11 Network Security Tips for Your Small Business
What is Network Security and How Does It Apply to Your Small Business?
Network security threats and vulnerabilities remain a nightmare for small businesses. According to a Verizon 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR), Small businesses account for 43% of all data breaches. Therefore, the subject of network security and how it applies to small businesses is a bone worth chewing. I will start by defining network security and narrowing it down to its critical element of concern to small businesses worldwide.
Network security could be all the resources and strategies employed in protecting all your information and all other digital resources from the threats posed by cybercriminals. Network threats could exist in different forms, and it should sadden you to hear that network vulnerabilities are multiplying daily. No full immunity from network insecurities is guaranteed, so network security is an issue that should be given utmost seriousness.
Small businesses are at risk from network vulnerabilities. A small shop run by a single individual will be connected to the internet in different ways, and by this, it means that the business is at the jaws of various security threats. To most small business owners, their ventures are lesser victims of a cybercrime or that network security does not concern them because the venture might be less connected to online services. No wonder most small businesses do not have the IT team. This little sense of security puts most small businesses at a high risk of cyberattacks both from outside and within the organization. The repercussions of a successful data breach are usually so devastating. Most businesses will have their reputation tarnished, lose a significant amount of resources in an attempt to repair the damages, and in worst-case scenarios, shut down their operations. Like the case of the 2017 ransomware attacks, 22% of all the businesses that were affected could not continue operating.
Now that you are aware of the dangers of cyber threats to your small business, you probably want to know some of the best measures that you can have in place to protect your entire network. Worry less. I will have that sorted out. The following are the eleven tips that I highly recommend to protect your business from network vulnerabilities and security threats.
- Build A Security-Aware Culture Across the Business
The first step towards creating a secure network in your business is developing a comprehensive policy that makes all business stakeholders aware that cybersecurity is a priority and not an option. If network security will be thought of as only an IT issue, it does not signal that it is a priority. All stakeholders should be brought on board. Cybersecurity experts should develop proper rules, policies, and measures to ensure that they are followed appropriately. To cut a long story short, network security should be made the culture of the organization. Making it a cultural practice will make all business stakeholders conduct themselves with cybersecurity in mind. Furthermore, it would help if you actively promoted the cybersecurity rules and policies, not only to your staff but all other stakeholders. Enhance your entire business’s security by encouraging all your business stakeholders to have a security mindset.
- Stakeholder training and Awareness Programs
Results from surveys conducted on various businesses across the globe indicate that the complicated nature of data breaches and how to protect your employees and your systems against them remains the most significant barrier in adopting proper cybersecurity protocols. The same way an organization purchases a new forklift needs to train its employees to use the forklift. All business stakeholders should be taught appropriate cybersecurity measures. You should develop security policies and protocols that clearly explain what your staff should or should not do for website security. The policies and protocols should be made aware to all the stakeholders across all spheres of your business.
- Conduct Regular Data Backup
I cannot remind you enough about how crucial backups are. The fact is that you cannot be entirely immune to data breaches. The big question you need to answer is what will happen if things get sour and become a victim of a data breach? Never store valuable data that you cannot afford to lose in one place. The best practice will be to use an external source such as external drives, cloud storage options, and hard copies. The backup file is where you will run to recover your files that your business needs to continue operating.
- SSL Encryption
A small business may not hold important information, but it is worth being protected. If you collect confidential information such as credit card details, debit card details, or financial information, you need to have mechanisms to protect such information. The SSL certificate is one such kind of protocol that provides the required level of encryption that your business requires.
An SSL certificate converts raw data into a coded format. The information exchanged between the users’ browsers, and your servers will go through a coded format, making it difficult for an intruder to access or decipher it. The intended recipient is the only one who possesses the right key to decrypt the encrypted information.
- Install Security Firewalls
Placing a firewall to protect your business should be one of your greatest priorities, just like firewalls play a significant role in securing your business network from both internal and external dangers. It is crucial in filtering both incoming and outgoing traffic or data hence presenting several cyber threats. A firewall will provide a defense against external threats by preventing unauthorized access to your network from potential cyber attackers. Firewalls will also safeguard your website’s infrastructure from within by mitigating the spread of malware and viruses. Therefore, you must install a firewall on your small business website to protect against such attacks.
- Use Strong and Unique Passwords
I will always reiterate the point of unique passwords. Passwords provide a critical line of defense against intruders. You should ensure that every stakeholder running an account uses strong and unique passwords. Strong passwords are those that are capable of withstanding the forces of brute force attacks. To create a strong password, you will have to combine numbers, letters, symbols, or special characters.
A unique password, on the other hand, is one that is only used once. Avoid the habit of using a single password on multiple accounts. You should also ensure that you change those passwords regularly. How you store the passwords also matters a great deal. Storing the passwords on the browsers is a bad habit and should be avoided.
- Secure Your Resources Against Physical Thefts
While you might be doing all that is necessary to secure your business from attackers, do not forget that your hardware is at risk too. Proper measures should be put in place to safeguard your hardware from intruders. Sometimes, all that a hacker will need is the hardware devices, and he will be good to go.
- Stay Protected from Malware Attacks
Malware is malicious software created by a cyber-attacker with the sole purpose of damaging your data files or tampering with the normal operations of your system. There are different forms of malware infections such as viruses, ransomware, and Trojan horses, affecting your business. Proper security protocols should be put in place to ensure that such attacks are eliminated. For instance, conducting regular security audits and scans could help identify and mitigate such attacks. You can also use anti-malware attacks to protect your business from such kinds of attacks.
- Carry Out Regular System Updates
That popup notification that you see on your screen requesting you to update your software is not for nothing. New software versions come with advanced security patches and features that protect your network from possible security vulnerabilities. Upgrading your software once a new version is released is something you should never hesitate to do.
- Choose A Reliable Web Hosting Provider
The web hosting provider that you go for could make or break your business. Web hosting providers play a critical role in enhancing website security. While choosing a web hosting provider, go for one which offers the highest level of protection.
- Use Multiple Security Layers
Just having one or a few security measures that have been mentioned above can never be enough. The higher the number of security measures you have, the safer your business is from cybersecurity threats.
Today, most people have opted to use the internet in conducting their activities. This has seen more and more small businesses that crop up, whose operations are all conducted via the internet. Most of these small businesses overlook some important cybersecurity aspects just because “they are small businesses”. Such is the wrong notion. If you are operating your business online, know that you are vulnerable to cyber insecurities, and as such, you need to have proper measures to cushion such threats. This article has explained eleven security tips for your small business.