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Data Protection Strategies for Small Business Owners

Can your small business take a hit and recover from losing $256,000 on a moment’s notice? That is what a single cyber-attack could cost a small business according to

cybersecurity experts .

The past year saw a major spike in cybersecurity attacks with Ransomware infections attacking the Danish shipping company Maersk and the US pharmaceutical giant Merck. The Equifax data breach showed the unfathomable levels of destruction a data breach can cause with an approximated 143 million US citizens having their SSNs stolen plus other sensitive personal information.

Now, many SMBs owners think their enterprises are too inconsequential to matter to hackers. They are wrong! Why? Because cyber criminals  like to pick on the little guy. In fact, this report by Ponemon Institute and Keeper Security revealed that over 50% of the small guys were breached during the past year. However, smart SMBs owners understand the current data-security trend and know their enterprise is at risk; this why they budget for data security.

As an SMB owner, you need to do the same. Here’s why.

Cybercriminals anticipate loopholes in small enterprises.

Hackers are making bread because they expect SMB owners to be reluctant or lazy in matters regarding data protection. Unfortunately, they are often right. In fact, a Towergate Insurance infographic revealed that 82% of SMB owners do not feel they are subject to cybercrime.

Business size does not matter to hackers

Understand this; hackers are only interested in data. So if your small joint has quality data, you may as well paint a bull’s eye on your logo. Thus, if your establishment has lots client contact information, valuable intellectual property, health data, or credit card data, you should weigh your stance on data protection.

You may inadvertently lead criminals to a larger businesses data

A lot of cybercriminals are not necessarily drawn to your enterprise or even its data; more often than not, hackers are interested in who you are doing business with.

If you are working with bigger players that may represent juicier prospects; that is the sole reason you need to invest in cybersecurity. Your vulnerable systems could lead them right to the larger company’s data.

Your Internet connection can be easily compromised

Small enterprises tend to be quite careless about how they treat their Wi-Fi connections. This could be their undoing because prying eyes are everywhere and will steal your data if your internet connection is not well protected.

Additionally, SMB staff that access company data remotely without a secure connection greatly magnify the risk of an attack.

Statistics Are Scary

As an example, Britain records an average of 120,000 cyber-attacks per day. About 62% of cybercrimes have been targeted on SMBs. Unfortunately, most of these victims don’t recover.

Prevention and Preparedness are Critical

  1. Cybersecurity Best Practices and Training

Educate your employees. Start by implementing a security awareness training program. Let them be aware of how unethical hackers infiltrate systems and educate them on how to identify signs of a breach. Also, teach them how to be safe when using the organization’s network.

  • Keep your software up to date. Outdated software, simply put, is invalid. It has more security vulnerabilities that a hacker will instantly recognize and go in for the kill.
  • Practice incident response drills. Practice what to do immediately a breach is detected.
  1. Employ Firewalls

This defense, which can be incorporated into both hardware and software, adds an extra layer of protection by prohibiting an unapproved user from accessing the network or computer. Though some operating systems such as Windows may come with built-in firewalls, it does not hurt to add these protections to your servers and routers.

Also, invest in data backup in an alternate location so you can easily recover your info in case it is lost in a breach.

Encryption software and two-step authentication or password-security software will go a long way to ensure sensitive data is not easily accessed while reducing the likelihood of password cracking.

  1. Cybersecurity Insurance

Almost all SMBs insure against employee lawsuits and fraud. However, these are far less likely to happen than cyber-crime. Insurance carriers are now tailor-making coverage for small enterprises to meet their budgets and risk exposure levels.

This will help greatly in recouping losses plus legal fees in the event of a breach.

  1. Bring in Experts

Understandably, most SMBs cannot afford to hire a full-time cybersecurity professional. However, you can contact one on a project basis. Also, your organization could also tap into the skilled talent for the more complicated cybercrime mitigation measures such as cloud-based security protocols without having to bear the steep fees of a full-time professional.

Types of cyber attacks that you need to know about

  • APT: Known as Advanced Persistent Threats, APTs are long-term attacks that are designed to systematically infiltrate your network in multiple stages to avoid detection. Learn more here
  • DDoS: Standing for Distributed Denial of Service, the calling card of DDoS attacks is having your server overloaded with requests with the aim of shutting down your network system or website.
  • Malware: The short form of ‘malicious software,’ malware refers to any program that is fed to a computer with the goal of gaining unauthorized access and, or causing damage.
  • Insider attack: This refers to an attack by someone with administrative privileges, often a staff member, who intentionally misuses their access credentials to procure confidential company data or information. Inside attacks are typically from disgruntled former employees. Hence it is imperative you have a protocol that automatically revokes data access immediately upon termination.
  • Phishing: This cybercrime involves collecting sensitive data such as credit-card info and login credentials through a genuine-looking website. It is the most common card played by hackers. The Ponemon Institute and Keeper Security report that phishing is the most common attack used by hackers against SMBs.
  • Password attacks: These attacks can be categorized into Brute-force attacks which involve guessing until they gain access; Dictionary attack which uses software that tries different combinations of words; and key-logging which tracks your keystrokes.
  • Ransomware: This is a form of malware which infects your computer and demands ransom. It will typically either threaten to release private information if you do not pay up or will lock you out until you pay up. It is the fastest evolving type of malware.

Small business owners cannot operate under the premise that they will not be targeted or that simply employing an antivirus is enough. You need to have a security-first mentality. Unfortunately, data security measures do cost money. However, the benefit of investing in protection far outweighs the risk of failing to do so.

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