There is no question that cyber attacks and hackers are targeting small businesses. They don’t have the infrastructure to deal with professional attacks; most can’t afford to hold out against ransom attacks. Many businesses don’t have any viable defense at all.
Any small business online is fundamentally a cash cow for attackers, rarely able to fend off the first-level attack due to a lack of practical security technology and planning.
A small business’s loss is just as dramatic as a medium or large company. Everything from financials to personal identification information is at stake. Often businesses are specifically targeted and sold on digital black markets.
Even more frustrating, many small businesses easily get caught like schools of fish in automated bot attacks that penetrate first, and access is exploited later by the hacker. A penetration may not even be known right away as it isn’t acted on right away, but it’s still there.
Fortunately, there are a number of things any small business can do with little or low cost to reduce cyber risks significantly. Remember, many attackers are looking for easy targets with little resistance. They focus on significant returns versus spending hours and days penetrating small targets.
Putting up a reasonable defense to make things difficult tends to shift attention to others who are weaker and easier to attack. Some of the best cyber reputation management solutions any small business should consider include:
1. Use Some Kind of Firewall/AV Protection
With so many viable and top-notch options available at a reasonable cost, there’s no excuse not to use a primary defense system, either hardware, software, or both. Ideally, a hardware firewall is better, but even using a software firewall at least provides some basic level of defence and can be installed in a day. Not using a defense at all is just criminal.
2. Outsource for Expertise
If a small business needs expert help at a complicated network level and doesn’t have the time or the learning curve to wait through, it makes far more sense to contract for the help. Hire subject matter experts right away to get up to speed. Again, the faster a defense is up and running, the quicker the attacks are deflected.
3. Personnel Training Should be Frequent
Security training for employees and staff should be frequent and consistent. Basic awareness of what to look for typically stops many risks and blocks social engineering attacks such as phishing and whaling (going after big specific targets in personnel for authorization).
Organizations should also perform some follow-ups to ensure people follow their training, such as audits or mock attacks without warnings. Where gaps are found, those staff involved should be automatically trained again with the specific example.
Finally, rules and expectations should be documented as employee policies for 24/7 access and made available on an internal site or source. In short, lack of awareness should never be an excuse for a security failure.
4. Encrypt Data and Transactions Being Uploaded/Downloaded
The ability to encrypt transactions is widespread and available. Even at the most basic level, secure browser capability is commonplace and should be automatically set by network administrators. For smaller operations using non-network connections, staff should be trained to use encryption tools and religiously use them.
Again, simply blocking the ability to read data makes things much harder for attackers, shifting their attention to other targets quickly. Even if the data gets lost and copied, being encrypted essentially makes the stolen data useless.
5. Use Complex Passwords
Using examples like pass123 or MyPassword2022 are not secure, period. Folks need to use a password at least 15 digits long, uses special characters and don’t follow conventional communication.
The time it takes to crack a primary password requires only minutes, maybe hours, for the most robust version under 8 digits. The time for a complex password can be years for the best brute force cracking programs. It’s common sense to use stronger passwords that are not recognizable or guessable.
Again, the above IT security options cost little or nothing to implement aside from time and discipline. Yet amazingly, 1 out of 2 companies still don’t implement the above consistently or entirely.
No surprise, attackers know this and continue to have a field day at small businesses’ expense. Don’t be a statistic; get smart with your IT today!