Modern technology solutions such as mobility, cloud computing, big data, analytics and social networking are allowing small and medium businesses to do a lot more. Not only that they can perform better, but they can also achieve greater results with less tools, while reaching brand new markets. The focus of these organizations can be on inventing new things and being creative, instead of paying attention to their IT.
However, all of these new opportunities come with great responsibility. It doesn’t matter if you are planning on using large cloud based software for your whole company, or simply installing new mobile programs. One of your main concerns in modern business should be security.
The economy suffers every year from cyber-crime, and this costs around 450 billion dollars. One of the potential targets for hackers are small and midsized businesses, as they usually think that they are not threatened. Hackers usually go for those big companies.
Well, this is not true as these small businesses tend to have more fragile online security, and hackers are aware of this.
The use of cloud services makes no room for strong encryptions and, given the fact that there is no robust IT and internal policies are not on a high level, the need for working on online security has become greater. This is all because cyber-crime is getting more sophisticated and has amazing effectiveness and efficiency.
In most cases, employees are the ones that make costly breaches possible. There are a lot of ways in which this can happen. Some employees don’t know about what the latest threats are, some use personal mobile devices which are insecure for business purposes, etc. This is why it is necessary for a business to secure itself to avoid losing valuable data and money.
Table of Contents
Create an environment that has a high level of cyber security culture
Like I mentioned before, employees are the biggest security risk. You can secure your whole IT department as much as you want, but all it takes is for someone to fall for some known trick and your whole security web will be overridden. This is why this is the place to start working on your cyber security, and employee responsibility and education is a big part of it.
Since most breaches are caused by human error, it is essential for a business to educate its employees and make them understand just how important their online security is and that their individual behavior can put the whole company at risk. It doesn’t matter how big the company is; this simply has to be done in order to make sure that all your security efforts can protect your business.
Educate your employees about the common threats and all the do’s and don’ts. Make sure that they are all on the same page and create practices and policies that will ensure everyone uses their technology in a safe way. There are a couple of important things individuals need to learn to do:
Update software regularly
One of the easiest ways a hacker can break into a computer or a website is to find programs which are outdated and old. Hackers work all the time and they perfect their malware to work flawlessly with current software. This is why companies update their business architecture software and security software too often.
When a certain piece of software is getting an update, it will take some time before online criminals learn about its weaknesses, and this is why you should always look to update your operative system and all the programs you use regularly.
Take care of passwords
It may be inconvenient to nurture a strong password policy in your company, but you can sacrifice a bit of an inconvenience in order to avoid serious network crashes and data breaches. Everyone should have difficult passwords, which are long and include letters, numbers and other signs. It may be more difficult for them to remember, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Also, make sure that they all put different passwords everywhere, so that in case one password gets breached, the hacker cannot access all of their online accounts or profiles.
Teach them how to behave online
When browsing the web on company’s computers, mobiles, laptops, or tablets, your employees will like to have a bit of fun as well, and not just work. This is completely normal; however there are certain precautionary measures that must be taken, so that they don’t come across some malware that can destroy your whole network. It’s a good idea to block all other websites except those trusted ones such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.
Find a security system that suits your business
All modern business organizations that have a lot of assets in the digital world need to have a reliable security provider which can supply them with flexible solutions that work efficiently, and can be upgraded if needed. Simply put, they need to give you reliable business security software which can be managed from within.
You cannot expect to contact your provider for every single issue that comes along. Instead, you need a good tool that allows you to handle a lot of things on your own. Still, if something bad happens, then you should be able to contact your security provider. Make sure to find a reliable service which has good expertise, a fast response time, and is available to you day and night.
Create a strategy for managing security threats
A majority of cyber-attacks are very well-organized, targeted and strategized. In fact, around 80% of all security attacks are coordinated by groups of people who are well coordinated and who work together. They share important data, expertise, and tools, as reported by the UN. This is why business organization need to have the same approach and try to be one step ahead while at the same time developing plans which they should use in case of a breach attempt.
If they are a team working together, then you should also assemble a team that will fight back. This is why you must create a strategic approach and train your employees so that the whole company is ready to work together as a coherent defense wall, responding, detecting and preventing attacks both instantly and seamlessly.
Create a mobile device policy
Besides the fact that mobile devices have become the platforms of choice for people who are at work and they like using them for socializing and shopping, they still are one of the biggest security threats to your company. This is because they have so many apps which can get infected with a malicious code.
