4 Small Biz Cyber Security Threats (and How to Combat Them)

By Stefanie Neyland, Small Business Content Developer at BizLaunch.com

In twenty first century business, when a network stops functioning, it’s nothing short of catastrophic. And when there’s a problem with an organization’s computers, business either slows down significantly—or worse, completely grinds to a halt.

That’s why large companies shell out thousands (and in some cases, millions) of dollars to lock down their networks. But what about small businesses? What can they do to protect their livelihoods from cyber crime? After all, your average entrepreneur probably doesn’t have a substantial budget set aside for Internet security.

The good news is that there are a few simple yet effective measures you can implement right now to safeguard your business from cyber crime—without needing a big budget.


1. Beware of ‘phishing’

You received an email from your bank that said it was time to update your password. The email provides a helpful link that allows you to click, enter your account information, and change your password. It looks professional—complete with company logo—but in reality it’s a phishing scam. Somebody sent the email to you in the hopes you would provide your account information. You did, and now the cybercriminals have access to your bank account. This scenario is just as likely to happen at home as it is in your business, and the trick is to treat all email links you receive with a degree of skepticism. Rather than clicking on email links, go directly to the official site and login.


2. Use secure passwords

The majority of online security incidents stem from using unsecure passwords. When thinking up new passwords, be sure to incorporate a mix of letters, numbers and symbols—but avoid common words or consecutive series’ such as ‘123’ or ‘ABC’. It’s also a wise idea to change your passwords periodically. If you won’t remember to do this, install software that will alert you when it’s time to change and will show you how strong your new password is. It may be inconvenient, but it’s essential to keeping your business’s network secure.


3. Be careful what you download

Avoid downloading anything which isn’t reputable and 100 percent legitimate. Illegally downloaded material—be it software, music, movies, apps or anything else—is much more likely to contain harmful viruses than legitimate content. If your business has employees, establish an Internet use policy. In the document should be a rule prohibiting all downloads without prior permission from you, the business owner. This should include everything from iTunes to security updates (unless they’re set as automatic).


4. Be vigilant on all your devices—not just your computer

Admit it: you compute almost as much on mobile devices (think smartphones, tablets, notebooks, etc.) as you do on your main computer. You read work emails on your iPhone or Android, log in to sensitive Internet accounts via iPad, and store mission critical files on your laptop. It's convenient, but there is a downside. Along with the rewards of freedom and constant connectivity, mobile computing comes with the same risks as your primary devices.

Smartphones and tablets are easier to lose, simple to steal, and are huge targets for data theft. People often implement cyber security measures for their office networks and personal computers, but forget to safeguard their mobile devices which contain just as much sensitive information. Don’t make this mistake—treat all your devices with the same vigilance.


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