Small businesses have turned to the internet to find a more global audience, communicate with its employees and find and manage competition. You’ve also likely used it for credit card transactions and online ordering.
But with that proliferation of business high-speed internet use comes increased risk: about 42 percent of small business owners fell prey to a cyberattack, mostly general computer hacks, stolen credit card information and website hacks, according to a 2016 survey by the National Small Business Association. In 2015, Jane LeClair, then the chief operating officer of the National Cybersecurity Institute at Excelsior College, told government officials that half of small businesses have been victims of cyberattacks, while 60 percent of those went out of business.
The threat is real, especially if you have tight profit margins.
So how do you improve your small business’ cybersecurity? Here are some recommendations from our Windstream Small Business team. (Refer to our glossary of all things internet safety, if needed.)
1. Train Your Employees
Teach your employees about common scams that target small businesses. And know that these can come in the form of texts, phone calls, messages on social platforms or through email.
Also, create best practices for carrying out business online and keeping consumer and employee information safe. As an example, ensure that your employees are using strong passwords, especially for access to something that may hold confidential information. They can strengthen passwords by using a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. If you think the company has been exposed, make sure to change all passwords. Or require your employees use two-step authentication to log in.
2. Limit Access
This can look different across companies. Some may want to limit access to websites that are not needed for work purposes, while others may restrict what employees can download and install. Yet others will control which employees have access to confidential information — like credit card information or consumer data that you could have on customer relationship management platforms — to only those who need that access. (You should, too!)
And don’t forget about that wireless internet! You’re opening up your company to risks if you’re using the same internet connection to supply your customers with public Wi-Fi with your business dealings. Try out Windstream’s Extra Connect to give your small business a second internet connection that you can open up to customers.
3. Defend Company Devices and Update Technology
Install a firewall on your network and computers. Both will allow you to control who has access to your network.
Keep all the devices you use for your small business — computer operating systems, mobile phones and even software programs — up-to-date. Just as technology is always evolving, so are viruses and malware. That could mean that your software program that you have yet to update may not protect you from a new type of malware.
4. Use Encryption
As a small business owner, you may be sending confidential information from one location to another often. A way to keep that under locks? Encryption services. Encrypt all sensitive data on portable devices, such as smartphones and laptops. Just make sure it is configured properly or it might leave your small business vulnerable.
5. Create a Security Plan
Should things turn south, make sure you have a plan in place to constantly monitor your networks and eliminate any threats. Use the Federal Communications Commission’s Small Biz Cyber Planner 2.0 to create a custom internet safety plan for your small business. And don’t forget to back up important information. As an example, if you have a document about your customers on your computer’s desktop — secured, of course — have another copy of it stored in the cloud.
Try out some or all of these tips today to strengthen your small business internet.
Windstream Small Business offers various value-add packs, including a security pack, and a la carte services, such as internet security and online backup and remote IT.