While most of us associate October with corn mazes, haunted houses and leftover Halloween candy, we also celebrate the 15th year of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month—a pertinent issue that’s often overlooked by local, individually-owned businesses across the country.
Even though most small businesses express growing concern regarding cyberattacks, over 50 percent of these businesses have little, if any, budget allotted to cybersecurity. To prevent further security breaches, it’s critical for owners to start thinking about cyberattack protection, as nearly 60 percent of small businesses can expect to be hacked during any given calendar year.
In the spirit of the season, consider a few simple, low-cost strategies to avoid being “spooked” by the ghosts and goblins of the Internet.
1. Anti-Virus Software: Clear the Cobwebs
Installing anti-virus software is essential to protecting your business. As the first line of defense, businesses need to update and run both their malware and spyware prevention software on a regular basis.
2. Passwords: Beware of the Simplicity Spell
Remembering multiple passwords for your different applications and subscriptions can be confusing and may leave you questioning why you don’t just keep one password for all your accounts. However, managing a set of unique passwords ensures a higher level of security within your system, preventing hackers from deciphering one password that accesses multiple accounts. If it means you have to keep a list of accounts and passwords somewhere on your phone (not on a piece of paper out in the open), ensure you practice proper password management.
What is considered a strong password?
- At least 8 characters
- A combination of letters, numbers and symbols (@, $,%, #, etc.)
- Both upper and lowercase letters
- DO: Choose a random phrase
- DON’T: Use your own name or the name of your pet
3. Unsecure Networks: Trick (Don’t Treat) Hackers
Two vital steps in protecting both your and your customers’ data are secure networks and two-factor authentication. Entering an unsecure site can lead to hackers intercepting highly confidential data and financial information. Investing in a dedicated server accessible solely by your business and employees significantly decreases the likelihood of hackers retrieving your customers’ information. Once the server is installed within all business accounts, implement two-factor authentication to stop your accounts from being compromised.
4. Data Encryption: Disguise Personal Data
When you collect personally identifiable information (PII) from your customers such as, name, birthday or credit card number you are required to keep that data secure. Encryption makes this valuable information unreadable to a hacker. To safeguard your files, consider investing in updated encryption software. Visit Business News Daily for a step-by-step guide on installing encryption technology.
5. Train your Team: Easier Than Witch Craft
The final step in establishing top security is to teach your team on how to navigate these systems. While it’s vital to install new equipment to protect your business, that equipment is effectively useless if no one understands how it works. Train your staff on best practices, such as password security and updating software systems.
With information technology at the epicenter of today’s businesses, there is no such thing as being too prepared. Take the steps to protect your employees, customers and accounts so that you are secure in every witch way.