Here’s one topic I (unfortunately) have quite a lot of recent experience with. Last month, my company’s website was hacked—and then it was hacked again, and yet again! We recovered most of our data, but each time we lost valuable time and effort trying to piece our site back together, and in the end we actually had to recreate much of what was lost.
Did we survive the cyber attack? Yes. Were we prepared for the attack? Not enough. Are we typical of small businesses and their “it-won’t-happen-to-me” attitude? Definitely. A Gartner study found that 90 percent of companies that experience major data loss close within two years. Despite that scary statistic, a whopping 80 percent of business owners have no plan in place to protect their data. Another study from Gartner found the financial impact of cybercrime will grow 10 percent per year through 2016 as hackers discover new vulnerabilities opened up by new technologies such as cloud computing.
According to Internet security company AVG, the main security threats small businesses face are:
- Online or Web security against malicious websites
- Email problems including spam, phishing and malware
- Securing data so sensitive information isn’t accidently or deliberately distributed
With the busy holiday season approaching, it’s especially important to be protected and have a cyber-attack survival strategy in place. Follow these IT security guidelines:
- Create IT Policies. No matter how small your business, you need to set up guidelines and policies for yourself and anyone you share information with, including your customers and associates. Draft a policy outlining rules for business computers and create strong password protections. If you work with other small businesses on a large project, be sure you are all practicing safe computing. Also, make sure you are in compliance with your clients’ and vendors’ policies. You can never be too safe.
- Update Your Technology. Are you consistently making sure all systems and applications are updated with the latest security patches? Firewalls are not enough. Pay for a virus protection program and make sure your data is backed up regularly and stored securely by a vendor that has its own protections.
- Change It Up. Any outside contractors you work with should be informed of and comply with your tech security policies. Once you stop working with a contractor or other outside vendor, change your passwords so those people can’t come back to hack you. It’s a good idea to regularly change passwords anyway even if outside vendors or contractors don’t access your system.
- Get Covered. Business insurance can help business owners keep their organizations running in the event of a cyber attack. Insureon offers cyber liability protection that protects small businesses against the largest threats they face, including the disclosure of confidential data, loss of data or digital assets, and the introduction of malicious code or viruses.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.