The Practical Guide to Data Security at Your Small Business

protect yourself from cyber security

Did you know that 43 percent of all data breaches happen to small businesses? Just because you’re small doesn’t mean you’re not at risk for a cyberattack.

Help reduce your business’ risk of data breaches by implementing these strategies.

Where to Start with Cybersecurity

The first step in protecting your business from cyberattacks is awareness. Identify points of weakness in your business when it comes to protecting your data and safely using technology.

Man checks email on tablet in streetOne preventable reason for data breaches? An action taken by an unsuspecting employee. Clicking on links in phishing emails, downloading “attachments” and giving information to someone who seems legitimate are all ways to give criminals access to your data.

There’s no way of knowing exactly which type of technology hackers are using, and more – and more sophisticated – technologies are created every day. But understanding the most common ways your security could be at risk can help. Here are a few ways it could happen:

  • – Social engineering. Criminals trick someone else into giving them information, money or access through a convincing story. For example, a hacker could pose as your boss and email you asking to send them the code from a gift card.
  • – Employee actions. In this example, the data breach occurs because of something someone at your company did. If employees have access to sensitive information they don’t need, it could create a problem – whether they share it intentionally or not. This is also why employees who’ve been fired or laid off need to have their access rescinded immediately.
  • – Malware. This can take the form of a virus or unwanted program on your computer. Some programs can track your keystrokes and steal password information. Others, called ransomware, lock down your computer and demand some form of payment.
  • – Hacking. Hackers find ways to exploit weaknesses in your database or website and gain an entrance. They may also purchase information like credentials on shady websites and use them to compromise your system.

Knowing how a data breach or cyberattack could happen will help you be prepared with a plan in case it does.

How to Secure Your Wi-Fi Network

Businessman sets up wireless internet routerUsing an open or unsecured Wi-Fi setup is like rolling out the welcome mat to criminals. Make sure yours is secured – especially if you do a majority of your work digitally.

Cox Business member Lisa Majdi identifies multiple steps to securing your company’s Wi-Fi network:

1. First, make sure your router is in a secure location like a locked cabinet, so it’s hard for strangers to access it.

2. Make the router’s password a strong one and change the password each business quarter, since the most common way a hacker can break into the network is to use a default password that the business has failed to update. Keep this password private and make it hard to guess.

3. Lastly, set up a separate network for guests to further minimize the likelihood that they’ll crack into company data or introduce malware into your business’s private network.

Securing your Wi-Fi network is one of the easiest and most important ways to protect your business.

Data Privacy and Cybersecurity for Small Businesses

Stay Safe Online contributor Shawn Abraham says it’s important to install multiple layers of security. Anti-virus software is no longer enough due to the wide variety of cyber attacks and different strains of malware.

Abraham recommends going with an antivirus, anti-malware, and anti-ransomware suite, which will provide your corporation with a more comprehensive defense against data breaches.

A hacker’s main goal when using malware is often to access personal information about your employees and customers. By encrypting your business data, you’ll help ensure that this private information stays confidential.

Most software companies offer encryption applications suitable for businesses. Agrawal recommends using full-disk encryption tools for optimal security. This method will encrypt every file on your drive without slowing it down.

Unless you’re an IT whiz, talk to an IT firm in your area about your security needs and get help developing a plan that works for you.

Why Backing Up Files is Important

Regularly schedule backups of all company files, which will help you avoid rebuilding files from scratch in the event of malware infiltration or just human error.

Robert Siciliano, CEO of and contributor with, advises using both on-site and cloud methods for backing up your company’s data. This will provide you with two storage locations for retrieving your information.

Warehouse worker and boss discuss computer in warehouse

Teaching Cybersecurity at Small Businesses

The best offense is a good defense. Train your staff about cybersecurity and let them know to take it seriously.

It might seem like it would never happen to you, but when one of your employees gets a suspicious email, it’s going to be up to them if they handle it correctly.

  • • Inform your staff about malware and how they can protect the company from data breaches. Such education can be in the form of company-wide training or a monthly meeting to help remind employees of cyberattack methods like phishing and drive-by downloads. To help underscore how serious this issue is, give them examples of consequences associated with data breaches.
  • • Train them to avoid opening emails with suspicious subject lines or from unknown senders. Create a plan of what to do if this happens. For example, they might mark it as spam and send a note to your IT provider notifying them. Give examples of ways criminals can imitate real people and point out the importance of triple-checking from addresses, names, spelling and grammar, and link addresses before clicking. If they’re unsure, they can always check with the person who supposedly sent the email – better to be safe than sorry.
  • • Advise them to use their business phones as a mobile hotspot or set up a virtual private network (VPN) instead of using a public Wi-Fi network when they’re working remotely. Sensitive information should never be accessed or transmitted via email on a public network.

More Data Privacy Tips for Small Businesses

By instating these practical online safety measures within your business, you’ll increase the security of your private data while helping to protect your company’s files and network.

Learn more about protecting your personal identity and keeping information confidential >>

Published by Minster Bank
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