How SMBs Can Avoid Security Pitfalls in the Digital Age

When starting up a new business venture, it is easy to get bogged down in the day to day running of the company, while pushing what seems like less important facets of business onto the backburner.

Most companies do this, and while the various security aspects of any business may seem less important to focus on than sales, the truth is that a catastrophic security breach could not only cost the company a lot of money, it could even sink the entire ship. If a business deals with sensitive data, one little slip in this area could erode any trust its clients have in it, and in turn, this business could find its customer base looking elsewhere.

To be on top of a business’s security needs is not as time-consuming as one might think, however. Most SMBs have a limited (or sometimes non-existent) tech department, but that doesn’t mean the only option they have is to leave their ‘virtual door’ wide open. With a little effort, SMBs can change their workflow to include some security-rich features that will keep them and their client’s data safe.

Keep Those Holes Patched

As redundant as it may feel at times, it’s essential to keep all software patched and up to date. It may be tempting to put off those ‘update’ reminders, but it is worth remembering that an application that doesn’t have the latest security patches can become a huge security risk. Making sure the whole team understands the importance of keeping their apps up-to-date should be a priority, but in reality, there will be a team member or two who either don’t understand the significance or perhaps find themselves too busy to adhere to the business’s new security measures. Luckily, there is a way to combat this issue without causing the team to crumble under an increased workload.

With an ever-increasing risk of data breaches, ransomware attacks, and malware, companies have started to handle all patch management needs through automation. Rather than relying on their teams to patch software themselves, a cloud-based solution will push the most important patches to their entire teams work devices automatically, allowing everyone to have a clean and easy-to-decipher overview of where a weak link in the chain might be. Patches can be deployed at the click of a button, allowing SMB teams to concentrate on doing what they do best, rather than attempting to become semi-professional security experts.

Weak Passwords Are a Hackers Dream

One other area of security that is often overlooked by the less tech-savvy members of a team is password management. SMBs may very well be aware of the risks involved when creating a password such as “qwerty123,” but that doesn’t mean that everyone in the team does.

Weak passwords should be looked at in much the same way as an open second-story window. Sure, it may not be easy to gain access, but someone with the right tools can put a ladder up and get inside. To avoid these issues, password managers are key.

Password managers not only create and store all the passwords an employee will use, but they also add a further layer of security by storing the passwords in encrypted vaults, rather than, say, an excel spreadsheet (which is unfortunately extremely common). Whatever strategy one might think the ‘bad guys’ wouldn’t be aware of, one can pretty much guarantee they are aware of it. SMBs must take the responsibility away from their teams, and deploy a password management system.

Create and Follow a Protocol

Lastly, there is one other way that companies often fall foul of security breaches, and this one is partly the responsibility of the IT department, but also requires a little help from Human Resources.

When a new employee starts working at a company, there should be a set path to take in regards to setting up their devices. Once an employee leaves, there should also be a set path to tread too.

In a busy company, it can be tempting to break with protocol and put these issues to the side, but once they do, it becomes more and more tempting to do it again. If an ex-employee leaves a business and is still signed into an account, the business runs the risk of that account being compromised at some point.

An app containing sensitive data which resides on an ex-employees phone can compromise security in many ways. What if the phone gets stolen? What if the phone passes the date on which security patches stop being provided? Could a disgruntled ex-colleague still be privy to sensitive information?

All of these things are possible once a device is outside of the business’s control. As such, a business must make sure their staff are using devices provided by the business, and make sure they are handed in when they leave the workplace.

It can look like an impressive move when employees sign into their work accounts on their personal devices (to continue working whilst on a commute or at home), but once they do, some of the business’s security measures are now out of the business’s control. Companies must keep work-related documents and communication on the business’s devices. It will make the job of the IT department much simpler.

Following these basic steps should keep one’s business data safe and secure. In the modern age, businesses are far more likely to be the victim of a cyber attack than a physical one, and just as one wouldn’t leave the keys to their premises in the lock overnight, neither should one leave any ‘virtual doors and windows’ open either. A little planning is all it takes.

Awais Ahmed is a student, blogger and digital marketer who helps small entrepreneurs to improve their online presence. He has a range of interests including technology, apps and small business.