Though there has been a rash of talk, media coverage, think pieces, debate, and state legislature surrounding data breaches in recent years, experts have been extolling the virtues of cyber security for over a decade now. Proof? This October marks the 12th year of National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM).
According to the National Cyber Security Alliance, the organization that co-sponsors the month-long event alongside the Department of Homeland Security, NCSAM's aim is to help people, businesses, and educational institutions across the country understand how to be good digital citizens and protect personal information. NCSA states the theme this year specifically focuses on consumer cyber security.
Your business can get in on the action, too. Celebrate National Cyber Security Awareness Month by promoting your business's interest in cyber security (a real selling point for many consumers these days) and reducing your cyber risk. Here are some ideas to help you get started.
1. Update your software.
Did you know that 99.9 percent of vulnerabilities exploited in data breaches were more than a year old at the time? You can read more about that in "The #1 Reason to Update Your Software Today," but the main takeaway is that updating computer and antivirus software could have easily prevented those vulnerabilities.
Viruses, malware, and botnets aren't going anywhere, so it's high time you get your digital defenses up to speed. You may even want to upgrade to software that has built-in cyber protections (e.g., Microsoft Office 365).
2. Hire an IT consultant.
Perhaps you've been meaning to beef up your cyber security for a while now, but you weren't sure where to begin. If that's the case, consider hiring an IT consultant to do a security audit of your network. They can help you identify places you can improve security. For more incentive to hire a cyber security professional, check out "How to Boost Your Business's Cyber Security When You're Not Big Enough for a Board."
3. Upgrade to an EMV card reader.
If you accept credit or debit cards at your store, you should have an EMV card reader by now. Failure to make the switch means your business can be held liable for fraudulent credit card transactions that happen in person. Learn more about the switch to EMV cards and readers in our infographic and discover what other small businesses did to ease the transition in "Small-Business Owners: How to Make the Transition to EMV Cards Quick and Painless."
4. Get Cyber Liability Insurance already.
This policy helps you pay for the cleanup costs that accompany a data breach. You can buy Cyber Liability Insurance as a standalone policy or add it as an endorsement to your General Liability Insurance or your Business Owner's Policy.
5. Develop a data breach response plan.
Your plan should detail how you will contact affected parties after a breach, steps for repairing your network and replacing lost or damaged files, and ways to rebuild the public's trust in your business. Fortunately, those are all activities Cyber Liability Insurance can help you fund.
And if you need more help on developing the specifics of your response plan, that can be another job for your IT consultant. See "After a Data Breach, More Communication Is Better" for the ways not to respond to a data breach.
6. Arm yourself with information.
If you're going to manage your cyber risks, it helps to know what those risks are. Start by reading this guide developed by our sister company, TechInsurance.com: "Small Business Guide to Identity Theft Prevention and Data Security."
You can also check out the NCSA's resources to gather some basic information on Internet safety and security.