Cyber security experts estimate that roughly 43 percent of cyber attacks target small businesses alone. By 2023, cyber security criminals will also hijack more than 30 billion confidential records and other secured data.
That’s why it’s vital that small business owners know how to fight off cyber threats to protect their records from theft or loss.
If you’re starting a small business, this helpful cyber security checklist can help you protect your businesses’ online security.
With these protections in place, small business owners can fight countless attacks against the companies they’ve worked so hard to form.
Table of Contents
What Does Cybersecurity Mean?
Cybersecurity means safeguarding your company’s online systems from cyber attacks. This includes protecting any mobile device or desktop computer that you or your employees use.
Data security is also an important component of cyber security. Hackers will often try to access your customers’ addresses, credit information, and other sensitive data. These threats can also erase your company’s banking or other historical files.
Cyber-threats can target a specific employee, company owner, or type of client. Some of these attacks will try to demand payment. One attack on confidential data might completely stop all of your company’s operations.
Why is Cybersecurity Important to Small Business?
Cybersecurity can help small companies protect their individual data set assets. If a small business doesn’t regularly safeguard these assets, they’re subject to regulatory penalties. Examples of data set assets include:
“Availability refers to how well a company keeps their services to clients available when these clients need them. “Availability” also refers to either lost or destroyed data.
“Confidentiality” refers to the efforts you have in place to grant data access to only authorized employees. A small number of employees should have this access. These limits will help make sure that a customer’s sensitive data won’t be stolen.
“Reliability” means keeping data accurate. You’ll know if you have reliable data if a customer reacts to your stored data on them, the same way, every time they come in contact with it.
Types of Attacks
Cybercriminals are experts at releasing new internet threats every day. These threats all have similar characteristics to help them carry out their dirty deeds. Some common threats in play today include:
“Malware” is an abbreviation for “malicious software.” Malware is any kind of software that can damage a single computer or network.
Hackers can install it by accessing systems remotely. They can also set it up manually and directly into the equipment.
Viruses are pieces of computer codes that attach themselves onto other legitimate application codes. These tiny snippets then become a part of the other computer applications.
Once they’re attached, they spread and reproduce. When the applications run, it distributes the virus.
A ransomware attack infects and restricts your access to network systems. Access won’t be released unless you pay a fee or “ransom.
Users receive instructions on how to pay the ransom. Then they get a decryption code to unlock their system.
Phishing occurs when an online user’s sensitive data gets stolen by another anonymous user. Data stolen might include password logins or credit card numbers.
A hacker masquerades as a familiar entity. They persuade victims to open their text messages or emails.
These phishing messages direct victims to click their links or open their attachments that contain malware. When a user downloads a file or clicks on the link, malware spreads throughout the victim’s device.
What’s at Risk?
Cyber attacks can impact small businesses in many ways if they don’t take the time to make changes. Here are just a few of the risks involved:
Access to Client Lists
Cyber risks can result in a loss of your company’s sensitive data, including your customers’ personal identifying information. Hackers can steal this sensitive data and harass your customers or demand a ransom to give it back.
If your customers don’t think they can trust you with their identifying information, they may look for another service provider they can trust.
Customer Credit Card Information
Hackers can also use stolen personal identity information to buy products with your customer’s credit cards and leave your customers with the bills.
If your customer knows that your company exposed their information to cybercriminals, they are more likely to cancel their pending or active orders. Then they’ll probably take their business somewhere else.
Your Company’s Banking Details
Cyber attacks can corrupt your sales records and possibly delete them. Recreating them will be a time-consuming and expensive process.
When hackers install malware on a business’s computer system, it can affect that company’s electronic fund transfers as well.
Once your systems are infected, cybercriminals can transfer these funds out of your company’s banking account. This can result in an unrecoverable financial loss.
Your Pricing Structure
Companies with infected computer systems have high bills to correct their problems. These expenses can range from affected party notification costs to new antivirus software.
Recovering these costs for cleaning up after a cyberattack might get passed down to the customer in the form of higher prices.
Product designs are an example of intellectual property. Other examples of intellectual property include your production methods, trade secrets, or pricing strategies.
A data breach in your system can risk the confidentiality of your intellectual property.
When this happens, you might start to see your competitors building and selling the same products you are. This dynamic will ruin your competitiveness.
A history of cyberattacks can damage a company’s reputation. Potential customers might avoid doing business with them, thinking they are careless with their internal controls.
This association can put a grinding halt on any plans to expand into new markets.
A cyber attack has the power to bring a company’s manufacturing process to a grinding halt.
Phishing attacks might hack information about a company’s industrial control system. As a result, the company might start to produce faulty equipment that doesn’t meet safety standards or other specifications.
