One of the most critical areas to focus on is be the overall security of your business. Often, newer small business owners assume cybercriminals only target the larger national brands in an industry, but that just is not the case anymore. Over the years, hackers have started to target mom-and-pop operations, and now almost 50% of all data breaches happen to small businesses.
With all of that said, it’s crucial to start thinking about the security of your company. As a small business owner, you’ll need to be both savvy and scrappy to keep these criminals at bay. Here are five ways to keep your small business secure this year and for years to come.
1. Train Your Employees
The first line of defense when it comes to cyber threats is you and your employees. While sophisticated attacks can happen to anyone, hackers will usually try more rudimentary methods of cybercrime on your business. These more basic forms of cybercrime typically are:
- Phishing Emails – For hackers, phishing is the easiest and fastest way to access sensitive information within an organization. When phishing, hackers create fake email profiles that appear legit and trustworthy at first glance. These profiles usually will send you an email with some sort of payment link or URL that, if clicked on, could give up your identity.
- Password Scraping – Managing passwords is extremely important when running a small business. Almost any hacker can easily set up a high-speed program to test email and password combinations until they get the right one. Once they guess the correct email and password to one account, they might be able to access more.
- Phone Calls – Phone calls are a bit more traditional but are still used today by hackers worldwide. In this setup, a hacker will call someone at your company disguised as someone else in an attempt to get someone to give them a password over the phone verbally.
2. Change How You Communicate
Your digital front lines (phone calls, emails, and texts) are how hackers often infiltrate an organization. Your data and sensitive information are more likely to be compromised if you aren’t already using a trusted phone network, encrypted email platforms, and private messaging apps. Let’s take a deeper look at each of these secure business-class communication tools.
- Secure Phone Systems – In the post-pandemic world, video conferencing and phone calls have replaced in-person meetings. This growth of voice and video communications is giving hackers more opportunities to gain access to information that could compromise your business. Cybercrime surged last year due to this change. At Level365, our voice + collaboration platform provides end-to-end encryption that allows your business to handle any form of communication safely and securely. We are SOC 2 compliant for Type I with Type II currently underway Our UCaaS solution includes voice communication, video conferencing, messaging, and more-all without a ton of bulky equipment.
- Encrypted Email Tools – Email is used by just about every business in the United States. Every time you send or receive valuable information in an email, it needs to be encrypted, or you could be opening yourself up to a breach. Using a tool like PreVeil, allows you to encrypt an email completely, so even in the case of a breach, the hacker would only see gibberish. There are various tools on the market, but PreVeil is free, so it’s an excellent place to start for newer business owners.
- Private Messaging Apps – Texting clients is a new and effective way of timely communication, but you should ensure you’re using a secure messaging app to confirm no sensitive information is leaked. With this in mind, Level365 has made it easy for our customers to text anyone using their business number with our add-on feature, SMS & MMS, while keeping your data secure. To learn more, talk to your sales representative or fill out this contact form.
Using more secure communications tools will help your business ward off any potential threats that may come your way. Most hackers are looking for easy targets, so seeing a form of defense is often enough to deter future attacks.
3. Use a Secure POS
Hackers commonly target two areas of most businesses, personal information such as usernames and passwords and financial information such as banking information and customer transactions. So far, we have addressed the first area they target, but now it’s time to look at the latter.The easiest way to keep your most important financial information secure is by using secure payment operating systems. There are endless payment operating companies out there, so doing your research to ensure you choose the right one for your business is essential.
When choosing a point of sale (POS), ensure it offers end-to-end encryption on all purchases, allows for antivirus software to be added on, and can be hosted on iPads (for their security). After that, you should be safe from most attacks, which will keep your customers safe too.
Besides keeping up on the hardware side of things, you will also need to ensure every employee is properly trained on how to facilitate a transaction. Again, user error can come into play, and it’s how information is often leaked to hackers. Whatever system you are looking to use, make sure their response time aligns with your organization’s needs and see if they offer free onboarding demos or classes. These sessions should get everyone at your business accustomed to using these new tools.
4. Build Up Your IT Staff
Having an expert information technology manager on hand will help your business grow and mitigate the chances of a cyberattack happening to your business.The basic functions an IT department can provide for your business are:
- giving tech support
- implementing IT protocols
- maintaining cybersecurity
- identifying and optimizing tech tools across the organization
Options for building your staff include hiring staff or outsourcing your IT needs through a trusted IT consultant or MSP (Managed Service Provider). Let’s look at a few of the benefits associated with each method of building out your IT department.
Keeping any team in-house will allow them to be more hands-on with your team, be able to easier identify business objectives, and more seamlessly integrate with your team. Seeing that an IT team does a lot of physical work, having a dedicated teammate who can be in the office most days may be a great addition to your organization.
The drawback of building up an in-house IT staff is the cost associated with doing so. Seeing that the average IT support specialist made just over $50,000 last year, you may need to start small with your hiring efforts. Instead of hiring an entire team of support specialists, you just need one to start. Bringing in just one IT professional will help get the ball rolling with the creation and implementation of tech and cybersecurity protocols and policies.
If the sticker shock of bringing in a dedicated specialist is too much for you to handle right now, then outsourcing may be the route for you. Leveraging a managed IT service will be more cost-effective than hiring a full-time employee while providing almost all the same services.
Either way you look at it, building up your IT infrastructure will be costly but worth it in the long run. If you are unsure if you have the funds to hire or bring in an agency, it may be worth looking into getting an outside loan option that makes sense with your business. While costly, now, a security breach can become much more costly to your business. Last year, the average cyber-attack costing small businesses nearly $25,000 a the course of a year. That said, it may be worth it.
5. Get a Security AuditNow that you have bolstered your defenses, it’s time to put your hard work to the test. Security companies across the U.S. offer cybersecurity audits so businesses can see if they’re lacking in any areas of security.
There are a few types of security audits companies offer. These tests range from penetration tests to compliance audits. There are two we will be focusing on, a risk assessment test and a penetration test.
First, the risk assessment. A risk assessment is pretty much exactly what it sounds like it is. The IT team takes stock in every asset that they control in the organization and then breaks down the ripple effects that would be felt across the company if one of these assets went down. Just like with any other risk assessment, you should break it down into five steps:
- Identify hazards
- Identify who can be harmed and how
- Record risks and make a plan to mitigate them
- Review the assessment with others in the company
- Log the assessment and conduct another in the future
After doing a risk assessment, you should have a top-down view of all the digital threats that could impact any area of your business. Now you can move on to actually testing the effectiveness of your defenses with a penetration test.
The best cybersecurity consultants will be able to run near identical attacks against your business in a simulated setting to see how it would handle an attack. You can view the top penetration testing companies here.
A full-scope security audit will show you how effective the work you have put in is. If you find that any areas are lacking, be sure to address them sooner than later.