How To Protect Your Small Business From Data Breaches

Protect Your Small Business From Data Breaches
Data breaches are a cybersecurity attack that steals sensitive, confidential, and protected data without authorization or taken without consent.

Cybercriminals access data from different sizes of businesses (small businesses to large corporations).

Credit cards, social security numbers, driver's licenses, health history, customer records, and source code are among the data exposed.

Small Business Data Breaches

There are millions of small businesses in the world. They outnumber those of large corporations.

Small businesses are responsible for employing plenty of individuals. They are the reason why the economy of the world has thrived.

Since there are plenty of them, hackers won't hesitate to steal data from them. In a 2021 report, 47% of data breaches involved small businesses. It shows how vulnerable SMBs are when it comes to cybersecurity.

Aside from being a common target due to their number, small companies experience data breaches or cyber-attacks due to the lack of security solutions and knowledge of their employees.

What Happens When Your Business Is A Victim Of Data Leakage?

Nobody wants their company to be a victim of cybercrime. It’s hard to get back on your feet, particularly for small businesses, as cybersecurity threats are costly and time-consuming.

When your business loses data, here are the possible outcomes to expect.
  • Most businesses that encounter data loss end up losing their revenue. Your business may temporarily stop operations, which can cause a loss of income and even customers.
  • The loss of intellectual property can damage a business’s reputation.
  • Losing your customers’ data can damage your business. It can result in losing customers due to trust issue.
  • Data breaches are expensive. The average cost per lost data or record is $150.
  • Permanent closure of a business or filing for bankruptcy.

What Causes Data Breaches?

Most believe that data breaches are caused by an outside job. However, according to recent statistics, 48% were caused by negligent employees. It’s often due to an insider threat.

The following are the causes of data breaches and how they occur:

Using Weak Passwords:

Using a weak password for accounts that carry vulnerable data can be a hacker’s opportunity to easily get into your system.

Hackers can use tools to guess passwords, as most users create passwords based on their personal information or common passwords (Password123 or 12345678).

Tool and System Vulnerabilities:

Software and systems require maintenance and updates. It provides improved features and secures patches or vulnerabilities.

If you don’t update your software, hackers will exploit this vulnerability to access your data. Out-of-date systems leave a hole, exposing you and your business to a possible data breach.

Malware:

Malware is another cause of data breaches. There are different forms of malware and how they can gain access to your device. The most common method is phishing attacks.

When an employee clicks on links or downloads malicious files, it provides cybercriminals with the chance to hack into the system and other connected devices. However, some malware doesn’t act immediately. Sometimes it takes a while before it fully steals data.

Insider Threats:

Insider threats are often the most common cause of data leakage. You could have ex-employees with a grudge against your company, or some employees who want to exploit data for financial gain, and so on.

If your rogue or former employees misuse your data, it can cause harm to your business. However, not all insider threats are due to employees exploiting organizational data. Some could be due to employees’ negligence.

Lack of knowledge of cybersecurity for small businesses can become a threat. Employees may accidentally click on a link, send it to the wrong person, use weak passwords, and more.
Protect Your Small Business From Data Breaches

How To Prevent Data Breaches For Small Businesses?

Cybersecurity should be the top priority of businesses, regardless of size. However, most business owners disregard its importance until they are part of the statistics.

Practicing cybersecurity doesn’t 100% guarantee that your data is safe. It makes sure that it is protected around 98% of the time. Prevention is better and more affordable than data breaches.

Invest In The Best Tools In The Market:

Using cybersecurity tools to protect your business from data breaches can go a long way. There are plenty of tools that can prevent and even alert you if potential danger is present.

You can use tools to prevent receiving spam emails in your company’s inbox. It also blocks emails with suspicious links and attachments. Some samples of Email Filtering Services are MailCleaner, Email Security.cloud, and Spam Filter Service.

Aside from tools to protect your email from malicious links, you can also opt for antivirus software. There are plenty of options on the market. Some are designed for commercial use, while others are for organizational use.

Small businesses can use any antivirus software, as long as it can cover multiple devices. Bitdefender is one of the biggest names in the industry with leading protection and award-winning features. They offer various packages, and if you have no idea which to choose, here is a comparative difference between Bitdefender Total Security vs. Internet Security.

Keep Software Updated:

As mentioned earlier, out-of-date software can be a gateway for hackers to exploit your data. As a result, whenever new software or systems become available, make sure to update them.

Hire A Professional:

There’s so much you can do on your own, but getting a cybersecurity specialist can take a lot off your plate and let you focus on what matters.

Cybersecurity professionals can protect your data and look out for possible threats. They can figure out if there are vulnerabilities in your system and suggest possible solutions.

Hiring a professional will allow you to continue your business and think less about possible attacks that could compromise your organization’s data.

