IT Security for Your Small Business: Key Considerations

Most companies rely on computer systems and other forms of information technology to complete essential business functions. IT and cybersecurity procedures play an important role in protecting these systems. Understanding the threats to look out for and implementing best cybersecurity practices is one of the ways small business owners can ensure efficient and safe operations.

 

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Why is IT security important for SMBs?

Small and medium-sized businesses use IT to manage employee data, company infrastructure, customer details, payment information and more. Some of the reasons that small businesses need to invest in IT security are:

 

Protecting company data

IT security practices keep your company’s sensitive data safe. Payment details, social security numbers, account details and other data are targets for hackers. If someone gains access to private company data, they can disrupt operations and cause you to lose clients. You also need to make sure that you have access to company data and don’t have any IT security issues preventing you from accomplishing goals.

 

Developing trust with clients and partners

 Employees, customers and business partners place their trust in your company when they share private details like identification information and banking details. Having a strong cybersecurity system in place helps cultivate trust with anyone that interacts with your business. A security breach where customer data becomes vulnerable could make them feel unsafe doing business with your company.

 

Integrating with new technology

In an increasingly tech-heavy world, small businesses often need to employ new technology to adapt to consumer demand. Without awareness of IT and a strong cybersecurity plan, it can be more difficult to safely migrate data to new tech systems.

 

Limiting recovery costs

If your business becomes victim to a cyberattack, you could incur hefty recovery costs. Manually recovering lost data is labor and time-intensive, often requiring expensive industry expertise. You may also have to pay fines and fees because of your liability for the customer data. Data breaches can also impact public perception of your company and drive stock prices down.

 

Enabling remote work

Strong internet and computer security systems make it easier for people to safely access company data, whether they are in the office or working remotely. For businesses that have remote workers or people who travel on-the-job, IT security is an essential part of making sure everyone can access the resources they need without making their data vulnerable to hackers.

Related: Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Policies: Pros and Cons

 

Cybersecurity attacks to look out for

Hackers use a variety of cyberattack techniques to access company data, which they then take advantage of for financial gain or other nefarious purposes. Being aware of the common types of cybersecurity attacks can help you prepare appropriate preventative measures for your company:

 

Malware

Malware is software that is designed to exploit system vulnerabilities to change program code, access information or spy on users. Employees may accidentally download malware by clicking on a link or visiting an unsafe website. If it is not removed, malware can track keystrokes to learn passwords, prevent other software from functioning, and make computer systems inaccessible until the owner pays a ransom.

 

Phishing

Phishing is a hacking technique that involves manipulating users into downloading malware or giving away sensitive information. Hackers may send emails disguised as official company memos that are actually a ruse to get information from employees. Texts, social media messages and other communications are also vulnerable to phishing attacks.

 

DDoS

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks attempt to crash a server or system. They submit a large volume of requests that overwhelm the IT system and cause it to either slow down or stop entirely. DDoS is often a precursor to other attacks, attempting to gain access to private details while IT is busy attempting to restore the network.

 

Password attacks

Hackers can also use software to guess passwords and manually gain access to company accounts. They learn about patterns in how people create passwords and use them to get the same access to data as an employee or customer. Complex passwords and regular password updates can make it harder for hackers to use this method to access your accounts.

 

Cryptojacking

Cryptojacking is when a hacker uses someone else’s computers to mine for cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency mining requires a large amount of power from a computer, so hackers actually use cryptojacking to avoid high electricity bills and use someone else’s CPU. If you notice your computers always running hot, it is possible that passive software is using your system to mine bitcoin or another cryptocurrency.

 

IT security tips for small businesses

Because there are so many ways people use technology to access data, IT security has many different facets. Improve cybersecurity at your small business with these tips:

 

Password protect your Wi-Fi

Make sure your Wi-Fi is secure by encrypting the network and making it password-protected. Hackers tend to look for easy targets, and having a strong Wi-Fi password is a great deterrent to let them know that your business is prepared for attacks.

 

Install and update security software

Invest in quality security software for all of your company’s computers so that you can easily run scans to detect malware and identify potential threats. Turn on your computer’s firewall or use third-party software for a more powerful firewall. 

 

Limit access to company data

Create user accounts with different access levels so that your employees only have access to the information they need to do their job. Limiting company account access can prevent hackers from getting too much of your company’s information through hacking a single account.

 

Develop policies for mobile devices

Even if your company mainly uses desktop computers, prepare policies for how employees access information on their mobile devices. Phones and tablets may not have the same security features as computers, making them a vulnerable access point. 

 

Isolate payment processing

Use a separate system to process customer and employee financial details so that if a hacker gains access to one part of your system, they don’t automatically connect with payment information. Keeping especially sensitive details separate is good business practice and limits the impact of hacking attempts.

 

Host employee training

Train your employees on best practices for making and updating passwords, accessing company sites and looking for suspicious emails. Document your protocols for a security breach and make sure that everyone on your team knows how to approach possible IT security issues.

 

Roles to hire for IT security

There are several people who are instrumental in protecting a company’s IT security. Some of the positions you could hire to keep your systems secure include:

  • IT director: IT directors create high-level strategic policies related to cybersecurity. They maintain awareness of new developments in malware and develop systems to respond to new threats.
  • IT manager: IT managers implement security measures across a team and make sure everyone understands the necessary steps to secure a system. They can also delegate tasks to IT project managers who focus on a specific type of cybersecurity such as data integrity or network protection.
  • IT specialist: IT specialists can consult on a particular aspect of cybersecurity and identify possible vulnerabilities.
  • IT technician: IT technicians help with the actual installation of security software and removal of malware.
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