The ultimate cybersecurity guide for small businesses

Egle Grasys
Content Writer
cybersecurity for small business

Small businesses have become prime targets for hackers, and for good reason. Compared to large corporations, small businesses tend to have many gaps in their security. In fact, 45% of SMB (small and medium-sized business) owners admit that their company would not be able to withhold a cyberattack.

Simply put, hackers have much higher chances of success when targeting small businesses. Luckily, you can take steps to safeguard your business and ensure that any attempt hackers make is unsuccessful.

The biggest threats for SMBs

Ransomware is a type of malware that allows a hacker to encrypt a device or database and make it inaccessible to the rightful owner. Once this data is encrypted, the hacker usually asks for a specific sum of money and promises to give back access once the money is paid. Ever since the pandemic, ransomware attacks have gone up by 148%, and they’re expected to cost businesses worldwide a whopping 20 billion dollars in 2021 alone.

Phishing. This is a type of digital scam where hackers pretend to be somebody they’re not (usually a trusted organization) and try to get their hands on sensitive company information. For example, a phishing email may contain a fake message that looks like it’s coming from your bank. The email may ask you to verify your account by entering your login details through a specified link.

Insider threats. The truth is that 60% of business data breaches happen from within the organization. Even the ones closest to you in business – your partners and employees – can cause a horrible data breach. That’s not to say that all of your employees and partners are out to get you. Data breaches can be accidental, but the result is the same, which is why small business owners must be vigilant.

Man-in-the-middle attacks. This is when a hacker manages to intercept the connection between two parties. For example, if the Wi-Fi network you’re connected to isn’t secure, a hacker may be able to intercept your connection with that network and spy on your activity. This is an especially prevalent threat with the rise of remote working: companies can no longer control which networks employees connect to, and business data may easily be compromised.

Protect your company against social engineering attacks. Understanding social engineering is crucial if you want to keep your business secure. Social engineering attacks, while related to phishing, are more than that — they include more personalized tricks like pretexting or baiting. In social engineering attacks, bad actors might pretend to be someone you trust to get you to reveal sensitive info or do something that benefits them. For small businesses, staying informed and alert is super important to spot and stop these sneaky attacks and keep your business info safe.

Impact of cyberattacks on small businesses

Cyberattacks can wreak havoc on a small company, leaving it to navigate the intricacies of financial, reputational, and legal repercussions. It’s like a domino effect: a single breach can set off a cascade of adverse outcomes, each more daunting than the last.

  • Financial fallout. When cyber calamities strike, they hit the wallet hard. It’s not just about the immediate loss of funds or the theft of financial information. Often it’s also about the ripple effect such as disruption to trading and loss of contracts. And then there are the additional expenditures — legal consultations, risk management, public relations — to patch things up post-crisis.

  • Reputational repercussions. A breach in cybersecurity can be a lasting stain on a business’s reputation. It can also be a stain that ends the business entirely. Trust, once lost, is hard to regain, and the ensuing loss of customers and sales can be the proverbial salt in the wound. The ripple effect extends to suppliers, partners, and investors.

  • Legal labyrinth. Navigating the legal ramifications of a breach is a challenge to put it mildly. With stringent data protection and privacy laws, a misstep can lead to fines and sanctions that could be too huge.

  • Moving forward. Knowledge is power. Understanding the risks and implementing robust cybersecurity measures is the first line of defense. Regular training and awareness coupled with a solid incident response plan can be the beacon of light in the murky waters of cyber threats.

At the end of the day, the multifaceted impact of cyberattacks highlights the critical need for small businesses to be proactive and informed at all times. It’s about striking the right balance between vigilance and resilience.

