IT consulting firms are well aware that small businesses are a growing target for hackers. Vulnerable business owners are those who think that their data is of no interest to would-be intruders because only attacks on big companies make the headlines.
The truth is that about 30 percent of cyber attacks are aimed at businesses with fewer than 250 employees. What’s worse is that small businesses often have to shoulder the losses caused by such attacks, as commercial bank accounts don’t have the same protections as personal accounts and commercial insurance policies don’t cover losses caused by hackers unless a business owner also purchases fraud protection.
Why Small Businesses are Vulnerable to Hackers
In the time it takes to break into a big company’s network, a self-taught hacker can steal information from dozens of small businesses. If you ask any IT consulting company, you’ll learn that SMBs are vulnerable to cyber attacks because:
- Computer security protocols are simpler to breach.
- Business owners don’t have a full understanding of what hackers can target and steal.
- Staff members don’t have the technical expertise to secure networks or keep them safe.
- Employees accidentally let hackers in by creating weak passwords, accessing seemingly innocent social networking apps, clicking on legitimate-looking links or unknowingly downloading malicious files.
- The company’s budget is restricted.
- Passwords are not changed regularly.
- Antivirus and anti-spyware software is not kept up to date.
- Hackers pose as customer service agents from well-known businesses and trick people into giving up passwords and other vital information.
- Some IT vendors don’t inform businesses about potential breaches, despite respective state laws.
- Business leaders don’t take advantages of the security services an IT consulting company offers.
Small Business Cyber Security Best Practices
IT consulting firms offer the following tips to help you thwart hackers:
Fortify and Maintain
Install and use firewalls, antivirus software and spyware-detecting programs on all the systems in your network that connect to the internet, including computers, cash registers, smartphones and tablet devices. After installing the programs, schedule regular scans and have the software automatically install updates. Furthermore, install security patches for your operating system and other installed programs as they become available.
If you use point-of-sale (POS) systems, or those that come with pre-set credentials, change the presets to avoid unauthorized access.
Limit the number of employees who have access to certain accounts, and enforce strict rules about internet use. For example, don’t let employees check their personal email or social media accounts on office computers.
Watch Out for Evil Twins
Be aware of the methods a company or vendor uses to communicate with you, because hackers sometimes gain access to computers, data and accounts by posing as legitimate companies or agencies. For example, you may receive a fake email alert about your credit card account. The links within the email may install a virus onto the computer or lead to a look-alike site that prompts you to submit your username and password.
Don’t assume employees know about safe internet use and smart password protocols. Consider hiring an IT consulting company to give your employees cyber safety training.
Knowledge and action are your best friends when it comes to preventing a cyber attack. The FBI provides the public with information about the latest cyber threats, scams, warnings and resources. Stay in the know by signing up for the National Cyber Awareness System’s US-CERT feeds and mailing lists.
IT consulting firms offer network monitoring services that alert you as soon as suspicious activities occur. Pair these with managed security services so you can spend less time worrying about your network and more time focusing on your business.
Just because your small business hasn’t experienced an attack doesn’t mean a hacker hasn’t tried. Take action now to protect your network and avoid regrets later.
This post was contributed by Deepika Dhatia, Director of Technology Business Solutions at Prosum Technology Services, one of the fasted growing IT consulting firms and IT staffing companies in the Los Angeles area.