Create Separate Business and Personal Accounts:

Having separate personal and business accounts can keep you safe from hackers. If your personal account is compromised, your business won’t be in danger and vice versa.

However, some businesses use their personal accounts for their business accounts, which puts them at risk. Therefore, they don’t just lose their company’s data but endanger their personal information (credit card number, bank account, email address, social security, and more).

Start creating separate accounts for personal and business. Also, don’t forget to make unique passwords for each account. Never recycle passwords or use personal data for your passwords.

Educate Your Employees:

Negligence is the common cause of data leakage. The vast majority of new employees are unaware of cybersecurity or online threats. So, it is best to educate them.

There are multiple ways to educate your employees. You can handle workshops or seminars, implement new policies, or conduct interactive activities for them to learn about cybersecurity.

Sometimes, learning what email spam looks like can help employees to avoid clicking on anything suspicious. Furthermore, they will also know what to do whenever they notice something suspicious going on.

Limit Access To Accounts:

Giving all of your employees access to valuable files and accounts is a common mistake. Make sure to assess your people and give them only the access they need. For example, your marketing team doesn’t need to have access to your accounting files.

Create Strong Password:

Weak passwords are common. People don’t like creating complicated and long passwords because they are difficult to remember. However, a long and complicated password is one of the best solutions to keeping your accounts safe.

Make sure to educate your employees on how to create strong passwords for their accounts as well.

When creating a password, keep this in mind:
  • Use a mix of upper and lower case letters.
  • Add numbers and symbols
  • Create long passwords
  • Don’t use dictionary passwords or personal information.
  • Don’t recycle passwords.

If you are worried about the complexity of your passwords, don’t worry! There are password managers available to store complicated and unique passwords.
  • Lastpass
  • Dashlane
  • Bitwarden
  • Keeper
  • 1Password
Protect Your Small Business From Data Breaches

Create Policies For BYOD:

Bring Your Own Device or BYOD is a common practice in small businesses. It saves companies from the need to replace devices, and employees are more comfortable with their devices. However, BYOD can place a business at risk, especially when there are no rules to follow.

If you allow your employees to use their own devices when accessing company data, make sure to create new policies for it.

Secure Your Network:

Hackers will always find a way to snoop on your company. If some tricks don’t work, they’ll find another way.

Creating a secure network or Wi-Fi connection for your business is crucial. Also, make sure that if you want to access personal accounts or your employees need to open other sites not related to their job, it’s best to provide another network for that.

You can secure your business network by using a VPN and a firewall.

A VPN is a security software application that creates a secure network. It encrypts your internet traffic and keeps your identity online safe. Third parties won’t be able to track your activities. A VPN also conceals your location, allows you to access content from other countries, and reduces the risk of data leakage.

A firewall is a security network that filters all the incoming and outgoing traffic on your network. It can detect suspicious traffic on the network and keep it out. Most internet routers are equipped with a built-in firewall network. All you need is to check if it's activated or not.

Backup Files:

Retrieving files that are stolen or encrypted can cause a delay in your company’s operations.

If you don't want your business to come to a halt, make regular backups. You can automatically backup your data by setting a time or date, or you can manually back up your data.

There are multiple ways to back up your data. You can save it on a removable disk, external hard drives, cloud storage, or backup services.

For small amount of data, you can use removable disks and external hard. Meanwhile, small businesses or large corporations with plenty of data should go for cloud storage or a backup service to handle their large and sensitive data.

With the tips mentioned above, you can guarantee to keep your data safe from leakage. Of course, not all practices will provide 100% security. However, it lessens the chance for hackers to steal your data.

If your data is compromised at the moment, here’s what you should do:
  • Report the breach to law enforcement and consumer agencies.
  • Inform your customers about the breach. It could give your customers or clients a chance to secure their accounts or keep an eye on them.
  • You can also post an announcement on your website and social media accounts to reach your customers who don’t check their emails.
  • Investigate the loss of data. Hire professionals to do the investigation.
  • Secure the data for your small business after or while the investigation is ongoing. Follow the steps mentioned above.
  • Provide a fraud and ID theft prevention service for your customers.

Conclusion

As attacks are getting sophisticated, as we connect online all the time, as 5G rolls out, IoT becomes normalized, and people conduct transactions online, SMB cybersecurity must be a priority. Protecting your data keeps your business running and your customers safe. Do not allow these cybercriminals to bring down the business you worked hard to grow. Follow the cybersecurity checklist to keep your data safe.

AUTHOR_NAMEAbout the Author:
Vanessa Venugopal is a passionate content writer. With four years of experience, she mastered the art of writing in various styles and topics. She is currently writing for Softvire Australia and Softvire New Zealand.
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