Cybersecurity Threats Faced by Small Businesses Expanding Online
It is an exciting prospect to move your business to the online space, but while you will have the chance to reach more customers, you will also need to understand the very possible chance of a data breach or other cybercrime. It only takes one incident to cause your company a world of trouble, and you don’t want to start your expansion off on the wrong foot.
Before you move your products and data to an online platform, you need to take the time to understand the threats, put the proper protections in place, and educate your employees so you can mitigate the chances of a cybercrime. Let’s talk about the importance of enhanced cybersecurity with increased productivity and how to protect the data of your company and your customers while expanding your business.
You Must Protect Your Data
Make no mistake. Hackers are interested in your data. The fact is that 43% of all data breaches involve smaller organizations, and that is because criminals know those business owners either don’t understand the risk of running a business online or they don’t think they could be a target because they aren’t a major corporation with millions of customers. It is important to understand that the size of your client base does not make your data any less valuable. Anyone’s social security and credit card numbers can be used to make fraudulent charges, and even an email address or birth date can be used for malicious purposes like being sold on the black market.
You also need to protect proprietary information that makes your company unique, which might include your trade secrets, recipes, databases, and anything else that you would not want to leak out into the world. In addition to having employees sign non-disclosure agreements and non-compete paperwork, you will also need to put the proper online protections in place. In this competitive world, there are companies that would pay top dollar to learn what makes your business tick, and a hacker may be able to steal it during a breach.
If your company does not take the proper precautions and data is stolen, then it could be big trouble for your business, beginning with the financial burden. Currently, the average cost of a cyber breach is upwards of 4 million dollars, which could include being required to contact customers, patch up the vulnerabilities in your system, and perform damage control.
Your reputation could take a big hit as well. Customers know how valuable their data is, and they also know that you are not the only game in town. If a breach does occur and their data is compromised, many people will not have an issue taking their patronage to one of your competitors. As a small business, that may be too much of a risk to take.
Be Aware of the Threats
Before you make the transition to your online platform, you need to educate your team on all current cybersecurity weaknesses and scams. Teach them how to take the proper steps to protect their systems every day. The lack of employee training at many institutions is why data breaches often become a reality, so this is an important step.
Inform them about the most dangerous cybersecurity scams, like malware and phishing emails. A phishing scam is when a hacker acts as if they are a person of authority, like a member of management or a vendor, and they send a message to an employee asking them to click on a link or open an attachment. However, if the worker clicks, then they are opening the door for the hacker to enter the system, and from there, they can steal or compromise your sensitive data. In order to prevent a phishing scam, employees should be on the lookout for suspicious emails and report them to management before opening them.
Another incredibly dangerous scam is ransomware, which is when a hacker is able to infiltrate your system, and once they do, they lock it down so you cannot access it until you pay them a hefty fee. If you have an e-commerce company and you can’t sell your products because the system is locked down, then you could lose a lot of money. In order to prevent this scam and any viruses or malware, your employees need to use smart passwords on every program that they use, which should include a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters. They should also update management if they see anything suspicious.
It is essential that you train your staff on all of these scams as soon as they start working at your company. Make it a part of employee orientation and then require that your team signs off on what they learned. That way, they can be held accountable throughout their employment at your organization.
Put the Proper Protections in Place
Knowledge of common threats is a good start, but you must also take action and put the proper protections in place before you expand online. Start by talking to your IT team about the precautions that they are taking and make sure that they include a strong and updated firewall and proper encryption so that hackers cannot read or use your data even if they are able to steal it.
When you are working online, a virus or malware can infect your system within moments, so it is important that you have an updated antivirus program installed and that you run scans multiple times per week. Doing so will eliminate a virus before it can cause extensive damage. Make sure to update your antivirus whenever a new version becomes available, so you can protect against the latest threats.
Finally, it is essential that you back up all of your data every day to an external server that is separate from your mainframe, so if a hacker does infiltrate, they can’t get to the backed-up data. Some companies choose to move all of their programs and data to the cloud, so they don’t need to keep physical servers in the office. However, although generally safe, cloud computing does have its own set of risks, including insider threats and malicious employees or the chance of unintentional data loss. Needless to say, you cannot depend solely on another company to protect your data. You must be vigilant on your end as well.
As you can see, you have some work to do as far as beefing up your cybersecurity measures before you move to an online space. Consider these tips before you make the transition, and you can expand with confidence that your data is protected.
Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but technology and digital marketing topics are his favorite. When he isn't writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or getting into the latest tech.