In 2017, the credit-reporting company Equifax reported an enormous data breach: hundreds of millions of consumers had been affected in some regard. And just last month, that number grew by 2.4 million for a total of 147.9 million people who had their information compromised.
Some are predicting the breach could be the costliest in corporate history — without factoring in any lawsuits or federal investigations, Reuters reported.
Corporate breaches always make the headlines, but what’s left untold is how many small businesses are affected by them.
About 42 percent of small-business owners fell victim to a cyberattack, according to a 2017 survey by the National Small Business Association. Small businesses are prime targets for these crimes because they have the same confidential information on consumers and employees but typically have lower security measures. Four of five small-business owners said in a survey that they handle all cybersecurity matters for their companies, while fewer than half surveyed said that they had not invested in cybersecurity protections in the last year.
So, what can you do to strengthen your internet security and business operations? Our Windstream Small Business team has a few suggestions to beef up your network.
1. Have a security plan, and update it regularly.
What exactly goes into a cybersecurity plan? The Federal Communications Commission has created Small Biz Cyber Planner 2.0 to help your business create a customized network security plan (and a tip sheet!). It includes recommendations for software programs that track laptop and mobile devices in case of theft and for the creation of a security plan on payments and credit cards. If it’s all too much, consider enlisting outside help, like an IT consultant.
2. Ensure you and your employees are using strong passwords.
Small businesses can open themselves up to risks if employees are using passwords that are common or too simple. (Stay away from password123!) Strengthen passwords by using a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols, and be sure to change out all passwords if you do experience a breach.
3. Encrypt important documents or data.
This is a fancy way of saying password-protect your important documents. Microsoft’s Office Suite and Adobe are among software programs that allow you to add a password to documents you wish to encrypt. Not sure how to do that? Here’s a good primer. Make sure that only those employees who need to have access to secure information can enter or alter those documents.
4. Consider virtual private networks or virtual data rooms.
Virtual private networks, or VPNs, are popular with companies because it allows internet users to create a secure connection to a network and share data remotely through public networks. Similarly, virtual data rooms, or VDRs, are online repositories that hold confidential information, such as financial transactions. Both come at a cost.
Another option is switching to SD-Wan, or a software-defined wide-area network. More businesses are taking the plunge to the cloud-based tool because it increases internet bandwidth and improves business performance and reliability. Windstream’s SD-Wan has built-in network security and can also encrypt all traffic so any access type becomes a secure connection.
While you’re off strengthening your network security, don’t forget to backup your important documents so you don’t lose them! Windstream Small Business can help support your company with phone, high-speed internet and cloud-based services that are designed to meet the needs of the ever-changing business environment.