Take a look at any article on data breaches around the world these days and you’ll notice that report after report mentions hacking is on the rise. For example, professional liability insurer Beazley released a report in July 2016 that details a marked increase in cyberattacks against American financial institutions in particular, and noted that there was a definite rise in data breaches in the first quarter of the year.
On a broader and more global note, the IBM-sponsored 2016 Ponemon Cost of Data Breach Study, conducted by the Ponemon Institute, found that the average consolidated total cost of data breaches rose from $3.8 million to $4 million.
For small-business owners and managers, the news is even worse, as it seems that hackers are continually targeting smaller-sized ventures. According to cybersecurity firm Symantec, more than half (52.4 percent) of the spear phishing attacks carried out in December 2015 were against small to medium enterprises.
While these figures and trends are certainly alarming, there are things you can do to help protect your organization from being breached. Read on for some simple yet effective strategies you can follow today.
If you accept credit card payments in your business (and lets face it, who doesn’t these days?), it is vital that you adhere to PCI compliance standards if you want to stay safe. PCI (the Payment Card Industry standard) compliance is about implementing strategies to stop payment systems and sensitive identity and cardholder data from being breached.
There are various elements involved in creating secure payment solutions, but one of the best ways of reducing your PCI burden and potential liability is to utilize a top-notch merchant services firm that is a validated-PCI provider. This will ensure that cardholder details are never stored or even handled directly by your own business, and that a secure process is used at each step along the way.
Put Strong Passwords in Place
Another simple yet effective thing you can do to stay safe at work is to make sure you always use strong passwords on your devices and when logging in to websites and apps. Proper passwords are those which are at least eight characters in length, and which are made up of a combination of symbols, numbers, and upper and lower case letters.
Remember, too, that your passwords should be changed every two to three months to be most effective. You should also avoid giving out your company’s passwords to any consultants, temporary staff members, technicians, contractors, or other business contacts.
Use Protective Software and Firewalls
To protect your small business, its vital that you make use of some of the security software programs which are readily available these days. Every system you use should have anti-malware, antivirus, and anti-spyware software installed on it to prohibit thieves from hacking in and installing viruses and discovering vital information. While many computers do have free antivirus applications on them when you buy them, keep in mind that these dont provide as much protection as you will receive if you pay for quality software.
You should purchase a product that fulfills the following criteria:
- The product is business-grade
- It will protect your systems from a wide range of threats
- The product will complete regular, custom scans
- The software protects systems from new viruses and other infections, and also from any that may already be lurking on your devices
Furthermore, because hackers change their tactics and develop ever-more sophisticated techniques all the time, you need to remember to keep all your software updated regularly. If not, your systems wont be protected against the latest scams.
A firewall is also imperative if you want to protect your venture from digital threats. Firewalls, after all, act as the first line of defence when it comes to security, and help to prevent thieves from accessing your data via an internet connection. Again, there may be firewalls automatically included on your computers, but these will not necessarily be activated when you purchase the machine, so always check them to ensure they’re properly configured.
Educate Employees, Stop Data Breaches
One of the biggest security issues faced by business owners and managers is actually that of their employees. Staff members are often the ones who open emails they shouldn’t, who give out passwords which should be kept private, or who browse virus-laden websites. As a result, it pays to discuss cybercrime risks and digital security best-practices with the whole team.
Employees should be educated on things such as the most important security measures which need to be adhered to, and the latest (and most common) hacking techniques and scams used by spammers and thieves. All the team should also be required to read and adhere to a specific set of IT guidelines that you create about using computer systems for work.