Last year, approximately half of all online attacks worldwide were carried out against small businesses. This may seem surprising to some small business owners who believe that, to some extent, their small size shields them from being likely targets. However, the opposite is true: hackers know that small businesses are more vulnerable to attacks, because they don’t have the resources for the high-end protection used by larger companies. The worse news is that small businesses are also the least likely to survive a data breach. Once your customers’ data gets into the wrong hands, you have lost their trust, and it can be almost impossible to regain it. This is why prevention and good security measures are key.
Ensure SOX Compliance
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, or SOX, was designed to make large companies accountable for a range of behaviors, one of which is the management of electronic records. Of course, this act was put in place for big companies, so full compliance is expensive. However, you can use SOX as a guide to make sure you are adhering to the highest possible standards your business can afford. You can learn more about SOX in this guide by Digital Guardian.
Use Strong Passwords
This should be a given, but that is unfortunately not the case. Weak passwords are still commonly used in the workplace, despite the huge risk they present to customer data. Asking employees to use strong passwords oftentimes isn’t enough, and can lead to security issues like Post-its with passwords left out in the open. Instead, use a password manager to generate strong passwords, and keep them safely stored where your employees can access them as needed.
Switch To Authenticated Payment
Whether you’re a brick-and-mortar or online business, you should only be using authenticated forms of payment. These are much more secure for your customers, as it is harder for a hacker to get hold of their credit card information. For physical businesses, this can be as simple as switching to chip verification if you still have a magnetic-strip card reader. However, an increasing number of small businesses are turning to digital payment gateways for their payments, both online and in store. These tend to be cheaper as well as safer for the customer, which means everyone wins.
Encrypt All Data
Data encryption is the kind of thing that most people have heard of, but barely understand. The simple explanation is that encrypted data has been coded so that only people with the right permissions can access it – to anyone else, the data makes no sense. You can encrypt individual files, but best practice would be full-disk encryption, where everything in your system is encrypted. This guide to computer encryption for small businesses by Business News Daily explains everything in more detail, and includes some great advice.
Keep All Systems Up To Date
Regular updates keep IT systems running smoothly, but they also protect them. Every software update comes with new security features, which is crucial, since hackers are always coming up with new ways to get into your system. By ignoring that update notification, you are making it much easier for someone to access your data.
Train Your Staff
According to CNBC, 47% of data breaches are caused by human error or negligence. This means that the biggest risk to your customer’s data isn’t a malicious, shadowy hacker, but a poorly-trained employee. Deliver information security awareness training for all employees. This should include everything from the importance of locking computer screens and shredding documents to identifying a phishing scam, setting strong passwords, and backing up data. Small businesses have just as much of a responsibility for the data they are trusted with as large corporations do, so it’s essential their security be up to snuff. Most of the above methods are free or very affordable, meaning that protecting customers’ data doesn’t have to be a matter of money. Simply having the right processes, training your staff correctly, and investing in the best protection that you can afford can be enough to keep your business safe from a breach. Photo via Pexels.