Small businesses that may not have the budget for an IT army can still put some network security measures in place to protect their most critical data. Precautions range from basic employee education to installing anti-virus protection; of course, there is also the option to outsource IT services, receiving enterprise-grade services for less than the price of in-house personnel.
Here are five ways a small business can keep up with the big guys.
While you may be fretting over the next big cybersecurity threat, your company’s greatest vulnerability may be sharing office space with you. That’s right, employees are usually the biggest threat to the security of your company, which makes education crucial. And a “one and done” session won’t cut it because issues in cybersecurity are constantly evolving. Consider setting up a monthly “lunch and learn” to discuss safety and security with staff.
Four things to cover right away include:
- The importance of storing sensitive information on the server, not the local hard drive.
- How to create strong, hard-to-guess passwords, including the need to use upper and lowercase letters, numerals, and symbols (and why to never use children’s names or other information that could easily be found on a social media site).
- Handling suspicious links and attachments with caution (working within a cloud can prevent the need to send attachments back-and-forth).
- Treating your laptop and mobile device as you would a child; never let them out of your sight.
You may also consider bringing in an IT training consultant, or having employees attend a half- or full-day “cybersecurity bootcamp.” It may cost a little bit, but it’s well worth the investment.
Setting up a Firewall
A firewall is one of the most important roadblocks you can put up to protect your computers from an online threat. Firewalls monitor incoming and outgoing data, letting through what is deemed safe while ignoring or blocking information from unsecured, unknown, or suspicious locations.
Software firewalls provide a basic level of protection to all computer users when they are online, whereas hardware firewalls offer more powerful protection, and are installed at each entry point to a company network.
While some systems offer built-in firewalls, an alternative is to find a free one online (Lifewire just published a list of 10 free firewalls from best-to-worst based on ease of use, update history, and more). Still, others can be purchased, offering further protection.
Installing Antivirus Protection
Without efficient and effective antivirus protection, malicious software can gain entry to your system even with a firewall in place, giving third parties the ability to view company data and information.
While you may know better than to download suspicious files or visit unsecure sites, viruses are continually evolving. Some of the sneakiest viruses have been known to do each of the following:
- Warn of an infection, then disguise themselves as downloadable antivirus software
- Send email from an unwitting and non-complicit friend in your personal contacts
- Send email through an impostor website of a business that you are affiliated with, such as a bank
In addition to the dangers posed by malicious software—including these nine computer viruses that every business owner and their employees should be aware of—malware can also impact computer performance—which in turn impacts employee productivity (and your bottom line). These bugs take up valuable drive space, and can make even the simplest of tasks take minutes or hours.
Updating Programs Regularly
This is important. All the education and virus protection in the world is not going to do you any good unless you maintain it. Updates offer “patches,” which are designed to cover up exploitable holes that have been discovered within the software and can be used to hackers’ advantage (the recent Meltdown or Spectre bugs are just two examples of hackers finding a vulnerability that had been around for quite some time).
Outsourcing IT Services
By offering a menu of services and giving clients what they need when they need it, Software as a Service (Saas) providers are changing the IT game.
Five ways they can help your small business:
- Staying within budget. Outsourcing often allows you to “pay as you go,” so fixed costs become variable costs; it also eliminates the need to onboard and train new hires, who may not have the level of expertise as a SaaS provider.
- Staying current. It may take a lot of time, training, and money for an in-house team to implement the latest technologies, whereas an IT provider will have the resources and knowledge to keep you competitive and your systems up-to-date.
- Staying compliant. Every entity utilizing privileged data is subject to strict government or regulatory requirements. If your small business fails to provide proper data protection, you risk fines or a potential shutdown; an experienced SaaS provider can help ensure you stay secure and up-to-date.
- Staying secure. What’s your biggest fear—lost data? Natural disaster? Cyber attack? A SaaS provider will often offer one or all of the following services to meet your needs.
- Staying focused. There’s already a lot on your plate. By outsourcing IT services, you’ll no longer have to worry about complex IT issues or risk management. This gives you and your team more time to focus on your core business objectives.
It’s important to note that no one method or combination of methods can guarantee network security. However, the more you apply, the better your chances of avoiding—and surviving—a breach. To learn more about network security methods, contact DSM, Florida’s preferred IT services provider. DSM can offer your small business “Miruma,” or peace of mind, in our ever-changing digital world.