Small and medium-size ventures have been prominent victims of more recent hacking cases. Many cases of cyber breaches prove wrong the fallacy of “My business is too small to be hacked.” Most small and medium-sized businesses have become painfully aware that their small sizes do not give them any immunity from the severity of hackers.
- A good case is the Rokenbok hacking that was hit with a Denial of Service Attack, forcing it to shut down its website, rebuild the system afresh and lose a considerable number of resources.
- CityNewsstand, a small company that operated two magazine shops in Chicago, was also a victim of hacking after a malicious software program was planted on its cash register. The whole fiasco resulted in a loss of $22,000 to Anglesatri, the company’s owner.
- IBM’s 2021 Cost of Data Breaches Report reveal the cost of cyber breaches that small and medium-size will accrue at $2.98 Million on average.
Cybersecurity Best Practices to Prevent Breaches
A recent study has revealed that 43% of small and medium-sized businesses have chosen to be reckless by not having the required mechanisms to protect their systems from data breaches. This might be a reasonable explanation behind the many cases of cyber-attacks that target SMBs. The following are some proven and working solutions that you can put in place to safeguard your SMB.
- Data Encryption
One of the proven ways of gaining customer trust is by providing adequate online data security. Online data often encompasses many things that range from sensitive user information such as social security numbers, health records and information, credit, and debit card information, among many other things. Such information is lucrative to cybercriminals, which is why they will be laying all forms of traps to reach it.
SMBs are responsible for ensuring that users’ sensitive data remain as secure as possible. One way to protect information is by employing data encryption protocols. SMBs that run websites should only use HTTPS, a secure data transfer protocol that ensures safe data and resources between two communicating ends on the internet, such as businesses’ servers and users’ browsers. Websites operating on the HTTP protocol increase their susceptibility to hackers and cyber breaches.
The letter S is a small yet significant difference between HTTP and HTTPS. SSL certificate is a small data file that blends with HTTP to yield HTTPS. SMBs will have to acquire and configure an SSL certificate to bring a sense of trust and security to their websites. SMBs should also understand the type of certificate that would work best for their websites. There is domain validation, Organization Validation SSL certificate and, extended validation level certificate. For
a better security and proven business existence, OV SSL certificate is an ideal option that gives reasonable assurance and comes at a very affordable price which SMBs and most startups will not find too hefty for them.
- Frequently Update and Upgrade the Software and Operating Systems
You might not be a stranger to the little popup notifications windows, mainly if you have been operating your SMB for quite some time. The popups inform you of the latest update in your software and prompt you to carry the update. Often, you might click on the ‘ignore’ or ‘remind me later’ options. But it would help if you understood the essence of conducting the upgrade immediately.
Software updates tries to remove software vulnerabilities and security flaws and makes it better than earlier version. Hackers will crawl through your system to find and leverage such flaws and use them as steppingstones through your SMB network. What happens next? You lose data to cybercriminals who will never hesitate to sell the data to the dark web or use it for more wrong reasons. The Equifax data breach that left millions of pieces of users’ sensitive data exposed is an excellent example of how consequential it is it could be to ignore the software updates.
The remedy is to conduct upgrades to your operating system and software when the update notification shows up on the screen. Postponing the update is simply giving hackers leverage into your network.
- Employ Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware Software
One of the common methods hackers use to infiltrate SMBs systems is malware. Small businesses account for 58% of malware attack victims.
It is important to know
An anti malware software acts as a security door protecting your SMB network from malware infiltration. Will you leave your security door open to intruders?
- Use A Virtual Private Network
When most people hear of VPN, they often think of it as a high-tech thing that has no significance to a small or medium-sized business. But this is not the case. A virtual private network will benefit both large corporations and SMBs alike.
A virtual private network will help your small or medium-sized business protect sensitive data by masking your Internet protocol addresses, helping with data encryption, and routing the data through secure servers. In doing so, the VPN ensures data privacy from applications, services, governments, and internet service providers.
- Employ Best Password Practices and Policies
Ask any IT security expert about the most basic security measure to protect your SMB. Most security experts will talk of passwords. Strong and unique passwords are few basic concepts of cybersecurity.
Look at passwords as the key and lock that locks your data in their repositories. To access your accounts, you will need to have the key. If you have used weak passwords, it might take hackers truly little time to access your accounts. Before trying out other access tricks, hackers will first try different username and password combinations to reach your SMB network.
As a safety measure, it is recommended that you protect your accounts with strong and unique passwords. Strong passwords are characterized by multiple character combinations and eight or more characters lengths. Unique passwords are not so obvious, and those are hard to guess. You should also mind password storage sources and means. As a general rule, avoid writing the passwords down or storing them in your web browsers.
To supplement authentication security, you should employ two-factor authentication. With 2-FA, even when a hacker gets past your password, they will not be able to proceed unless they have the extra authentication factor.
- Cybersecurity Training and Awareness Program
There is a need to create a cyber-secure culture in your organization. A cyber security-aware culture can be achieved by having a sound security training and awareness program. The program could be a great avenue you will use to impart knowledge and skills needed by your employees and other stakeholders within your SMB to remain secure.
Through the training program, you will be able to stipulate cybersecurity policies such as the required password policies, the course of action in the event of a suspected data breach, access limitations, among other things. You can also use it as a platform to warn malicious employees planning insider attacks. As a best practice, always ensure you contact the cybersecurity training and awareness program frequently (semiannually or annually), depending on the security needs of your SMB.
- Access Limitations
Not all cybersecurity threats occur from outside. Cases of intrinsic cyber threats are so famous these days. A 2022 Insider Threat Report reveals an upward trend in insider threats. One of the best ways to deal with insider threats is access limitations.
SMBs should apply the principle of the least, which states that “a subject should be given only those privileges needed for it to complete its task. If a subject does not need an access right, the subject should not have that right.” Giving employees too much freedom to access files and data centers can prompt them to cause trouble to data, either maliciously or through negligence. SMBs should apply this principle across their data centers and networks to protect them from intrinsic harm.
- Invest In a Secure and Reliable Backup and Restore Mechanism
All the tricks above do not make an SMB immune to hacking threats. Even big organizations that have invested heavily in security have fallen victims to data breaches. It is recommended to have a contingency plan that you will run to when things go south. Backing up your data more frequently will ensure business continuity even after a devastating data breach.
Summing It Up
All these tips working in unison will create an excellent defense strategy that could secure your SMB from intrinsic and external cyber-attacks. Therefore, I recommend that you adopt all the measures for the safety of your SMB.