With everyone working from home, 2020 saw a massive spike in cyber crime, as there were more vulnerable systems for criminals to take advantage of.
With so many people working from home on unsafe networks or unprotected devices, it was easy for cyber criminals to steal data, extort businesses, and get away with it. Sadly, businesses are now more at risk of becoming victims of cyber crime than ever before.
Phishing is the most common type of cyber threat, where cyber criminals pose as legitimate businesses or organisations in order to get unsuspecting victims to click on links or change passwords on fraudulent websites to gain access to their systems.
Other incidents experienced by small businesses include spyware and malware attacks, hacking, and denial of service attacks, all of which can majorly harm their day-to-day operations.
Keeping safe from cyber crime isn’t as simple as buying some software or upgrading your computers. There are multiple different practices, all of which play a part in keeping you safe.
If you’re a business owner wondering how to protect your business from cyber crime, these five tips are a great place to start.
Firewalls and antivirus software are the first line of defence against cyber attacks. On top of this, don’t forget to hide and password protect your wifi network, as this is one of the major weak points that is often exploited to gain access to systems. Once cybercriminals are on your network, it’s only a matter of time until they start dealing serious damage, so keeping them out is the first step you need to take.
However, this won’t guarantee the safety of your data, so make sure you back it up should the worst happen.
Ransomware is a type of virus that locks every computer and device on the network. If this strikes your office, you won’t be able to access any data saved on any computer.
Hackers often give businesses 24 hours to pay to get their data back. If the business doesn’t pay, sometimes all that data is deleted. This can mean client lists, email databases, website designs, and all documentation, gone.
That can be avoided by backing up your data regularly, ensuring you’re never left with nothing should the worst happen. This backup should be saved on a separate system so it can’t be reached by any viruses.
You may have many hundreds of gigabytes of data, so understanding what’s critical for your business to continue is an important step. Back up this data first, and regularly, to ensure you can handle any sudden data loss.
Additionally, under the 2018 UK GDPR and Data Protection Act, if your small business processes personal or sensitive data, you must take reasonable steps to safeguard it from a data breach, or be prosecuted should that data be stolen or compromised.
One of the most effective ways of keeping data safe is to encrypt it. Secure data is encrypted and decrypted using a secret key. Only authorised team members should have access to the key, meaning criminals will not be able to decipher the encrypted data if they’re able to steal it, rendering it useless, and keeping you, and your clients and partners, safe.
Updates are one of the best defences against cyberattacks. When systems aren’t updated, they don’t have the latest protection against new viruses, leaving them vulnerable to cyber attacks.
Updated systems are stronger, and less likely to be targeted as their weak points haven’t been discovered yet. Sometimes the best way to stay safe from cyber attacks is simply to be slightly more work to break into than the next business, and keeping your software up to date is the easiest and cheapest way to do that.
Hopefully you’ll never need it, but should your business suffer a cyber attack, the fastest way for you to recover is to have a well-planned and effective recovery plan. This plan can have contingencies for during and after an attack, so you can minimise losses, protect yourselves, your partners, and your clients, and get up and running again as fast as possible.
This last tip may be the most important on this list. Ensuring your team knows the best practices for staying safe online is the best way to keep your business safe from cyber attacks.
While you can invest in antivirus software and top of the line equipment, your cybersecurity is really only as effective as your employees. They can spot suspicious emails, detect faults on the network, and raise the alarm if there is a security breach.
The most common element in all cyber attacks isn’t a lack of firewalls, or old vulnerable systems, it’s simple human error.
For your team to be an effective defense against cyber crime, they’ll need consistent training, as threats are always changing. Create a culture around cybersecurity throughout your entire organisation, making sure that people know not to click links they don’t recognise, not to send passwords through email, and not to download files they aren’t sure about.
It can also help to have policies in place so your team knows what practices are unacceptable, and limiting the number of users who have admin privileges. This minimises the amount of programs they can download, in turn minimising the risk of downloading viruses.
While there are many threats out there, keeping your business safe doesn’t require you to have technical knowledge, the best equipment, or a huge cybersecurity budget. Just adhering to these simple principles and consistently using best practices can help keep your business safe from cybercrime.
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