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Dedicating just a few hours to making a small business cybersecurity plan can take you from vulnerable to Fort Knox with relative ease.

Computers make things convenient: you can communicate over long distances at super speeds, hold onto documents without taking up office space, and keep track of your projects with ease. On the other hand, computers do have their risks—data can be easily copied and transferred without proper security, and that means you must prevent the wrong people from accessing any information about your business operations, clients, or finances. This is why the importance of small business cybersecurity has been on the rise. 

Here’s a beginner’s guide to help you ensure that your small business cybersecurity plan is up to scratch.

Step 1: Consider Your Current Small Business Cybersecurity (Or Lack Thereof)

You might be tempted to rush ahead and buy the most expensive small business cybersecurity software packages or advanced backup systems. Going all-in on fancy tricks and gadgets isn’t going to do you much good if you don’t know what you need to protect.

On the other hand, you might think that your business is so small that a cybersecurity check-up isn’t necessary. However, just because you don’t have an IT department or a big mainframe database doesn’t mean that you should assume you’re safe. Most attempts to break into secure data come from fake emails, password theft, and other tricks that target users, and that means you’re just as likely to encounter an attempted security breach through your personal laptop or smartphone than on a desktop in an office.

Start by considering:

  1. What are the materials that make up your IT system? How many computers and devices are you using? What software do you run? Are there business accounts or databases shared across multiple devices, say an email account or task-management system?
  2. What are potential threats that could impact your business? A business that manages financial assets might be a different target from a business with a lot of customer transaction information. Consider what potential attackers might want to access, given your business activities and your industry. Some attacks might try to access funds or bank account information directly. Others might focus on acquiring customer information or email addresses. Some attacks might attempt to steal passwords and log you out of the software or systems you use. Identify the most plausible targets for your business.
  3. What are the weak points in your system? This might mean your technical system—buggy or outdated software, operating systems, software updates, etc. But also consider weak points in your routines and communications—do you have procedures for your team to follow? Do you need to standardize how you share information on the company or personal email accounts? Is anyone receiving a backup email if a password gets lost or an account becomes inaccessible? Weak points in software and hardware should be taken seriously, but poor security practices by your team is a big red bullseye for those who want to try and access your data.

Once you’ve considered all of these, look over what you’ve determined, and then go through them again. Seriously. These early steps are vital to ensuring that you have the right small business cybersecurity plan for you. Nearly 70 percent of small businesses experience cyber-attacks, don’t assume you’ll be in the 30 percent that’s safe.

Step 2: Act and Think Securely

The best way to improve your small business cybersecurity from the get-go is to work on your team’s standard practices: the guidelines that ensure your team is operating without risk. These best practices come down to your actions, they don’t rely on any fancy technology or software, and that’s why they are so successful!

Best practices for your business and your team to implement should include:

  • Use Strong Passwords: This is security 101, but it’s surprising how often people don’t follow this simple rule. Always use strong passwords—include upper-case and lower-case letters, numbers, and a symbol (dollar sign, asterisk, exclamation point) when possible. If you have many different accounts or want to keep unique passwords, you can use keychain programs to keep them safe and secure in one place.
  • Be Cautious with Downloads: Downloads are particularly nefarious because they give data and programs access to your computer directly. Make sure that your downloads are from a trusted source and that you know what you are receiving. If you receive unexpected downloadable files from an email, even from a friend, ask them to confirm what it is and why they are sending it, just in case someone else got into their account to spread some malware.
  • Keep Your Software Up to Date: If you have antivirus software on your computer, ensure that it is properly updated and configured. Most security programs are regularly updated to ensure that they can counter new bugs and viruses that might try to sneak onto your compute. If you let those updates gather dust you won’t have that added protection.
  • Use Secure Wi-Fi: Nowadays, it’s possible to check on business operations directly on your phone, even when you aren’t working. Be careful to use trustworthy, private wi-fi whenever possible—that café’s public wi-fi isn’t the best place to be opening up your business accounts and typing in your passwords.
  • Save Copies: Back up those files! Whenever possible, ensure that you have backups of any essential data you cannot afford to lose.

Step 3: Have a Plan for the Worst

disaster recovery plan is your response strategy when the worst comes to worst: when you have lost control of your data, programs, or files, whether due to an accident or a threat locking you out of your accounts.

Backups are an essential part of disaster recovery, but they aren’t the same thing. Backup is just the process of copying and saving your data; disaster recovery is how you access and use your saved data in the event of an emergency.

You need to:

  • Prioritize what data you must retain access to and have on hand if you get locked out of your normal information networks.
  • Have a system to inform customers and employees (or anyone else) whose data or information may have been put at risk due to an attack.
  • Know how to report an attack to the proper authorities.
  • Update any and all accounts and passwords that you still have access to.
  • Have systems to recover accounts that report unauthorized access or access from an unfamiliar location/computer.

Knowing how to respond in the event of a small business cybersecurity breach is just as important as building your security to prevent a breach. Compromised data can be a death sentence for an unprepared business. A proper disaster recovery plan will ensure that the breach doesn’t get any worse while keeping your customers safe.

With these simple steps, you can build a basic small business cybersecurity plan for your business at little to no expense. Having a team that respects your security practices and communication procedures is essential when keeping your data safe. When working with Monkey VA you can rest assured that your data will be secure; our team is dedicated to protecting your business and clients from potential security attacks.