Size Doesn’t Matter: Every Business Needs Security
Of the hundreds of data breaches that occurred in 2015, most people can only name those that targeted major corporations: BlueCross BlueShield, Experian, Ashley Madison, etc. However, just because these massive thefts were the only ones to make the news doesn’t mean smaller businesses are safe from cyberattacks; in fact, oftentimes they are even more vulnerable to digital disasters.
A majority of small businesses are woefully under-protected against cyber-threats, but erroneous feelings of invincibility are preventing businesses from correcting their cybersecurity mistakes. Learning why security is important for every business ― no matter how small ― will help companies stay alive in this dangerous digital climate.
The Temptation of Small Businesses
A common belief among new entrepreneurs is: “My business isn’t as profitable as larger companies, so hackers wouldn’t gain much by targeting me.” However, small businesses actually tend to be most criminals’ bread and butter.
In reality, the size of a business isn’t what attracts a hacker ― it is the type of data the business collects. Cybercriminals make money from mining and selling personal data, such as health information, financial information, or contact information. Digital thieves build automated viruses and malware capable of locating and stealing this data, so hackers make few conscious decisions regarding the size of business they target. Usually, larger enterprises have the resources to protect their digital cache while smaller companies make more digital mistakes, such as:
- Lacking a dedicated IT specialist on staff
- Lacking employee training for digital security
- Failing to update security programs
- Failing to secure endpoints, especially mobile devices
No matter how little revenue a startup makes in a year, its data is usually low-hanging fruit for cybercriminals to pluck and enjoy, causing untold ruin for the business and its customers.
The Essential Defenses
Fortunately, digital security isn’t difficult to enact quickly. In fact, many experts have compiled lists of basic defenses every business should have to be effectively secure. Essentially, a business can avoid harmful attacks with antivirus software, anti-spam software, and anti-phishing software, which are usually bundled together in a neat security suite. Thousands of security software providers exist, but businesses would do well to trust industry leaders, like Trend Micro.
However, before any business begins downloading programs and hiring system administrators, it is crucial to have strong security policies in place. Software is only as powerful as the people using it, which means employees must be trusted to uphold security measures, like using strong passwords and keeping those passwords secret. The security policies should explain punitive measures for those employees who skirt the rules, as they put the entire enterprise at risk.
Additional Technologies for Added Protection
In addition to basic protection, businesses can adopt a number of supplementary technologies to keep their data safe. Many of these target specific security risks incurred by alternative business practices.
For example, businesses that employ a number of employees who use networks remotely might be interested in using a virtual private network (VPN), which is a device that allows users to connect through browsers, encrypting any and all network traffic. Usually, VPNs require a username and password, but some businesses take security a step farther with a token that randomly generates passwords, like the RSA SecurID.
Additionally, businesses could complete full-disk encryption on all of its devices. This process translates all data stored on the machine into incomprehensible characters which can only be read with the proper password. Once again, users can use a security token, or businesses might prefer to use biometrics such as fingerprint scans or voice recognition, which is in early stages of use.
Common Security Mistakes
Some small business owners might believe they are protected ― after all, some pay big bucks for fancy security systems which are installed on every company-owned device. However, even small businesses with a satisfactory security budget are susceptible to cybercrime, all because of human error. Before any business believes itself secure, it should ensure it isn’t engaging in these major security mistakes:
- Relying on the cloud. It is acceptable to store some data on the cloud, but businesses must have complete faith in their cloud-provider’s security first.
- Ignoring smart devices. Nearly every piece of tech in the modern office can connect to Wi-Fi, which means hackers potentially have several unprotected entry points. Businesses must research everything, from office phones to printers, to be secure.
- Forgetting to dispose of data. When tech gets old, many businesses sell, donate, or throw it away without doing a proper memory sweep. Criminals can find everything from passwords to actual information on unwanted devices.