A Clear and Present Danger: Small Business Cyber Attacks

09/13/2017 09:39 am ET

Yes, even your business can become a victim. It may already be a target.

Although large businesses are victims of much-publicized cyber attacks, more than 60 percent of cyber attacks affect small businesses. Criminals assume that smaller enterprises use fewer security methods to protect their data, so small businesses have become attractive targets.

This doesn't mean you need to invest in NASA-level security for your business network. However, you do need to protect your business and customer data. Without a safety net, your sensitive data becomes vulnerable to thieves and criminals.

Why Should You Worry About Cyber Attacks?

60 percent of small businesses that sustain cyber attacks fail within the subsequent six months.

Because as small businesses we lack the resources of large corporate businesses, cyber attacks can inflict greater damage. Your business will face hefty costs as you recover from a cyber attack. The damage is even more harmful if the attacker reveals your trade secrets or other corporate data.

Some cyber attacks involve some type of effort to get access to your most sensitive information. For instance, if you accept payments from customers as part of your business operations, a cyber criminal could attempt to get account numbers and other personally identifiable data.

Most cyber attacks require the user to take some type of action, such as clicking on a link or downloading a program. Knowing this, you can protect your business and customers against them.

However, criminals have also developed more sophisticated methods for harvesting data illegally, some of which don't require any action on your part. That's why you need a formidable defense against outside intrusion.

How Can You Prevent Cyber Attacks?

My best small business advice for preventing cyber attacks comes down to two words: Employee training. If your workers know how to recognize a potential threat, they can avoid downloading malicious software to your network or otherwise compromising your security.

· Educate employees about email links and attachments.

· Remind employees to avoid accessing apps or other unauthorized software on their personal devices while they're at work.

· Ask employees to change their passwords every 30 days. Remind them to never share passwords with one another or anyone else.

You should also fortify your network.

Keep your antivirus, firewall, and other protection software updated. Criminals come up with new ways to infect remote devices and capture sensitive data every day. Your protection software can't protect against those new threats unless you keep it updated. Don’t forget about cellular devices too. In most cases, you can opt for automatic updates.

Keep an eye on website and network traffic. Denial-of-service attacks can cripple your system. The criminal uses multiple devices to overload your servers, which weaken them and makes it easier to steal data.

What If You're the Victim of a Cyber Attack?

Despite all of your efforts, your business could be targeted by a cyber criminal. You need to put a plan in place to help regain control over your system and data.

A disaster-response plan should assign specific responsibilities to your employees, such as shutting down infected devices, resetting passwords, and isolating Internet-connected devices from "dumb" machines. Someone should also run an antivirus scan to check for and destroy malware, and someone else can get in touch with technical support if you need help to get your system back up and running.

Don't lie in bed at night, unable to sleep because your afraid someone might be hacking your business network. Take steps to protect your data, and train your employees to handle internet security correctly.

If you'd like to get help with your small business join me at my Reinvention Weekend Conference Oct. 6-7, 2017 in Washington, D.C. It’s an event that will help you take your business to the next level.

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