A survey of small business websites discovered recently that small businesses are less tech-savvy than their customers when it comes to digital security. For consumers, this likely comes as a terrifying shock: Companies you trust with your precious payment information should be the wise and experienced guards of consumer welfare, but everyone makes mistakes.
Small business owners, too, might be surprised that they fare so poorly against digital attacks. Fortunately, most of the problems with small business security are easy to fix. As a small business owner, you must look into rectifying the following four egregious errors to win the respect of your customers and stand strong against malicious data thieves.
Undoubtedly the most pervasive reason small businesses lack sufficient data security is laziness. The attitude develops slowly over time: At first, you think you have never experienced a data breach; then, you start to believe that your business might be too small (or too big) to attract any attack. You start to tally how much security is costing you every month, and you decide that scrimping on security probably won’t cause much harm. Before you know it, you have cut back on security spending so much that nothing is preventing cybercriminals from waltzing in and taking your data.
Fighting complacency is difficult, but an unwavering defense and constant vigilance are the only ways to protect yourself (and your customers) from digital attack. You should enact bimonthly security reviews to ensure everyone at the company is doing his or her utmost to protect valuable data, and you must jump on the latest security technology ― especially EMV cards ― to keep everyone safe.
No matter what industry you are in, you rely on various software and hardware to get jobs done. Every piece of technology you use comes with a security policy designed to keep you and the creator safe from cyberattack. These documents might be lengthy, but reading, understanding, and abiding by the rules is crucial to foolproof security.
In fact, it is imperative that you develop a policy of your own to inform your employees (and perhaps customers) of crucial security measures that will be enforced. You should endeavor to draft this policy in-house, so you can be certain the strictures apply directly to the work you and your employees do. You should address proper behavior across devices and programs, and you should review it every year to ensure it remains relevant. Most importantly, you must enforce the policy strictly to demonstrate your dedication to security.
Steadily, passwords are becoming more and more complex, and many small business owners believe that because they incorporate capital letters, numbers, and basic symbols, no hacker will crack their code. However, passwords remain one of the weakest points in cybersecurity, and you need more than eight characters to keep your data safe. Encouraging your employees to follow these password rules will make your security even stronger:
- Make it longer than you thought. Most experts advise using between 12 and 14 characters, and include spaces if you can.
- Never share your password. More often than not, thieves learn passwords from users themselves, who write down their codes, tell their coworkers, or otherwise display them for the world to see.
- Never use the same password twice. If you have trouble remembering multiple codes, use a password management system to help you stay organized.
Of course, a small business’s employees can be much worse than complacent. Plenty of workers directly disregard stated rules, choosing to perform behaviors that put the entire enterprise in jeopardy. Personal Web browsing on company devices, security program deactivation, and refusal to lock devices are just a few of the offenses treacherous employees can make to undermine a security system.
Incorporating security smarts into your employee screening process should prevent the worst offenders from permeating your ranks, but you can also scare straight employees who are tempted to bend the rules with strict enforcement of your policy. Additionally, you should only provide your IT team access to business-wide security systems, especially those that provide online protections, so other employees cannot quickly disable the programs that get in their way. Then, the bulk of your data will remain safe behind digital lock and key.