In this digital era, the biggest threats to your company are no longer physical. As our reliance on tech grows and more and more workforces adopt remote solutions, cybercriminals are targeting small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SME) on a scale never seen before. In fact, according to data from Hiscox, small businesses in the UK are hacked successfully every 19 seconds—that equates to around 1.6 million cyber-attacks every year.
As these threats continue to jeopardise the privacy and finances of businesses across the country, it’s becoming increasingly clear that being complacent about your cybersecurity strategy is no longer an option. So, whether you’re looking to warn off ransomware attacks or keep phishing to a minimum, here are ten practical steps your SME can take to keep these threats at bay.
1. Conduct a Cybersecurity Assessment
Before you bolster your company’s cyber defences, you need to be aware of your existing vulnerabilities. Routine cybersecurity assessments are a useful way to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of your current strategy. They inform employees about the current threats their company is facing, and they also reduce unnecessary spending by providing SMEs with a clear indication of where they should direct their funds and resources. If you’re interested in conducting a cybersecurity assessment for your business, it may be useful to refer to this guide from the National Cyber Security Center.
2. Back-up Your Data
In 2021, data is one of the most useful tools for small businesses. It allows them to make better and more informed decisions so they can retain their competitive advantage. However, when data systems are breached, not only does it threaten the privacy of company data, it can also incur businesses with significant financial costs. This could potentially jeopardise both your cash flow and any additional finances you’ve obtained through business loans. Therefore, to minimise the fallouts of data breaches and extra expenses, it’s essential for businesses to back up their data routinely. This can be done by using an external hard drive or encrypted software like the Cloud.
3. Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
Another useful way to protect your company’s data is to use multi-factor authentication (MFA). Multi-factor authentication is a method that requires users to provide two or more pieces of evidence to verify their identity. It’s an effective way to protect your businesses against hackers by ensuring web users are who they say they are, and it’s much more simple and cost-effective than many other cybersecurity measures. To explore what MFA solutions might work for your businesses, visit this guide from Experts Insights.
4. Only Use Strong Passwords
Unfortunately, password attacks are still one of the most common forms of digital breaches. In fact, according to a recent report by Verizon, 81% of data hacks result from credentials being compromised. So, to protect your business from password crackers, it’s essential that you deter your employees from using short, simple, or default passwords when using the company’s network. To ensure the password is strong enough, we recommend combining numeric and alphabetic characters, using both lower and upper case letters and codes that are at least 12-15 characters long.
5. Use an Effective Firewall
When it comes to finding ways to protect your business and organisation in general from cyber threats — a firewall is your first line of defence. Firewalls rely on predetermined security rules to monitor and control network traffic, and when they detect any unusual activity, they instantly shut down the process. By blocking this malicious traffic, they can deter anything from hackers to malware from infecting your business’s network. So if you’re serious about keeping your company safe from invading cyber threats, using an effective firewall should be your first port of call.
6. Invest in Endpoint Security Solutions
Any digital device can provide an entry point for potential threats, and this is where endpoint security comes in. Endpoint security is the process of protecting digital devices like laptops, desktops and mobile devices from a range of potential threats by securing their endpoints or entry points. These software solutions are designed to detect, analyse, and block these dangers quickly. So by investing in these tools, business owners can gain greater control over the increasing number of access points to their network.
7. Update Antivirus Software Regularly
While antivirus software is an invaluable way to protect your business against viruses, data thieves and spam, outdated software can often increase the chances of your systems being compromised. For this reason, it’s imperative that companies update their security program regularly. To save yourself lots of time and effort and to ensure that your SME is protected around the clock, we recommend that you set your software programs to install updates automatically.
8. Train Your Staff on Cybersecurity
You can install the most robust security tools available, but if your workforce is ignorant of the risks of cyber threats, your small business won’t stand much of a chance. So, to ensure that your company has reliable protection, it’s important to regularly educate your staff about the potential danger of cybercrime. While there’s no right way to go about this, regular workshops are an effective way to keep the important messages fresh in the minds of your employees.
9. Foster a Security Savvy Workplace Culture
While staff training is a great way to cover the basics of network security, if you want to take it one step further, we recommend developing a cybersecurity culture in your workplace. Regularly involving employees in the conversations, introducing cybersecurity incentives, and testing staff on cyber threats such as phishing campaigns helps instil valuable skills and behaviours. All of which are central in keeping cyber incidents to a minimum.
10. Consider hiring an expert
Occasionally, business owners make a habit of biting off more than they can chew. While it’s important to have clarity over every operational area of a business, sometimes certain things can be left to the professionals—like cybersecurity. If your budget permits, cybersecurity experts can give an organisation an additional sense of security by carrying out every measure internally. This can give your SME extra peace of mind, and it also takes the pressure off your employees so your team can focus on the things that really matter. If you’re not currently in a position to hire new people or develop cybersecurity resources, you may even want to consider the opportunities that business funding may open up.
Alongside your staff, products, and services, your digital network is likely to be one of your company’s biggest assets. So, as digital technologies continue to streamline and modernise the modern workforce, we recommend that you show them some appreciation by following the ten simple steps that we’ve outlined in this article.
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