once you open the website, click on the padlock icon in the search bar.
Step 2. Click on “Connection is secure”.
Step 3. There, under the heading “Certificate is valid”, you will see “Issued to”.
If the website is legitimate you will see the official name over there. On the other hand, if you find any other name, you should not trust that website.
It’s recommended to install the “Netcraft” app on your phone, which helps to detect phishing attempts. And for the desktop, we recommend you use “PhishDetector – True Phishing Detection.”
Also, employees should be trained to differentiate genuine emails from phishing emails and not trust emails without confirmation.
2. Stay Updated
Make sure your software and systems are constantly updated. By keeping your software and system up-to-date, you’ll reduce the possibility of them being exploited by hackers’ outdated software. Also, the business should have a firewall, data encryption, and antivirus software to protect itself. Hackers’ track changes every time; they often attack the network/computer that has not been updated and lacks security protection software.
For example, if you are running Windows OS but do not know if it is updated or not, you should follow these steps and confirm that your Windows system is up to date –
Step 1. Select Start > Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update.
Step 2. If your system is up to date, you will get a message “You’re up to date.”
Step 3. If updates are available, you must install them.
3. Data Backup
When safeguarding your business from a cyber attack, one of the most important things you can do is back up your data. The regular backup will ensure that even if your system is compromised, you will still have access to your critical information.
You can back up your data in many ways; the best approach will depend on your specific needs and resources. One option is to use an online backup service to store your data in the cloud, allowing you to access it from anywhere. Check this article to learn more about cloud backup.
Another solution is to use an external hard drive or other storage devices to create a local backup that you can keep on-site.
Whichever method you choose, it is essential to regularly test your backups to ensure that they are working correctly. In addition, always keep multiple copies of your data in different locations to recover the data despite the worst-case scenario. Taking these precautions can help protect your business from the devastating effects of a cyber attack.
Malware is a code/file that harms your system and its data. For example, the website becomes infected by malware if you have accidentally downloaded the attachment, linked to a suspicious email or website, or hidden it on a USB drive. Once the malware is injected, it can steal your data, and you won’t be able to access it. And so, it is essential to use antivirus software and keep it updated to protect the data.
In addition, it is advisable to hire a web host for the website that offers malware protection and informs you when malware is injected into your site; it is another concrete step towards preventing cyber attacks.
5. Installing Firewalls
You must ensure that your website is secure, for which installing a firewall plays a crucial role. Firewalls aim to prevent unauthorized access to the computer network, prevent cyber attacks, and block users from visiting harmful websites. Additionally, firewalls are essential because they send alerts about viruses, continuously monitor website traffic, and are helpful in ensuring network privacy.
It is highly recommended to opt for secure web hosting for your website, which has server firewalls that will continuously monitor your account for malware security.
6. Separate Accounts Will Help
As a small business owner, keeping your business and personal life separate is as essential as separate accounts for business and personal use.
This effectively reduces the risk of a cyber attack against your business.
Reasons you should keep separate accounts –
I. Reduces the risk of personal loss
If someone has hacked your business account, the hacker will only have access to your business information, and they will not be able to access your personal information or finances.
II. Keeps the personal life private
Keeping separate accounts for your business and personal life ensures that your personal information remains private; this is important for security and privacy reasons.
III. Helps to stay organized
By keeping separate accounts for business and personal life, you can better stay organized and manage your time more efficiently. This is especially helpful if you have multiple businesses or work with multiple clients.
7. Access Management
It is essential to have access management in the first place to protect your small business from cyber attacks. This should include restrictions on who can access the information, devices, or software that are crucial and confidential to the company.
In addition to tracking physical access, you should also check who has access to your network; this includes employees and third-party vendors who may have access to your data. Hence, don’t forget to revoke access for any users who no longer need it. This will prevent unauthorized access to your systems and reduce the risk of a cyber attack.