Insureon recently surveyed a sample of small-business owners and asked the following:
- Do you password protect the computer you use for work?
- Do you use antivirus software?
- How often do you download patches and updates to your OS and software?
At best, we can say the results were mixed. Turns out…
- 92 percent use passwords, which is great, so long as those passwords aren't "nopassword."
- 22 percent of small-business owners either don't use or don't know if they use antivirus software.
- 36 percent only "sometimes" or "never" update their OS and software packages – a pretty shocking revelation.
Protecting your small business against cyberattacks can feel like an uphill battle. But the truth is that there are some pretty easy ways to shore up its cyber defenses. Let's take a look.
Use Strong Passwords
We were happy to see that the vast majority of respondents used password-protected work computers. That may reduce the chance of a criminal getting their hands on sensitive data. But there's a reason companies like SplashData post a list of the worst passwords every year.
According to the 2016 Verizon Data Breach Report, 63 percent of confirmed data breaches involved a weak, stolen, or default password.
- Never use the same passwords for personal and business accounts. If you use the same for everything, hacking one grants access to your other accounts.
- Create passwords that are easy to remember but differentiate them with at least one number, capital letter, or symbol. Trading symbols for letters – "B**stEv#[email protected]" – strengthens passwords while keeping them easy to remember.
- Consider using a password manager. "In this case, you only have to create one strong password as all other passwords will be automatically generated and will look like this: A7cfA&^C%A&f5c," says Tatar.
Watch Out for Phishing Scams
Most respondents claim to use antivirus software at work. Unfortunately, that leaves 14 percent who don't and 8 percent who don't know if they do or not. That could turn into a big problem for them if they accidentally click a malicious link or open a suspicious email attachment.
You might think your spam filter will catch phishing emails, but you'd be surprised what slips through. Verizon's report even shows that 30 percent of phishing emails are opened, and 12 percent of recipients take the bait.
Phishing isn't the only way a hacker can get a virus on your system, but that makes protection more important.
Pro tip: Robert Siciliano (@RobertSiciliano), identity theft expert and CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com, says antivirus software can't protect you from malware all the time, but that doesn't mean you should skip it.
"A seatbelt will not prevent you from being injured at all times. But you wouldn't go without wearing your seatbelt would you?" says Siciliano. "Unless there a technological reasons not to use antivirus, there's really no excuse not to."
Boost Your Cyber Security by Updating Your OS
Every system has flaws, including the operating system and antivirus software on your computers. And plenty of hackers can find these weaknesses and exploit them.
In fact, 2015 saw a near record high of 781 data breaches, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center. Plus, 2016 may be on track to top that. The October report currently shows 725 incidents.
The good news is software designers know that their programs need updates and work to stay ahead of the hackers. Moreover, they usually let you know when a patch is ready. All you need to do is install it – and it less time out of your schedule than dealing with a data breach does.
Tatar says, "Even 30 minutes per month dedicated to updating all software by each employee can significantly boost the cyber security level for small businesses."
Pro tip: Tatar suggests ensuring your employees are using the latest security software and operating system.
"This would prevent your business from becoming a victim of massive attacks and security breaches," he notes.
Strong passwords, updated antivirus software, and the latest OS patches protect your business, but the final brick in your fortress is Cyber Liability Insurance. While it can't stop a breach from happening, it can help your business survive when the other protections fail. Learn more in "Study Shows Cyber Liability Insurance Popular for Small Breaches, Small Business."
About the Contributors
For almost 30 years, Robert Siciliano has been committed to maintaining his expertise in all aspects of security by constantly researching new and upcoming security trends with the goal of informing and educating you so you can avoid becoming a statistic. His goal is simple – to wake up and empower people across Main Street USA and throughout the world so they can avoid becoming victims. In addition to being the CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com, Siciliano has contributed to numerous media outlets and is the best-selling author of three books.
George Tatar founded Akruto, Inc. in 2010 to help customers keep their private information safe and readily available wherever they go. Prior to founding Akruto, George managed teams of engineers at large companies as well as successful startups. George received his master’s degree in information technology from Harvard Extension School in 2005. Prior to that, he attended Boston University, where he graduated summa cum laude in 1988 with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering.