As a small business owner, you could be forgiven for thinking that you will never be the target of hackers. After all, when you hear about hacking on the news, it’s always the major players that seem to bear the brunt. SONY, NASA, even the U.S. military – they have all made the news for the wrong reasons.
However, away from the headlines, it’s a different story. Small businesses are valuable targets for hackers – precisely because they are small businesses. Most companies under a certain size don’t invest in their IT and online security, which makes them easy prey for your common or garden hacker. And, when they get hit, you never hear about them; simply because it isn’t big news.
So, the big question for today is: how can you protect your business from hackers and malicious malware? We’re going to explore some of the bare essentials you should be doing to keep your business safe. Let’s get started with some of the basics.
First of all, there are a lot of risks of exposure to hackers. Everything about your business can be a valuable tool, for many different reasons. However, the main issue is your customer’s details. If hackers get into your system and steal those details, they can use them for nefarious reasons. Bank details, addresses, and even email accounts can be used to falsify information and commit fraud. If it does happen, you are going to face – quite rightly – a significant backlash from your customers. And, you might even have to face some difficult questions from the legal authorities. Hackers could also take over your website, shut it down, and blackmail you until you pay them money. Neither of these scenarios is pleasant – and they are more common than you might think.
The good news
The vast majority of hacking incidents occur through automatic actions. So, a hacker will develop a piece of software, put it on a malware distribution site, and wait for it to install on a computer or system. You tend to see this malware and viruses in emails or dodgy links on unsecured websites. Click them, and the software will download, infecting your computer. The hacker then has access to your date, and can do what they like with it. A lot of the time, a business owner may not even realise they have an infection. So – what, exactly, is good news about this? Well, because these hacking incidents tend to be automatic, it is easier to defend yourself against attacks. Hackers aren’t targeting your business on a personal basis – they are just fishing. If you have robust security in place, you shouldn’t ever have a problem.
The bad news
There are hackers – and there are proper hackers. And, if one of these guys wants to get into your system, there is nothing you can do about it. These people are capable of breaking into some of the most secure systems in the world, and your security isn’t going to stop them. While the likelihood of getting attacked by a skilled hacker is slim, it is still a possibility. Our advice? Just make sure you don’t get into an argument with a coder who has a dark side.
Now, let’s look at what you need to do. Getting started is easy – it just means changing the way you think about your business. Online and IT security should become part of your future plans, in every aspect of your business. And, you should get started as soon as possible. The longer you leave it to establish the correct security controls, the more complicated the process will be.
Audit your business
One of your first steps is to audit your business. IT systems and your online portals are all made of little links, and each one of these needs to be as strong as possible. It only takes one chink in the armor for a hacker to find a way in. And, quite often, those chinks will appear in your business will come from a human, rather than machine, error. It is essential, then, that you focus your employees’ attentions on security. Invest in a robust security training package, and include third parties and engineers. Never release anything to the general public until it is 100% secure.
The big problem with small business technology security is that so few owners are willing to invest. They don’t see the value in spending money on an unseen threat – but that threat is very real. Set aside part of your budget for security when you draw up a business plan or find a space for it if you already have one. Sure, you might get lucky and never suffer from attack. But, the odds are going against you the longer you go without.
Keep on top of developments
If you have the money, your best bet is to outsource your IT security to a third party. If you don’t, make sure you get to know about the online and IT security world and keep tabs on future developments. Guides like this one will only get you started, so get to know the best security blogs and services and read them. Take a look at the likes of US-Cert, The PC Dojo, and SecTools for some more in-depth guides to security matters.
If you want to keep all your data and communications safe, make sure you use a service that encrypts everything for you. There are plenty of them about, so it’s just a case of finding the system that works for you. Many of these services offer extra features that will come in handy, too. For example, vendors like Apple enable you to wipe important information from a device if it is stolen. Data recovery services are also a good idea.
OK, so there you go – some basic advice for those new to the IT and online security game. Don’t underestimate the threat that hackers pose and the trouble they can cause. If you lose a whole bunch of customer data, there could be severe consequences. Stay safe!