In our hyper-digital age, ensuring that your cybersecurity is iron-clad is a must–especially, if you’re running a business.
Verizon’s 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report revealed that 43% of data breaches impacted small to midsize businesses, but the frequency with which large corporations make news headlines in regard to data breaches suggests that even businesses who can afford to invest in their cybersecurity can fall victim to hacks.
And right now, with so many businesses, both small and large, moving their operations online, there is so much more at stake. How much more, exactly? Cybersecurity Ventures’ 2019 Cybersecurity Market Report estimated that worldwide, online spending would reach $3.5 billion in 2004, and $170.4 billion by 2022.
Despite how much there is to lose, Founder and CEO of cybersecurity firm Herjavec Group, and star of “Shark Tank,” Robert Herjavek says, “businesses assume it will never happen to them, [but]…it will!” As an industry, cybersecurity, or “the protection against the criminal or unauthorized use of electronic data, or the measures taken to achieve this,” is a big business. So much so, Cybersecurity Ventures also estimates that the cost of online crime will reach $6 trillion annually by 2021.
Herjavek asserts, “cybersecurity risk is everywhere no matter the size of your business, and the data you process and ingest can be exploited for financial gain.” He also notes that hackers typically “put [your information] up for sale on the deep dark web, holding files for ransom or leveraging the data to influence markets, politics and business.”
Generally, consumers and businesses make hackers’ jobs easy by leaving their data unprotected, and failing to take the proper cybersecurity measures practices. As a result, a variety of attacks occur–phishing, distributed denial of service (DDoS), and man-in-the-middle (MitM), to name a few–but thankfully, there are several things that you can begin doing today to limit your chances of falling prey to hackers.
Set the tone for your team
As a business owner (and even as a consumer), you have to prioritize your team’s cybersecurity from the beginning.
Source: Unsplash @Airfocus
Providing an employee/contractor guidebook helps to educate them on protecting customer information, and establish rules for computer use.
Ensure that all work-related technology is properly protected
Computers, laptops, and even cell phones can, and should be, encrypted, as should your office’s Wi-Fi network. Smartphones, especially, have become such a fixture in our lives that we often don’t even consider how vulnerable our information is to hackers, but they are!
If your employees/contractors work from home and handle sensitive information, The U.S. Department of Commerce suggests setting up and enabling a firewall (a set of related programs that prevent outsiders from accessing data on a private network). In the office, setting up a VPN (virtual private network), password protecting your router, and hiding your Service Set Identifier (SSID), are all highly recommended.
Source: Unsplash @PetterLagson
Protect your passwords with two-step authentication (or more)
All work-related technology and accounts need to be protected by strong passwords, and requiring multiple layers of authentication for your logins does just that. We recommend tools like 1Password, which offers secure access to all your passwords and other items from any of your devices.
Only provide security clearance to employees who need access to data
When it comes to protecting yourself online, the less sensitive data is shared, the better. The U.S. Department of Commerce proposes limiting access to the specific data systems that are needed, and nothing more. They also advise controlling physical access to your computers, creating user accounts for each team member, and limiting their capability to download software without permission, and only extending “administrative privileges to trusted IT staff and key personnel.”
Keep your software and systems up-to-date
Though doing so often gets overlooked, “having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats,” according to DoC. After each update, they also recommended that you run a scan on your antivirus software.
Even as a consumer, there are many ways you can be vigilant about protecting your information.
To start, inquire about your bank’s anti-fraud services, enable multi-level authentication for your logins, and avoid browsing the Internet with the same computer that you use to make payments. Other actions you can take include avoiding public Wi-Fi, especially while making financial transactions; using https://” when making financial transactions, as it indicates a basic level of encrypted security; refraining from sharing any personal information that seems irrelevant to the website you’re on; and, not opening emails from unknown senders.
Regardless, securing your cybersecurity begins with understanding the ubiquitousness of the risks. In an interview, Stephen Cobb, a senior security researcher at antivirus software company ESET, argues that “small to midsize businesses fall into hackers’ cybersecurity sweet spot since they ‘have more digital assets to target than an individual consumer has but less security than a larger enterprise.”
All in all, when it comes to cybersecurity, YOU are your biggest asset…are you protected?
You may use this guide to assess your cybersecurity risk, but for best results, have a professional cybersecurity consultant or firm conduct an even more quantitative risk assessment. Our team entrusts its cybersecurity to Firma IT Solutions, and highly recommends them if you’re in need of ‘comprehensive solutions that ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of your business data.’