It’s amazing the influence technology has. All these new gadgets have made our lives easier in so many ways, but they have also dramatically changed the cultures that embrace them. For example, digital theft is becoming a more common threat than physical theft.
We’ve heard examples of large corporations having their customer information hacked, or even celebrities having their personal photos stolen. And while we think criminals would only go after the big guys, small businesses aren’t in the clear. Without massive IT budgets and industry professionals, their networks are often left unprotected and become easy targets for intruders.
So what can small businesses do? How can they improve their network security without spending so much that it draws away from the normal day-to-day operations of their business? Here are 6 simple tips small businesses can follow to avoid attacks and keep their data safe.
1. Proper Training
Believe it or not, the biggest threat facing an organization isn’t always the enemy without, but the carelessness within. One of the most common reasons data is lost or stolen is the negligence of employees. They misplace devices or store business information on personal machines, which may be less secure. A simple practice that can save you lots of trouble is training employees in proper security measures. Instruct them on creating strong passwords and following proper Internet safety procedures. Help them recognize suspicious emails that could be phishing attempts. Also, have clear rules on how to protect customer and organizational data if they are using their personal computers at work.
2. Security Software
It’s amazing how many people don't have proper security software on their devices. It seems so trivial, but antivirus or malware software can protect you from many of the common threats facing network security. Are you running up-to-date operating systems? Do you have proper firewalls in place? Have you installed security apps on mobile devices? Also, don’t forget about employees who may work from home. Make sure they are taking proper security precautions as well.
3. Secure your Wi-Fi
One of the most common access points for attackers is through unprotected and unsecured wireless networks. When you setup your router, customize it so it doesn’t broadcast the network name. In addition, password protect your network. If you don’t, anyone can sign on and remotely access information or other devices.
4. Permission Control
Make sure you know who has access to what data. Try and organize things so not one employee has access to everything. Assign permissions based on what is required for their job. Also, never let employees install software without permission. Third-party software isn’t always secure, and can infect devices and be used to steal away information or delete important system files.
5. Consider the Cloud
Despite the recent iCloud disaster, cloud storage is still a smart, secure option for small businesses. Having a vendor worry about your data transfers away much of the stress and work of storage and IT management. Also, cloud options are scalable, meaning you can find the right price for your current needs. As your business grows, you can easily upgrade your service. Storing information off site with a reputable cloud provider will not only limit the chance of an attack, but give you access to data backup in the event of a disaster.
6. Hire a professional
Understandably, your budget may not allow for hiring a robust IT team. However, that shouldn’t stop you from hiring a designated professional that can handle the demands of a small business. This is a wise investment. An IT expert has the knowledge to help transition to things like the cloud, or secure your Wi-Fi. They will be able to advise on proper procedures and know which vendors fit best with your demands. Having to look things up and do it on your own leaves room for error. Room than can be easily exploited. Designate someone who knows what they are doing to manage these issues, and you’re network security will increase tenfold.