Types of Security
The good news is that there are some effective tools in place that can stop cyber attacks. Some of these include:
Network security is a set of configurations that protect an overall computer network and the data. These configurations include technical and administrative security.
Technical security controls data stored on the network. Administrative security refers to the policies in place to control network user behavior.
Cloud security is a set of controls that work together to protect data stored in the “cloud.” Cloud security means users connect to the Internet directly and not their own systems.
Cloud security is enhanced with unified threat management (UTM) controls monitored by a cloud-access security broker (CASB.)
A virtual private network (VPN) firewall is designed to protect you against unauthorized users who try to intercept information on your VPN connection.
The VPN connection creates a tunnel that protects your user’s data as it travels to its end destination. VPN firewalls come in hardware and software forms.
Backup means creating copies of your system’s files that you can recover in case the original files are corrupted or lost.
Data backup security also applies to backing up databases and operating systems. You can also back up any system, hosts, or management consoles as well.
Here’s a cybersecurity checklist you can use to protect your company. Use this list to help make sure your business is ready to meet these threats head-on.
1. Tap Some Current Cybersecurity Resources
There are quite a few public and private organizations that have cybersecurity resource information available for free. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), for example, offers the Cybersecurity Planning Guide as a reliable resource.
The Cybersecurity Planning Guide includes templates based on company size. Both small and large businesses can adopt these templates to create their own cybersecurity policies that suit their company best.
Many public or private groups will also make their security samples free of charge to adapt for your own organization. These cyber security templates can be helpful for smaller business planning needs.
The SANS Institute of Philadelphia also provides helpful resources for cyber attack prevention. You can find cybersecurity plan templates and tools on their website.
2. Write a Cybersecurity Plan
A cybersecurity plan is a written document that highlights your technical strategies to protect your data assets. The plan tells employees what their obligations and responsibilities are for protecting the company’s data assets.
This plan should also specify employee or contractor levels of access. A cybersecurity plan can be a preventative tool to help recognize and stop cyber threats before they start.
A cybersecurity plan should also include steps on how to respond to a security break. This plan should also include any preventive measures possible to keep them from ever taking place.
3. Educate Your Staff on Cybersecurity
Tell your team that they are your front line of defense to protect the company from cybersecurity attacks that can cripple your business. Educate them on they can protect your operations.
Teach them how to protect your company’s sensitive data assets. Leverage these training opportunities to show them more about what cybersecurity threats are currently out in the world today.
There are many training resources available today. These resources will provide helpful samples, such as online communication rules and practices.
One of these sources includes the National Initiative for Cyber Security Careers and Studies (NICCS.) NICCS is a division within the Department of Homeland Security.
It would be best if you also guided your staff and other business partners on your business cybersecurity plan. Be sure to highlight how you’ll need their assistance to protect the company’s sensitive customer data, as well as other digital assets.
Coach them on their anti-cyber threat responsibilities. Be sure that they all understand what role they can play in protecting online records.
4. Restrict Physical Access
Each person who has access to your company’s data should have an individual user account. Individual employees should be made responsible for the system administration tasks that they perform.
Lock up and store any company mobile device or laptop when they’re not being used.
5. Passwords and/Other Login Authentications
Make sure that your employees have individual, strong passwords. Their login authentications should also be unique.
Advise your team to change their passwords regularly. Passwords should be changed around every two or three months.
Advise your team also to use multi-factor authentications. Multi-factor authentication requires additional log-in credentials, as well as a secure password.
6. Install Current Software On Your Networks And Other Devices
Make sure you have updated versions of security software installed on all of your online browsers used in your company. Current software versions can help protect your data from viruses and other malware.
7. Mobile Device Protocols
Make sure that you have antivirus software loaded on all of your company’s phones, laptops, or mobile devices.
Antivirus software will protect your confidential information if you want to retrieve it in a public network. Any personal device should also include unique passwords as well.
8. Create a Data Back-Up Schedule
Write down your schedule for regular data backups on all your company’s devices. Be sure to back up files, like your accounts receivable/payable files and human resource records. Store these backups either at an off-site location or in the cloud.
9. Research Cyber Liability Insurance
Cyber liability insurance is a protection plan that protects your company’s liability from a data breach of private customer information. Examples of private customer information can include driver’s license numbers, credit card numbers, and social security numbers.
Cyber liability insurance will help with costs associated with recovering stolen data and repairing damaged systems. This coverage will also help you pay for those costs necessary to let your customers know about your data breach.
What Are Your Next Steps?
You can start by downloading the FCC’s planning guide. This resource will help you get ready to start drafting your cyber security plan. Confirm your company computers and mobile devices have current versions of security software.
If you have any other outstanding questions on what your small business needs, be sure to check our website. Cybersecurity is a necessity for small companies. Use this checklist today, and you won’t become tomorrow’s next cyber-attack victim.