By Keith A. Bluesteinm
According to the National Cybersecurity Alliance, many small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have the misconception that their data is not valuable and that, in turn, they are unlikely to be the target of a cyberattack. However, 28% of cyberattacks involve small business victims. In short, all data is valuable – and there are simple steps that small business owners can take to protect theirs. This Cybersecurity Awareness Month, we encourage you to leverage the following tips and resources to ramp up your cybersecurity safeguards.
Understand the Most Common Types of Cyberattacks
To effectively prevent cyberattacks, you must first understand some of the ways these threats can present themselves. The most common types of cyberattacks include:
Phishing: Phishing is when cybercriminals send an email or text that appears to be from a legitimate organization or known individual. These emails often entice users to click on a link or open an attachment containing malicious code. After the code runs, your computer may become infected with malware (i.e. software intentionally designed to cause damage to a computer, server, client, or computer network).
Viruses: Viruses, a type of malware, are harmful programs that spread from computer to computer, giving cyber criminals access to systems.
Ransomware: Ransomware is a type of malware that restricts access to a computer until a ransom is paid.
Assess Your Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities
Once you understand what cyberattacks can look like, the next step is to evaluate your own operation’s cybersecurity risks. A cybersecurity risk assessment can identify where a business is vulnerable and help you create a plan of action, which should include employee training, a strategy for securing email platforms, and a path forward to protect your business’s information assets.
Here are a few government tools you can use for your cybersecurity risk assessment:
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Planning Tool: The FCC offers a cybersecurity planning tool to help you build a strategy based on your unique business needs.
Cyber Resilience Review: The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Cyber Resilience Review is a non-technical assessment to evaluate operational resilience and cybersecurity practices.
Cyber Hygiene Vulnerability Scanning: DHS also offers free cyber hygiene vulnerability scanning for small businesses.
Cyber Essentials: Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) Cyber Essentials is a guide for leaders of small businesses as well as leaders of small and local government agencies to develop an actionable understanding of where to start implementing organizational cybersecurity practices.
Implement Best Practices
While your risk assessment will help you develop tailored cybersecurity plans based on your unique needs, there are also general best practices that all businesses can adopt to reduce vulnerability to a cyberattack. These include:
Beefing up existing cybersecurity protections: Simple acts like changing passwords with stronger ones made up of random letters, numbers, and special characters can help prevent cybercriminals from gaining access to your data. Using multifactor authentication for your accounts and services. Additionally, update anti-virus software and secure your Wi-Fi networks.
Training employees: Cybersecurity is a team effort. Make sure your employees know their roles and responsibilities in preventing breaches, too.
Protecting sensitive data and backing up the rest: While firewalls and other tech protections are important to warding off cyberattacks, physical protections can be just as essential. For example, lock up company laptops when they are not being used to prevent unauthorized access. Additionally, make sure that your files are backed up regularly to reduce your business’s susceptibility to ransomware attacks.
Being a small business owner is all consuming, and it can be difficult to find a spare moment. However, making cybersecurity a priority can save you time and money down the line. Visit sba.gov/cybersecurity, along with the Cybersecurity Awareness Month site, for more valuable tips and tools.