Many small to medium-sized businesses make the error of thinking that they’re unlikely to fall victim to hacking, not like larger companies. That leads to an absence of strong data protection strategies. This is a mistake you don’t want to make. In the eyes of hackers, everybody is fair game. In fact, small and medium-sized businesses may have a higher chance of experiencing security problems because they don’t have dedicated IT support and strong security.
Statistics show that cyber criminals prefer small businesses because they have IT systems that are easier to penetrate. Compared to bigger enterprises that have strong IT networks and more secure data protection strategies, hackers can easily gain access to small businesses’ critical information and exploit it.
Increasing Number of Cyber Attacks
Just recently, Symantec released a report on Internet threat security that said there is a 500 percent spike in ransomware attacks. Hackers encrypt a user’s files and ask for a ransom in exchange for unencryption. They can also encrypt files on shared network drives.
Cybercriminals have made a lucrative business out of ransomware, earning between $100 and $500 per shot. What’s alarming is the fact that 3 percent of victims pay the amount, which is understandable when your business is on the line. The report also said that there is an increase in attacks on smartphones as well.
These facts show how important it is to not just tighten regulations surrounding piracy laws, but also encourage small to medium-sized businesses to be more serious about protecting their data. The solution can be as simple as having a dedicated IT manager to oversee the use of sensitive information and implement the right security systems. This won’t just prevent hackers from penetrating your IT systems but also foresee problems and implement preventative measures.
Having managed IT services will benefit SMBs. These will help you monitor your IT systems, making sure there’s no way cyber criminals can penetrate your network and use your data against you.
Stay Smart Online
Incidentally, this week is Stay Smart Online week here in Australia. Formerly known as the National Cyber Security Awareness Week, this campaign aims to promote safe and responsible Internet use, whether at home or in the workplace. The Australian Government has partnered with industry leaders and the community sector to raise awareness for safe Internet use. This year’s theme is focused on mobility, particularly appropriate due to the increasing number of individuals who bring their own devices and use personal applications for work.
With that in mind, let us share with you important tips on how you (and your employees) use the web without fear of exposing critical information to unauthorised persons.
Use hack-proof passwords. These are your first line of defence so make sure you avoid using common passwords because they are easily hacked. Use numerous combinations of lower and upper case letters, characters, and numbers, or even complete sentences. The more characters in a password, the harder it is to hack. Use a password manager so you don’t have to write down all passwords somewhere, you just need to remember one master password. It’s also advisable to change passwords every 4 to 6 weeks.
Install security software. Your computers must have firewall, anti-virus, and anti-spyware installed. These will protect you from worms, malware, and viruses that will damage your equipment and put your data at risk. Note that just having an antivirus installed is no longer enough.
Encrypt your hard drives. Passwords are not enough protection for your company data. Encrypting data will prevent others from reading your files. This will keep your data safe when being sent over the Internet or backed up on a server. Windows computers can use Microsoft’s BitLocker software to encrypt hard drives. You should also encrypt your USB drives and Internet traffic. PC World offers an easy step-by-step guide.
Make sure you have the latest software updates and security patches. Configure your computers to automatically download updates and always check for errors or failed updates. CSO.com, a website for security executives, suggests a free patch-management tool called Secunia Personal Software Inspector (PSI).
Segment your computer networks. Segmenting separates computers into groups to improve performance and security. You can segment your networks based on different functions like keeping records on customers, finance, and other important files. Here are some best practices for segmenting networks in virtual and private cloud environments.
Implement strict cloud computing practices. Anything you save in the cloud is no longer in your control, so make sure that you encrypt files before sending it out there. You must choose your cloud storage provider carefully, considering speed and security features. Greenlight ITC offers hybrid cloud services, which allow you to store sensitive data safely.
Educate employees. Your staff must be fully aware of the security policy. Educate and train them on how to use applications and access networks securely. Enforce the policies and be strict about it. The first line of defense in security lies in the hands of the employees. Their activities (using social media, instant messaging, and chat) can open the door to cyber criminals and put company data at risk, so make it known which activities are unsafe. Here are some tips from AVG on how you can keep that door shut.