Keeping Your Small Business Data Safe
Protecting your small business against a data breach is one of the more important aspects of your business. Whether you need to protect intellectual property, medical information, or financial records, it is important to secure your IT infrastructure against being vulnerable to data breaches.
Data breaches can be extraordinarily expensive and in high profile cases, cost a company millions of dollars. For instance, the recent Equifax breach is expected to reach a price tag of $600 million this year according to Reuters. For small businesses, the cost can be overwhelming.
Securing your computers and networks can feel like an afterthought when you manage your own small business. In a lot of cases, the normal day to day operations can leave you with little free time to devote to IT security. Even then, it may feel like a daunting task. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect your business.
Start by conducting an internal audit of how you interact with your computer systems. Here are a few key subjects to focus on:
Are my passwords strong enough?
It’s common to use easy to remember passwords such as names or birthdays. However, they are even easier for hackers to guess. Brute force programs work by trying all possible combinations of numbers, letters, and special characters, and can try billions of them in a second. In minutes, a simple password can be cracked.
Instead, use a combination of words and symbols for your password instead: “brownc@dillac#$treetcar” for example. This is more secure because it uses symbols and is much longer. Passwords become exponentially more difficult to crack as the length and complexity increases. Changing your passwords every couple of months will help as well.
Also, consider using a password manager on your computer. Writing down passwords on a piece of paper and keeping them around your computer is essentially the same as not having a password at all. A password manager is a program that will securely store all of your different passwords without exposing them to anyone else. Making you less vulnerable to data breaches.
Is the software on my computers regularly updated?
If you are using Windows on your desktop computers or laptops, make sure they are set to automatically download and install updates. Microsoft is constantly updating their operating systems to protect against the latest vulnerabilities and attacks. Keeping the software on your computers and devices updated can help protect against being vulnerable to data breaches.
Be cautious with emails and links online
One of the most common ways for hackers to gain access to a system is through a Trojan virus. These are usually disguised as an innocent looking email or website but can wreak havoc on your entire system. When looking through your emails, only open the ones that you recognize and trust. In some cases, simply opening an email is enough to inadvertently download a virus.
Similarly, clicking on a link you may not know can bring you to a website that automatically downloads a virus. For these reasons, it is fundamental that you install and maintain anti-malware software on your computers. These programs can protect your entire computer against malicious software.
Physical security of devices
Treat your computer systems with the same level of physical protection as you would your office or home. If you use laptops or flash drives, know where they are at all times. Also, If you bring them with you outside of the office, keep them close by or locked in your car and out of plain sight. If you have any files that contain sensitive information, you can add another layer of security by protecting individual files with a password.
Educate your employees in basic security practices
As the old expression goes, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Talk with your employees and discuss each of these steps as well. This is especially important if your business provides them with take-home tablets or laptops. Providing training is a great way to make sure you are not vulnerable to data breaches.
Protect your business with data breach insurance
Ask your insurance company if they provide plans for data breaches. Chances are your provider can bundle this in with your existing policies for only a small additional premium. Depending on the type of business, a data breach involving medical records or sensitive financial information can quickly become expensive and even lead to lawsuits. Being protected by insurance can help mitigate what could otherwise be a devastating financial impact to your business.
Consider an outside audit
Consulting with a company like us (Computer PRO Unltd.) can provide you with a comprehensive review of your businesses policy and security. An outside audit will examine every aspect of your business including network security and physical security. They can identify your weaknesses and how to improve them.
If your business is growing rapidly, an audit will also help you to plan for the future. An IT setup for a company with a dozen employees can be drastically different from a company with 100 or more employees. An audit can help you plan your IT infrastructure so that it grows safely with your business.
No matter what industry you are in, computers are likely playing a key role in your company and it’s important to maintain them with the same level of care as the rest of your business. Don’t let your company be vulnerable to data breaches.
Technician at Computer PRO Unltd, father of one, gamer.