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Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
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With a whopping 30.2 million small businesses in the U.S, it’s no surprise they make up 99.9% of all United States businesses. Owning and running a business comes with a lot of added responsibility, one being the safety of employees — cyber safety included. With so many cyber threats running in the background of devices and the Internet, how can you keep your small business safe? Here are some steps to start the process.
Protect all devices
As companies hire, grow and expand, the use of devices is essential. Company devices should be properly protected before being actively used by employees. Plan to update all devices accordingly, to keep all systems working properly and efficiently use. Never forget to download antivirus software to help block any threats that can infiltrate your business. Viruses aren’t the only criminal making its way to your devices. Some other threats include: malware, ransomware, adware, pharming, phishing, and many more.
According to Candid Wueest, Principal Threat Researcher, Security Technology & Response team (STAR), Symantec Corporation, the warning signs of viruses are next to none: “Unless it is a ransomware threat that encrypts all your files, there are often no apparent clues that a computer is infected with malware. Some indications might be a 100% workload of the CPU or strange pop-up messages, but in most cases the user will only notice the consequences when people complain about strange emails, unusual logins or fraudulent transactions on payment cards.”
Protecting company devices is the first step to arming your team with the appropriate tools to secure your personal and private company data. In a 2019 article by Cybercrime Magazine, it was reported that 60% of small businesses close within six months of falling victim to a data breach or cyber attack of some sort. That is not a small percentage — don’t let your company be another statistic.
Secure Wi-Fi networks
This is a job for the IT department at your company. It’s essential to secure, encrypt and hide your network. While setting up your router (or wireless access point), choose to not broadcast the network name (otherwise known as the Service Set Identifier), in order to protect your business. Enable a safe and secure password to protect the network, and deter others who might be able to join the network from a distance. Keep this password complex and intricate, as it will be widely shared. Update the password on a regular basis to keep security measures working and in place.
For employees who aren’t in the office and are working remotely, they too should be properly equipped when joining a network that might not be safe. Joining public Wi-Fi may seem harmless, but think again. Libraries, coffee shops, and any other public gathering areas usually have a free Internet connection. But, with that comes a slew of random people also joining the same network. Download a VPN on all company devices to ensure your company data is protected at all costs. This tool creates a private network from a public Wi-Fi connection. A VPN masks the user’s IP address and hides all online browsing activity from being seen by others. Implement this software on all company devices including tablets, laptops and smartphones.
Educate your teams
Cybersecurity might feel like a daunting task for small business owners, but it’s important to know you’re not alone. Connect with your IT department on ways you can educate all employees on best practices, share basic connectivity information, and answer any other questions employees might have. Plan on having information sessions throughout the year to discuss important company-wide cyber threats and any other info that has changed since employees were last prepped on the topic.
Include all employees on an email chain describing any new updates or changes that require action from employees. Keep the action items simple and informative so all users can fully understand the benefits behind the changes.
Evaluate employee access
Before granting technology access to employees, take some time to evaluate who should be able to access what information. Small business owners should sit down with C-suite members to discuss who needs access to what information. This goes for access to specific meeting rooms, financial and sales programs, phone systems, and more. Not only does this keep your ship running nice and tight, but it can also help prevent an internal data breach. In a 2018 Data Breach Investigations Report done by Verizon, statistics showed 58% of data breach victims were small businesses. By narrowing down your employee access to a select group of important people, you are actually boosting your cybersecurity. Limiting confidential business information is one of the smartest actions you can take as a business owner. Data breaches are costly and can tear a company down to the ground, so take it into your own hands to protect your business.
Keep cybersecurity at the forefront of your mind when it comes to the business you’re running. Although you don’t physically see a threat standing directly in front of you, it doesn’t mean it’s not there behind a device. Relay these tips to your employees, for a safer user experience for all and a step in the right direction towards corporate digital safety and awareness.
Funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration and a Grant with the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development. All opinions, conclusions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA or the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development. Reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities will be made if requested at least two weeks in advance. Contact the California SBDC closest to you.