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Small Businesses and Cybersecurity

The following story is a hypothetical situation intended to emphasize the importance of small business cybersecurity: Maria is the President of a small business Tax and Accounting Service that specializes in accounting, bookkeeping and tax preparation for clients. Her world and business have been flipped upside down when she realizes that her email has been hacked through a phishing attack – a busy employee mistakenly clicked on a phishing email link, putting her business at risk. Not only has important information about her business been compromised, but personal information about her clients is now unprotected.

It is no wonder Maria and her business have fallen victim to phishing attacks, according to Forbes, (Small Businesses Are More Frequent Targets Of Cyberattacks Than Larger Companies: New Report ( small businesses are three times more likely to be targeted by cybercriminals than larger companies. What can small businesses do to avoid a situation like Maria’s? Below are essential best practices that small businesses can adopt to protect their digital assets, maintain customer trust, and ensure the business can achieve its goals.

1. Educate and Train Employees: Conduct regular training sessions to raise awareness about common phishing techniques, password security, and the importance of maintaining strong security practices. Encourage employees to report suspicious emails, links, or activities promptly. By fostering a culture of cybersecurity awareness, small businesses can significantly reduce the risk of successful cyberattacks.

2. Implement Strong Password Policies: Weak passwords are often a target for cybercriminals. Small businesses should enforce strong password policies that require employees to create complex passwords and change them regularly. Encourage the use of reliable password managers to store and generate unique passwords for each account. Implementing multi-factor authentication settings (MFA) adds an extra layer of security by requiring additional verification steps, such as a code sent to a mobile device.

3. Regularly Update and Patch Software: A patch is a set of changes to a computer program that eliminates vulnerabilities that hackers can use in a cyberattack. Small businesses must establish a process to regularly update and patch all software, operating systems and applications on their networks. Enable automatic updates whenever possible to ensure that the latest security patches are downloaded to company software promptly.

4. Secure Network and Wi-Fi Connections: Small businesses should secure their network and Wi-Fi connections to prevent unauthorized access. Change default network passwords and ensure that Wi-Fi networks utilize routers with strong encryption (often labeled as WPA2 or WPA3). Implement a separate guest network for visitors to ensure that they don’t have access to sensitive data. Regularly monitor network activity and consider implementing an online barrier (also known as a firewall) that filters certain website traffic on your software.

5. Regular Data Backup and Recovery Planning: Data loss can occur due to cyberattacks, hardware failures or human error. Small businesses should implement data backup procedures to have important information on file elsewhere in the case of data loss. Utilizing backup solutions that are installed in locations outside the workplace ensures backup information is kept safe. Test data restoration processes periodically to verify that backups are working effectively. Additionally, develop a data recovery plan to restore operations swiftly in the event of an incident.

Please visit our Cybersecurity Center for more helpful information on keeping information safe from cyber threats!