In recent years, several highly publicized, large-scale hacks have exposed millions of Americans to potential identity theft, resulting in big changes to how many companies do business. Although these data breaches involved Fortune 500 companies with household names, cybersecurity risks aren't limited to business giants. Small businesses can also become targets of devastating hacks. In fact, they may be even more vulnerable, since they typically have fewer safeguards and less sophisticated protections in place.
Your business may become a target if you store or process any type of sensitive data, including:
- Customer information
- Bank accounts
- Credit card numbers
- Trade secrets
- Intellectual property
As you can see, it's not only your customers' data that may be at risk, but also your own.
Commonsense steps to enhance your cybersecurity
Just as storefronts need physical locks to protect their inventory and cash, so, too, businesses need strong security measures to protect their assets on the cyber front.
Fortunately, you don't need to hire an entire IT department or make prohibitively expensive investments to put these measures into place. A few simple steps can go a long way toward improving your business's cybersecurity. For example:
- Configure your Internet networks with strong security requirements.
- Protect sensitive data with passwords.
- Consider using multifactor authentication for accessing high-risk data (which would require additional verification steps beyond just a password).
- Have policies and physical safeguards in place to protect laptops, tablets and other mobile devices from theft.
- Avoid storing or accessing sensitive data on mobile phones (or, at minimum, require logins to unlock the phones and ensure that passwords aren't saved on the devices themselves).
- If you accept credit cards, do so in a secure manner - for example, by transitioning to EMV "chip" technology sooner rather than later.
- If you use a third-party service to process payments online, make sure it's reputable and reliable.
Beyond these steps, you may wish to consider enlisting an IT professional (whether on an in-house or contract basis) to review your cybersecurity and implement improvements. Of course, make sure you vet that person thoroughly, since they will have access to your systems and data.
It only takes one breach to derail everything you've built so far. Prioritizing data security is a smart move for your business's finances, reputation and long-term success.