Ask any small business owner over the last thirty years and they’ll all tell you that computers (even if they don’t fully understand them) have been an essential component of growing their personal CV and business.
The internet, portable devices and constant streamlining of tech has helped businesses to do everything from hire internationally to automate their admin. However, ‘going digital’ (to borrow a phrase from the late 90s) does come with a number of risks. The internet is a vibrant and wonderful place, but criminals lurk in the shadows, waiting to pounce on your data.
Every business should have significant cybersecurity protocols in place, whether they’re seasoned corporations or a fresh tech startup. In this article, we’ll explain how you can keep your new business and employees safe while growing in cyberspace.
But first… the biggest threats to small businesses
Before we get started, it’s important for all business owners to be aware of the many threats small businesses find themselves at risk of in 2021.
Just some threats you should look to familiarise yourself with include:
- Phishing attacks
- Malware attacks
- Remote worker exposure
- Internet of Things vulnerability
- Insider threats (including IT support)
- Poor personal security (weak passwords)
Having a solid understanding of what these threats look like and how you can make immediate changes will have a huge impact on your startup’s overall security right out of the gate.
Establish simple security measures
The first step to keeping your business safe from cyber criminals is to establish simple security measures across the board. This means tightening up every machine in your business, from customer service to the digital team’s MacBooks.
Installing easily accessible off-the-shelf software such as firewalls and anti-virus programs is an essential first step that any business owner worth their salt should already be doing. However, there are equally simple steps you might not know about.
Passwords are much discussed, but a strong one can make a big difference. It’s not just about making sure you include capital letters, numbers and symbols though. A password is only as strong as the systems in place to protect it. Introducing a password management system such as LastPass or integrating two-step authentication adds an extra layer of security to your passwords, whether they’re for social accounts or the back end of your store.
Whatever measure you take to protect your business, make sure your software is always up to date!
Don’t be tempted to put off that update for another 24 hours — you’ll just do the same thing tomorrow. Any time where your machines aren’t protected is a period where you’re vulnerable to attacks.
Harness the power of cloud computing
Transforming your business into a paperless office by transitioning to the cloud isn’t just a great way to immediately make your startup more environmentally friendly, but also to protect yourself from potential cyber attacks.
Storing your files on a trusted cloud system allows you and your employees to focus on core business operations, safe in the knowledge that your most sensitive files are under lock and key and protected by experienced cloud system providers.
The benefits of cloud computing have already been seen in how it allows employees to effortlessly collaborate with one another, but it also removes easy-to-forget security steps and provides a vault for all your valuable and sensitive files.
This is one of the easiest and quickest ways to get an experienced eye on your business and make an immediate difference to your day-to-day activities.
Run regular training sessions
The majority of cyber attacks happen in plain sight, with employees falling for scam emails and data requests from increasingly sly attackers.
With this in mind, making sure your employees are up to date with not just your internal systems, but the changing nature of cybersecurity itself is a crucial part of running a business. From onboarding to yearly reviews, competency protecting their machines and customer data should be a huge part of your team’s working experience.
Hackers are known for targeting less tech-savvy users and psychologically manipulating them to hand over confidential data. Within the confines of a business, this means handing over data of people who have trusted you, not just your own bank details. Any small opening can put an employee on the back foot and force them into a difficult situation that, without proper training, could get worse.
On top of the best tools, you need an educated staff that knows how to:
- Recognise a scam email or message
- Update systems on their machines
- Proper and improper use of their machines
- Identify an unprotected or scam website
Unsure about a particular employee or just want to keep everyone working at the same level? Schedule a training session today.
Hire a specialist or use consultants
It’s okay to admit when you aren’t cut out for the job.
In the early days of a startup, you’re generally working with a small team of friends, former co-workers and young talent eager to impress. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely many of those are going to be cybersecurity experts, especially in more creative industries.
This is where the benefit of hiring a cybersecurity specialist or consultant comes in. In-house experts can be costly, but hiring freelancers and agencies to come in, check out your systems and provide suggestions can be a rewarding and essential experience for your startup.
A specialist could provide you with the tools to run professionally devised mock attacks or test your firewall defences. Whatever you’re worried about, they’ll put it through the ringer.
And if you do feel like you’d like an expert in-house, find applicants with transferable skills. The last thing you want is to hire someone you’ll have no use for in a couple of months, so look for developers, content creators and project managers who can spot a phishing email or potential breach from a mile away.
Cybersecurity can feel like a difficult concept to get your head around. You opened your online store because you were passionate about selling hats, not delivering online safety seminars!
But staying safe online is all a part of protecting your investment, your employees’ livelihoods and your customers. When you break it down, these are relatively simple steps widely covered online. Do your research, be thorough, and you’ll have no problems.