Business

3 Ways to Safeguard Your Small Business From Cyber Attacks

safeguard small business

Statistics show that small business owners are more at risk of a cyber attack than their big business counterparts. We look at three top tips to prevent your small business becoming another statistic.

While cyber attacks on big businesses may grab the headlines, the reality is that, as a small business owner, you’re more susceptible to being hacked. To make matters worse, the consequences of being hacked are costlier for small businesses.

Why are small businesses more vulnerable to cyber attacks?

Small businesses represent the middle ground between individuals and large businesses. They tend to have more digital hardware than individuals, but less cyber security than the bigger players, making them picture-perfect targets for hackers.

What also makes small businesses somewhat easier pickings is that they underestimate their vulnerability to attack. According to a recent survey, over 80 per cent of small business owners said that they’re not targets because they don’t own any information worth stealing.

In this way, small business owners can unwittingly become their own worst enemy!

Which cyber attacks are most common?

Hackers are becoming ever more sophisticated in their attacks, so it’s impossible to produce an exhaustive list of threats, but here’s the most common attacks that your small business should know about.

Advanced Persistent Threats

Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) are cyber attacks that breach your network’s security in several phases over a long period of time in order to avoid detection. APTs typically span five stages.

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks involve intentionally overloading your website or network with the sole intention of shutting it down.

Inside attacks

Like its name suggests, an inside attack occurs when someone with administrative privileges to your network or website deliberately misuses them to access confidential information. Former staff members can pose a serious threat, particularly if they left your firm on less than ideal terms.

Malware

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have heard about malware.

Short for ‘malicious software,’ it can be any program targeting your business computers with the intention of causing harm or gaining unauthorised access to them.

Password attacks

Password attacks come in three forms:

  • Brute force: hackers try to guess your password to secure entry to your network.
  • Dictionary: hackers use a program, which applies combinations of words from the dictionary.
  • Keylogging: hackers use surveillance software to monitor your users’ keystrokes and identify logins and passwords.

Phishing attacks

Phishing is probably the most common form of cyber theft and consists of hackers sending emails designed to collect your confidential and sensitive business information, such as credit card details. Fortunately, there are telltale signs you can look out for, which point to a potential phishing email.

How can you protect your small business from a cyber attack?

Whether your staff totals one or 10, here are three sure-fire ways you can protect your small business from a cyber attack.

  1. Educate (all) your staff on cyber security

Given that most data security breaches are caused by human error, it’s crucial to drill into all your staff the importance of knowing and applying good security protocols.

Create a culture of cyber security, which includes everyone in your business – from the CEO to the casual worker. You and your staff need to know how to use your company’s network safely and securely, how to spot a breach of security and (where possible) contain it quickly and efficiently.

If your only take on cyber security is that it’s “a problem for the IT department,” you’re inviting trouble.

  1. Introduce an information security policy

Having a firm-wide information security policy can significantly lower the chances of a cyber attack wreaking havoc in your business.

In this policy, you should include a business continuity plan, which outlines how you and your staff should respond in the event of a cyber attack. Ultimately, the aim should be to deal with the threat effectively with a view to business continuing as usual.

As with any policy, you should review and update it regularly – especially since new cyber threats and vulnerabilities emerge almost daily.

  1. Implement a mobile security policy

With mobile phone security lagging behind the protection afforded to laptop and desktop computers, mobile devices are a hacker’s dream.

Hackers have been known to hijack smartphone cameras and use them to spy on business meetings, for example. So, before you or your staff download an app onto a work-approved phone, vet it first. Make sure it’s secure so that hackers can’t have their wicked way with your sensitive information.

While being on top of these advanced tips will stand your business in good stead, it’s just as important not to neglect the basics, such as:

  • Changing passwords regularly.
  • Updating anti-virus software.
  • Using firewalls and encryption software.
  • Investing in a reliable data back-up solution.

Making cyber security a priority doesn’t have to be costly or complex and the peace of mind it’ll provide will be priceless for your business.

About the Author:

Sumit Agarwal
, A specialist accountant and tax adviser for freelancers, contractors and small businesses since 2005, He is an expert in business growth and development strategies. A renowned tax expert for owner managed businesses and contractors, He won the British Business Forum’s Young Entrepreneur Award in September 2012, presented at the House of Commons by MP Vrinder Sharma.