Bringing your small business online can be a joyous occasion wrapped in enhanced marketing and sales potential. But this wishful thinking should be tempered with realistic expectations of the dangers of doing business online. In 2017, nearly 50% of US survey respondents said that they had changed their online behavior because they believed the threat of being hacked was growing.
The truth is that the internet can be a hazardous place for a trusted small business if they don’t take proper precautions. Without these precautions in place, small businesses are especially vulnerable to losing the loyal customer base that sustains them online and in person.
Small business owners are faced with a unique dilemma, however: how are they supposed to devote the necessary time to maintain their online security while running a business largely on their own? Striking a balance and setting up a self-managing system is key to maintaining your small business’ cybersecurity.
In addition, there are several best practices that can help mitigate the overall burden cybersecurity upkeep places on your day-to-day operations. Using these 5 small business security tips, you’ll be able to keep your digital presence safe from nefarious actors while still preserving time for all of your other crucial business tasks.
Tip #1 – Choose a Reliable Web Host
Before all else, you should ensure that you are using a reliable web host to house and protect your website or online store. With the sheer volume of web hosting options available to individuals and professionals today, it is very easy to get overwhelmed and choose a less-credible option. Now more so than ever, doing your research is essential to finding a web host that takes your website’s security seriously.
A reliable web host may implement several or a complete bevy of specialized security defenses designed to actively and passively protect your website from intrusion. Several common security measures implemented by industry-leading web hosts include firewalls (to prevent DDoS attacks), antimalware/antivirus programs (to identify and quarantine dangerous files), and SSL certificates (to ensure that all business communications are encrypted).
Choosing a reliable web host can be an important first step to reassuring your small business customers that you will protect their credit card and other sensitive personal info.
Tip #2 – Regularly Change your Passwords
Another important aspect of small business cyber security is often described as “security posture,” or in other words, how those with insider access to your website protect their login credentials. A misplaced or easy-to-guess password will give a would-be hacker a direct path into your digital inner sanctum, so it is essential to waylay these human errors by regularly changing your passwords.
Industry experts recommend changing your passwords every 90 days in order to maximize your security potential. However, for most small businesses, this much password turnover is simply infeasible. As such, you should regularly schedule an occasion to change all of your website’s passwords at once. This can occur annually (on a set date) or every six months, in order to establish an easy-to-remember pattern.
Your small business may even consider consulting with an outside IT expert in order to implement a business-wide password manager. Apart from ensuring all passwords are safely encrypted, these systems create automatically prompts on a pre-set schedule requiring all employees to change their password regularly or lose access.
Finally, nothing beats following good password creation protocols. A memorable password is far less important than a secure password, so be sure to follow best practices whenever you are regularly changing your passwords.
Tip #3 – Regularly Update your Security Software
Another major stumbling block for small business arises when the topic of security software arises. While many small business owners know they need to update their software regularly, many do not know how to do so or simply don’t have time to keep up with it. In this category, setting up an automated system is the absolute best solution.
Every piece of industry-standard security software – for computers, servers, websites, etc – comes with some type of internet-connected auto-update function. Ensure that all of your security programs are set to auto-update at least once a week.
Keeping your security software up-to-date is essential to its proper functioning. Major security firms put out new virus definitions every day in order to keep end-point users safe from emergent threats. Without these updates, cutting-edge hackers maybe be able to take advantage of your website or computers latest vulnerability, to catastrophic effect.
Tip #4 – Incorporate Internet Safety Training
Just as construction companies undertake regular job site safety courses, your small business should seriously consider adding internet safety courses to its regular portfolio of mandatory trainings. While many employees may feel internet savvy enough to not need training, annual refreshers go a long way towards not being caught in a well-set online trap.
Small and large businesses alike have increasingly become targets for phishing and spear phishing, two specialized hacking techniques involving false communications (often emails) tailored to look real (often from a reputable company like Google or Netflix). These phishing emails are often used to coax important login credentials out of a user, causing them to inadvertently allow a rogue element into an otherwise well-secured system.
Cutting down on these kinds of human errors is essential to keeping your small business’ cyber security sanctum intact. The FCC keeps track of ongoing phishing schemes, which may be useful for review when it comes time to implement new internet safety courses.
Tip #5 – Use a Locked-Down “Guest” Internet Connection
Using a multi-tiered wi-fi schema is also a great way to ensure that only trusted employees have access to internal internet channels. Working with your internet service provider, you should consider splitting your in-house wi-fi into at least two channels – one for employees and one for guests.
While the employee wi-fi should be password protected, the guest wi-fi can be left open (or partially open, with passwords printed on receipts) for easy access. By keeping these wi-fi channels separate, you can better protect your internet-connected business appliances (such as computers and credit card readers) from being remotely accessed by a nearby hacker.
Small Business Security Online is a Priority
Though the task feels daunting from the outset, building your small business’ cybersecurity portfolio can be simple yet effective. By following small business security tips such as regularly changing your passwords and keeping security software up-to-date, you’ll find that preserving your small business’ online integrity can be automatic and rewarding.
Don’t delay though! New cybersecurity threats emerge every day, threatening small business who don’t keep up with their internet safety protocols. Implement these security tips as soon as possible in order to ensure that your customers continue to fully trust your small business.