Cybersecurity tips for small businesses

Now that you are familiar with the biggest threats small businesses have to face, you can take action to secure network infrastructure, and any gateway points, and generally improve your business security overall. Here are some great cybersecurity tips to apply to your company today:

Raise phishing awareness within your company

Your business is only as strong as its weakest member. One naive employee falling for a phishing email might be enough to take your business down. That’s why all members of your organization must be properly trained on recognizing and avoiding phishing schemes. Here are some of the main points that you should cover:

  • Always check the security of a URL before clicking. This can be done by hovering over the link and making sure that it begins with “HTTPS” (which means the website is encrypted) and not “HTTP” (which means the website is not encrypted).

  • Never send sensitive company data through email. Legitimate organizations like banks will never ask employees to send bank account login information through email. Be suspicious of any unusual requests. If an employee receives a suspicious email that seems like it’s coming from their boss and that email contains a strange request, they should check in with their boss to see if the email is legit.

  • Be suspicious of any unusual requests. If an employee receives a suspicious email that seems like it’s coming from their boss and that email contains a strange request, they should check in with their boss to see if the email is legit.

  • Report suspected phishing schemes. If one of your employees is hit by an attempted phishing scheme, it’s reasonable to believe that the same scheme was sent to other members of your company. Informing others about specific schemes that may be coming their way will ensure they don’t fall for them.

  • Conduct a risk assessment. The assessment is all about identifying and understanding the potential risks and implementing effective strategies to mitigate them. By evaluating your business processes, IT infrastructure, and data-handling practices, you can prioritize risks and allocate resources effectively. Regularly performing risk assessments will help you develop clear, actionable policies, which in turn will allow you to maintain a resilient and sustainable business in a dynamic and uncertain digital landscape.

Encrypt your network

To avoid man-in-the-middle attacks, you must make sure that the network you and your employees connect to is secure. This means using strongly encrypted wifi at the office. However, the biggest problem is that employees might use compromised networks when working remotely.

To ensure this doesn’t happen, the first thing to do is communicate the importance of using secure networks and avoiding public wifi at all costs. The next step is to install VPNs on all company devices. This cybersecurity tool will keep a device’s data strongly encrypted even if it’s connected to a compromised network.

Control access to sensitive data

You already learned that insider threats present a huge problem in business data security. No matter how much you trust your employees, you can never be 100% sure they won’t leak your business data on purpose or fall for a phishing scheme. Keep in mind that the more people that have access to sensitive company data, the higher the chances of a data breach. That’s why you should limit access to sensitive company data as much as you can. Things like bank account information or social media login information should not be available to just anyone: it should only be available to the employees who need this data to perform their work.

Keep a backup

Things can go south no matter how much you try to avoid it: your business may be targeted by ransomware, your devices can malfunction, or an employee may accidentally delete your data. If anything like this happens, a backup will help you return to business as usual right away.

Use cybersecurity software

There are many cybersecurity software tools that are easy to use and allow businesses to secure their data quickly and easily. For starters, make sure you use at least the following three cybersecurity tools:

  • Antivirus. As you can imagine, it’s very important to keep your work devices malware-free. Antivirus software will help detect malware before it causes any damage to your business.

  • Firewall. A firewall can help you monitor all activity on your company’s network. This means you can detect suspicious activity like hackers or viruses and block them from entering your business network.

  • Business Password Manager. Passwords are the barrier between your company’s data and outsiders, and you want this barrier to be as strong as possible. A password manager will help you create, store, and access all company passwords quickly, securely, and conveniently.

Use a secure web hosting provider

Most small businesses have a website. While a website opens your business up to many new opportunities, it also opens it up to plenty of cyber threats. From malicious code injections to DDoS attacks to various types of malware, no website is ever completely safe. However, if you choose a secure hosting service provider like Hostinger, you can mitigate these threats and enhance the security of your website and business.

Final thoughts

Now you know how important cybersecurity is for your small business. You may have avoided the crossfires of cybercrime up until now, but that doesn’t mean you’re safe. It doesn’t matter how big or profitable your company is. Small and less profitable businesses are actually more attractive targets for hackers than large corporations, but following the tips mentioned above will help you take your company out of the frontlines of cybercrime.

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