Ways To Protect Your Small Business From Cyber Attacks
Did you know that at least one cyber crime is reported every eight minutes in Australia? In fact, during the 2020-2021 financial year alone, over 67,500 cybercrimes were reported through ReportCyber, according to the Australian Cyber Security Centre. With such figures, it goes without saying that cyber security is a huge concern for businesses in Australia, whether small, medium, or large.
In recent years, small to medium-sized businesses have become prime targets for cyber attacks, accounting for about 43% of global reports. However, studies show that only 14% of these businesses have robust cyber security measures to protect them from cyber attacks.
Australians in the month of October were urged to take simple steps to better protect themselves from common online threats and cybercrime during Cyber Security Awareness Month. The 2021 theme is: “Do your Part. #BeCyberSmart.”
So, how can you defend your small business online? Read on to find out.
What Is A Cyber Attack?
A cyber attack is a malicious and deliberate attempt to breach the critical information of an individual or organisation. Typically, the attacker uses sophisticated techniques to penetrate existing security features and disrupt the user’s network. Most cybercriminals seek to benefit from the attack by taking advantage of the business or individual, most often for financial gain. Others steal customers’ data to use themselves in committing fraud, or sell on to other cybercriminals.
Threats and risks you should be aware of
- Malware Attacks
- Weak Passwords
- And more
The Risks To Your Business
For you as a business owner, financial loss, reputational damage, and data (legal) breaches are some of the common impacts of a cyber attack. Hence, it is so important to have cyber safety protocols in place in the office and at home.
Cyber-attacks can often result in substantial financial loss arising from:
- theft of corporate information
- theft of financial information (eg bank details or payment card details)
- theft of money
- disruption to trading (eg inability to carry out transactions online)
- loss of business or contract
Businesses that suffer a cyber breach will also generally incur costs associated with repairing affected systems, networks, and devices.
Trust is an essential element of customer relationships. Cyber attacks can damage your business’ reputation and erode the trust your customers have for you. This, in turn, could potentially lead to:
- loss of customers
- loss of sales
- reduction in profits
The effect of reputational damage can even impact your suppliers, or affect relationships you may have with partners, investors and other third parties vested in your business.
Legal consequences of a cyber breach
Data protection and privacy laws require you to manage the security of all personal data you hold – whether on your staff or your customers. If this data is accidentally or deliberately compromised, and you have failed to deploy appropriate security measures, you may face fines and regulatory sanctions.
The damage caused by a breach to an SME cannot be understated, with 80% of SMEs that suffer a breach going bankrupt within 12 months.
7 Ways to Protect Your Small Business from Cyber Attacks
Small business cyber security is critical for defending against various cyber threats in the current climate. The following are practical and secure ways to protect your small business from cyber attacks:
1. Backup All Your Business Data
Critical business data includes customer details, payment details, financial records, quotes, and document templates. This is sensitive data, highly targeted by cyber criminals, and can impact business operations when obtained. Ensuring important business data is backed up safely and frequently helps keep it secure, and allows for restoration in an emergency. Creating a cyber security policy to establish best practices for backing up and managing business data will help keep your business accountable as your customer base grows.
It is essential to store backups in a secure location where unauthorised staff or third parties cannot access them. The cloud is one of the most secure and reliable platforms to back up and store your data.
2. Create Strong Passwords to Secure Your Data
Establish a business password policy to manage multiple accounts securely. From there, allow only employees who know the password/s to access specific business data.
Creating a strong password and adding an extra layer of security, via two-factor authentication, enhances your cybersecurity measures and helps to keep business data secure.
3. Secure Devices and Network
Generally, malicious actors exploit vulnerabilities in your IT infrastructure and breach critical business data. Regardless of which operating system you use on your personal and office devices (Apple/Windows/Other) these companies continuously work on security updates so it’s important to keep on top of any software and system updates that come out.
If your infrastructure lacks security features, you can install security software to help secure and prevent infection in your systems, such as setting up a firewall for your small business that acts as a gateway for incoming and outgoing traffic, protecting internal networks from malware.
4. Educate Yourself and Your Employees
According to Kaspersky, 90% of cyber breaches are due to human error and poor judgement. Failure to educate and guide your employees can result in increasing cyber attacks in your organisation. Hence, a cyber security policy should be driven towards providing proper guidelines and education regarding cyber security and preventive measures to secure systems and networks.
Ensure your employees understand their responsibility in keeping IT infrastructure secure, whether business information, computers and phones, emails or use of certain internet sites. It’s important to know that there are plenty of companies within Australia that offer Cyber Security Awareness training for your employees.
5. Encrypt Critical Business Data
Turning on network encryption, as well as encrypting critical business data, are effective ways to protect your business against a cyber attack. Network encryptions protect data stored or sent online, as it is transferred as a secret code rather than an open document. In the case of an attack, malicious actors will find it hard to access the information and use it for their gain.
Additionally, data encryption reduces the risk of data theft, manipulation or destruction. Network encryption is essential in modern businesses as it prevents the exposure of critical company networks. Whether encrypting your network through router settings or installing a VPN (Virtual Private Network), your business can readily defend against cyber attacks. This is especially important for businesses that make use of a public network.
6. Use Trusted Technologies
Adopting modern technologies is ideal for streamlining operations in your organisation. However, some systems and software may have vulnerabilities and put your entire IT department at risk of an attack. It is crucial to acquire, integrate, or install only trusted technologies to ensure cyber attack prevention, whether hardware or software. This helps enhance cybersecurity, especially when coupled with regular updates and robust security features.
For instance, ensure all computers, tablets, and smartphones, contain software and applications from trusted sources. You can also partner with approved app and software developers to use reputable programs. Also, discourage staff from downloading third-party software and apps from unknown sources because these programs may contain malware.
7. Schedule Regular System Monitoring
Over the years, hackers have become more sophisticated in exploiting cybersecurity measures. The best way to keep up with changing trends is to monitor your infrastructure and networks. This enables you to identify potential areas attackers may use to access your data and where your focus should be shifted.