A recent study has shown that over 65% of business organizations allow all of their personnel to download apps on the devices they also use for work. Most of these apps are non-vetted and they present a security threat. Given the fact that a lot of mobile devices have security apps and insecure apps, a lot of hackers see them as an opportunity for accessing sensitive documents, files or even personal data.
They can also hijack the device’s mic or camera and use them to spy on the company. This is why all small and midsized businesses need to implement a comprehensive mobile security strategy to protect themselves from these threats.
Install a reliable firewall for your network
One of the most important lines of defense when hackers are trying to breach a company’s payment terminals is a reliable firewall. Today, all hackers have the tools and knowledge to put harmful malware into company terminals and acquire all valuable data that organization has. This data includes credit card information, personal information, bank account data, etc.
A firewall is designed to protect the whole IT structure from this kind of malware and all the other most common methods of theft cyber criminals like to use in order to acquire important information. As an example, one of the important things a firewall can do is detect when an excessive amount of data is being extracted from or implanted in a company’s network. If this kind of activity was not authorized by anyone responsible, your firewall (if it’s good) will cancel the whole process on its own.
Implement a secondary network solely for your payment terminal
One of the best methods for decreasing the chances of getting attacked is to add an additional terminal network which is separate from your general network. Like I said before, hackers usually get into a system through employees. They do this by hacking into their computers using an email and they get all the necessary data from it to access your company’s network. This is how they get a free pass to your whole network and with it, your payment terminal. When this happens, they only need minutes to steal from you, and by that time, it’s too late to do anything.
By putting your payment terminal on an independent network that has only one or two people who have authorizations for it, the chances of cyber criminals being successful in breaching it will be greatly reduced. For even better results, make sure that the people who have authorization are professionals that have a lot of IT knowledge.
When making it so difficult for online burglars, you will probably wear them out, as they will realize that they have to spend lot of time and go through a lot of things to get inside your network. Once they realize this, they will probably switch to somebody else, where they have to work less to get what they want.
Protect sensitive information and limit access
There are is a lot of security software that can detect any unusual activity and patterns within a certain computer system. There are also software solutions that have the ability to monitor all of the outbound communication and check if there is any crucial information leaking out of the network. For all business organizations that have employees who access their network remotely, it’s generally a good idea to request additional information for access and not just their passwords and usernames. For example, you can add an additional password that changes frequently.
Implement encryption software for protecting vital financial information
MasterCard and Visa USA both require from businesses who operate online to verify certain things. One of the most important things they require is data encryption, in order to protect customers that use credit cards provided by them. If your business meets these requirements, your security will be fairly increased.
It can be a difficult thing for a small business to comply with all the requirements, as they don’t have the necessary resources, nor the adequate security knowledge. This is why it is a good idea to try and outsource your payment processing to some bigger companies such as PayPal or eBay. Acquiring compliance for payment processing can be twice as expensive than outsourcing these processes to somebody else.
Encrypting information is also vital for protecting the internal information of your whole business including all personnel files, product information, financial accounts and other important data, depending on your niche. When a hacker breaches your network, he or she can have a tough time deciphering information because of the encryptions, and this is why it’s vital to have it. A hacker might have a lot of trouble doing this, and this will buy you time to resolve the situation you are in.
Implement physical security measures as well
You are probably wondering what does cyber security have to do with physical security? The reality is that these two are closely connected. If a person can physically sit at someone’s computer and see all of the emails or other important profiles while they are open, then this is a huge security threat. All of your virtual security measures will have no impact if this happens and the hacker can acquire all of the information needed to do whatever he or she wants with your network and data.
It is also important that you don’t let anyone enter your office and do whatever he or she pleases. Nobody but your employees should be allowed to use company devices and it is also a good idea to create a visitor area where people who don’t work at your company can sit when they come to visit. You never know who is a threat and the only thing a hacker needs is a couple of minutes at someone’s computer and your whole defense system will be exposed.
The need for an organized, intelligent and unified system of security in business organizations is greater than it ever was. Given the fact that organized cyber-crime is getting better and more sophisticated means that having a good response is vital in order to secure your business efforts. Don’t let your business be a sitting duck, waiting to be butchered. Prepare your organization and be ready to fight back.