In the first half of 2020 alone, over 36 billion records were exposed due to cyberattacks. Not only do data breaches reveal highly personal information, but they’re also expensive — on average, businesses lose over $200,000 from a cyberattack. Over 40% of these attacks are aimed at small businesses, the majority of which have no idea how to defend themselves.

Considering the pivotal role technology plays in daily business operations, small business owners should be aware of security measures commonly used to protect against cybercriminals. Here are some tips on how to fortify your network security and reduce the risk of a data breach.
cyber attacks on small businesses concept showing hacker

Educate Your Employees

Over 95% of security breaches occur as a result of human error. Thus, it’s important that every small business owner takes the time to educate their employees about cybersecurity. Here are some of the topics you should cover during security training.

Use Strong Passwords

According to 2019 data, over 70% of employees working at small businesses had their passwords stolen or compromised. With more and more employees working from home and using their personal devices to complete work-related tasks, it’s become easier than ever for hackers to obtain critical data. Fortunately, you can reduce the risk of a cyberattack by setting rules regarding employee passwords. These include:

  • Keeping work and personal passwords separate
  • Changing passwords on a monthly basis
  • Not including any personal information in the password

Another good way to prevent security threats is by requiring employees to set up multifactor authentication. In this process, the employee must type in a password and input a special code generated by an app that’s only accessible on their phone.

Identify Malicious Software

  • In 2019, over 88% of businesses — including smaller businesses, larger businesses and those in the health care sector — experienced a phishing attack. In this type of cyberattack, the cybercriminal sends a message designed to trick the employee into sharing sensitive data or downloading malicious code. Examples of phishing attacks include:
  • Phishing emails: In this attack, the cybercriminal sends an email that appears to be from a reputable source (such as the company’s IT department). The email typically prompts the employee to share personal information, such as their address, phone number and credit card details.
  • Link manipulation: In this type of attack, the message features a falsehood that encourages the employee to click on a link — for instance, it may tell the employee they need to update their contact information. The link then triggers malware attacks that can compromise both company data and customer data.
  • Voice phishing: In a voice phishing attack, the cybercriminal will call the employee and give them an urgent message. They may say that the employee needs to update their bank account or that their accounts have experienced a cyber breach. Voice phishing attempts often try to instill fear in the employee.

When training employees, be sure they know how to recognize phishing attempts and identify them for what they are: cybersecurity threats. Advise them to contact someone (such as the IT department or their supervisor) before sharing any personal information, clicking on links or downloading software.

Limit Access to Important Data

According to the 2021 Varonis Data Risk Report, the average employee has access to over 11 million files. From financial information to customer data, employees can access and utilize the information for their own malicious intents if they wish.

Of course, most small businesses properly vet their employees and gain confidence in them before allowing access to sensitive information. However, no matter how much you trust your employees, it’s important to limit their access to important details. Some reasons why an employee might issue a cyberattack include:

  • Monetary incentives: Over 86% of security breaches are executed with financial motivations.
  • Revenge: When an employee is fired, always delete their passwords and collect their company IDs.
  • Espionage: Approximately 10% of cyberattacks are executed with the intention of gaining information about your bhttps://enterprise.verizon.com/resources/reports/2020-data-breach-investigations-report.pdfusiness.

Ultimately, the best way to prevent employee-based security breaches is by only allowing access to data essential to small business administration.

Use Security Tools

different security options to prevent cyber attack

The idea of cyber-threats is scary, especially for small businesses that may not be able to withstand the financial impact of data breaches. Fortunately, security tools are available that are designed to reduce your business risk and protect your assets. By 2022, the information security market is expected to reach over $170 billion worldwide. Here are some cybersecurity practices and tools recommended by industry experts.

Set Up Filters

Over 94% of malware attacks are delivered through email alone. No matter how much time and effort you spend training your employees on how to recognize cyberattacks, you can’t guarantee they’ll always be able to recognize security threats. That’s why it’s a good idea to set up email filters to detect potentially harmful emails and send them to the spam folder.

Along with email filters, you may want to set up some website filters. In essence, a website filter prevents your employees from accessing sites known to release malware (such as social media or pornographic websites).

Install Firewalls

Firewalls are security systems aimed at preventing unauthorized access both inside and outside a computer network. Not only do they reduce cybersecurity incidents by limiting external access, but they also block employees from visiting harmful websites. Other things firewalls can do include:

  • Monitor website traffic
  • Send alerts about viruses and malware
  • Block the outflow of data
  • Promote network privacy
  • Filter content

It’s important to note that there are different types of firewalls available and that firewalls are not 100% effective in protecting data. While they can greatly reduce the likelihood of a malware attack, a phishing email or bug may still be able to slip in.

Update Your Software Regularly

Unless you’re using an incredibly outdated system, chances are the software you implement to assist with your day-to-day operations offers updates aimed at enhancing the system and providing increased security. Thus, it’s important that you update your software whenever possible. Some advantages of updating software include:

  • More protection against data breaches: Many small businesses only protect 5% of their files — regularly updating your software can help boost your security.
  • Increased productivity: Both small companies and larger businesses rely on software (and updates) to complete their daily tasks and requirements.
  • Smoother operations: Many software updates help make technological tasks easier for employees.

Along with updating your current software, you should properly dispose of any old materials. Whether you plan to throw out your used computers or donate them, be sure to erase all data beforehand.

Use Encryption

Encryption is a valuable tool used to protect sensitive data, such as financial information, personal details and business secrets. During the encryption process, data is converted to an alternative text that can’t be understood by hackers. Only authorized parties have access to an encryption key or password, which they can use to decode the data and convert it back to its original form. Some tips to remember when using encryption include:

  • Encrypt all your resources, including computers, smartphones and tablets
  • Keep the encryption key or password in a secure location
  • Never share the password or key in the encrypted document

Even if cybercriminals manage to obtain access to your data, they can’t do anything with it if it’s encrypted. Of course, it’s important that the encryption key doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Avoid sharing it on vulnerable avenues like email and only give it to people you trust.

Hire a Security Service

Team of workers help prevent cyber attacks

Taking care of your security needs can be both tiring and time-consuming. Not only do you have to train your employees, but you also have to examine your current equipment, implement software updates and deploy security tools. While protecting your small business is important, it can also be distracting and prevent you from completing your day-to-day tasks.

Ultimately, running a business and providing security are two full-time jobs. Rather than try and execute both, you may want to turn to the assistance of a professional IT security service, such as Eire Systems. 

Eire Systems: IT Support and Security 

At Eire Systems, we offer a team of IT security experts that can help you craft strong digital policies designed to keep your networks safe against cyberattacks. Amenities we offer include: 

  • Vulnerability management: We help identify any holes in your current IT infrastructure and provide guidance on how to seal them. 
  • Penetration testing: Work with our security partner, we simulate security attacks to help find your current infrastructure’s strengths and weaknesses. 
  • Forcepoint security: We use Forcepoint technology — a security feature used by tens of thousands of companies — to protect your web, email and data content. 

Whether you’re looking for on-site IT experts to help improve your software or casual, as-needed assistance, you can trust our team to be there for you. Contact us today to learn more about our services!