Essential Cybersecurity Guide for Small Business

Essential Cybersecurity Guide for Small Business

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Does your business have the necessary cybersecurity essentials to combat phishing, supply chain attacks, data thefts, and other security threats?

Essential Cybersecurity Guide for Small Business

This is crucial for any small business with a digital footprint because over 43% of all cyberattacks are geared towards this segment. As a result, government authorities worldwide have begun regulating them by issuing safety guidelines.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of any economy, and in The US alone, these constitute over 99.9% of all businesses. This includes a mix of technically sound and unsound firms, most of which operate locally, such as food service providers, personal trainers, repair and maintenance firms, etc.

Such businesses are usually unaware of the importance of cybersecurity for small businesses until it’s too late. Therefore, we decided to create this cybersecurity guide for small businesses, which lists cybersecurity essentials that every small business must-have.

In doing so, we will discuss both complimentary and budget-friendly solutions that even startups can afford.

Use SSL for Better Security

Every business website must have a TLS/SSL certificate installed to block out third parties from accessing client-server communication, including anything from credit card details to login credentials.

This is necessary because the internet is an open network, and when two parties communicate electronically, there is a possibility of an unauthorized third party intercepting it.

You can prevent that by installing an SSL because this digital certificate activates the HTTPS protocol, making use of a cryptographic suite for the secure exchange of data. As encryption and decryption keys are used, the data remains accessible only to the intended recipient.

Again, this coverage needs to be accorded to the entire website and not just the primary domain.

Therefore, businesses must install a wildcard certificate on their websites, encrypting communication from the primary domain and all of its first-level subdomains. This ensures better protection and compliance with regulations such as the GDPR and PCI DSS.

As a small business owner, it makes sense to invest in a cheap SSL wildcard, as it is an immensely scalable and future-proof SSL option.

Dedicated Hosting

Cybersecurity for small businesses begins with using a server that is entirely under the business owner’s control, but that rarely happens.

As managing servers can be expensive, most small businesses do not invest in it. Instead, they opt for a shared web hosting or a VPS plan.

Now that’s not the right thing to do if your business accepts payments, customer data, or has a login section.

As a small business owner, you must avoid web hosting plans like the shared, VPS, or anything else that involves sharing the server’s resources because that can result in a breach.

It provides hackers an opportunity to break into your website by exploiting vulnerabilities in less secure sites hosted on the same server.

Then, all it takes is loading some malicious files on the server to infect yours with a trojan or some other malware to create a backdoor in it.

After that, hackers use this unauthorized access for several nefarious purposes, such as spamdexing which involves inserting malicious links, data theft, credential theft, etc.

Therefore, experts recommend the use of a dedicated server that is solely reserved for your business. So, if you cannot manage one, look for a dedicated server that a web host can manage.

Limit Access to Data

A business stores multiple datasets, each containing data about a particular group such as employees, customers, vendors, etc. Remember that your business collects all this data for a reason and is responsible for keeping it secure.

The best way to do that is by segregating the data and limiting its access based on job function and designation. For example, your employee-related data, such as their addresses, contact details, previous experience, packages, etc.,  are irrelevant to the marketing or sales teams.

Those details are only relevant to the HR team or the concerned manager and must remain accessible only to them.

Likewise, the HR department has nothing to do with customer requests and queries that come in and don’t need access to it. So, if you store business data on a shared drive accessible to all your employees, something needs to change.

It is time you started limiting access to each data set, which in turn limits your liability in the case of a breach.

Use Strong Passwords

The need for a strong password may seem basic, but it cannot be neglected in any cybersecurity guide for small businesses. Whether it is for the employees or your customers, this is necessary.

However, implementing strong password rules is one of those cybersecurity essentials that everyone knows of but rarely acts upon.

To ensure strong passwords, make it a point to define specific password rules. First off, the passwords must be over eight characters in length, alphanumeric, and contain mixed cases and special characters.

Cracking such passwords is not easy, and even the most sophisticated brute force software may not get through it. According to Microsoft, you can make authentication even more secure by enforcing multi-factor authentication, which prevents 99.9% of attacks.

Backup your Data

Ransomware attacks are on the rise and can disrupt critical business operations by locking the files stored on your systems. In this type of attack, the attacker introduces a malicious application into an ecosystem through phishing emails, chat engines, or other modes.

Whatever be the mode, this application takes control of the entire ecosystem and encrypts it. After that, the attacker demands a ransom in exchange for the decryption key. Unfortunately, most victims pay the ransom to regain access to critical data.

However, businesses can prevent that by taking regular backups and storing them on a system that is not connected to the internet or the existing IT infrastructure of the company.

Update the OS and Applications

As a small business, you probably have contractors or employees working for you, but are they following cybersecurity best practices such as keeping their OS and applications updated?

The developer rolls out these updates to fix bugs and security vulnerabilities.

Unfortunately, one out of every three breaches occurs because of unpatched vulnerabilities.

So, whether it is an employee or a contractor, you must compel them to follow specific security guidelines to keep business data secure.

Therefore, set minimum security standards for all the devices used to transmit, store, or access information about your business.

You may enforce these minimum standards through company policy and employee agreements.

Employee Awareness

Insider threats are on the rise, and in the US alone, over 2,500 internal security breaches are reported every day. The only way to curb this menace is by creating employee awareness.

Although that may not entirely wipe out intentional breaches, training them would reduce the number of accidental breaches that employees commit.

In addition, by educating your employees about the repercussions of their actions, such as clicking on a phishing link or using public WiFi, it is quite possible to instill a sense of responsibility in them.

 Final Takeaway

Businesses face many challenges, and the only way to overcome them is by being prepared for the worst. In this cybersecurity guide for small businesses, we have discussed how business owners can invest in the right cybersecurity essentials and thwart external and internal threats.

Apart from implementing the measures mentioned above, investing in cybercrime insurance can also be very helpful. This protects the business from losses and lawsuits when security breaches take place. This is necessary because cybercrime is now an organized activity and, in some cases, state-sponsored.

Therefore, criminals have access to highly sophisticated tools, and the key to survival is to be prepared for the worst.