10 Data Security Tips to Help Protect Your Small Business

Numerous blue "lock" icons and one red lockIt’s hard to think about running a small business today without high-speed internet. You use it to accept payments, deliver 24-7 service and market to customers. It’s so valuable that others want in on it too. One source reports that 50 percent of small businesses have been the target of a cyber attack. Even more alarming, 80 percent of those victims suffered severe financial losses, including bankruptcy. That’s why it’s important to guard this valuable asset. Here are ten data security tips that can help protect your small business.

1. Take inventory.

Inventory what information you retain that might be sensitive. Your list might include customer credit card numbers, employee social security numbers, bank account numbers, or contracts with suppliers. Then document where that information is stored—on which computers/laptops, cloud accounts, storage drives or sticks. Consolidate storage of sensitive information to as few sources as possible. Then segregate it from the rest of your network.

2. Follow best practices.

Follow best practices to protect against internet attacks. Train employees to do the same. Here are some from the Small Business Administration: Don’t download software from unknown web pages or respond to popup windows requesting you to download drivers. Do not allow websites to install software on your computer. Do not click on an email attachment from an unknown or unverified sender. Power down your system at the end of the day.

3. Keep it clean.

You mom was right about keeping your room clean, especially when comes to your cyber space. Invest in security software and enable automatic updates and scans. In addition, regularly download updates to operating systems, apps and programs. They often contain fixes for potential security risks. Set your preferences to automatically downloads updates as they become available.

4. Educate yourself.

Take the free online workshop, Cybersecurity for Small Business, offered by the Small Business Administration. This self-paced training includes topics like: why it’s important to identify the types of threats, and best practices for guarding against cyber threats. It takes only 30 minutes to complete and might be well worth the investment.

5. Keep passwords unpredictable.

With automation programs, it’s becoming easier for cyber attackers to guess your password. That’s because people tend to use predictable patterns like starting with an uppercase letter and ending with a number. MIT Technology Reviews suggests making the password longer or using symbols. It’s also important to change your password on a regular basis. Require employees to do the same.

6. Backup important data.

Set up an automatic back up schedule for important information. That might include spreadsheets, customer databases, financial data, or accounting files. The back up should be stored offsite or in the cloud. It allows you to recover and keep your business running if the information becomes corrupted or destroyed by attackers.

7. Batten down the hatches.

Secure your internet connection with a firewall or encryption software. If you offer Wi-Fi, require a password login and do not broadcast the network name. Or segment the Wi-Fi network for customers from the network you use. Establish a secure connection, like SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) for transactions like receiving and transmitting credit card information.

8. Stay secure on the go.

Don’t forget to secure mobile devices too. Password protect your smartphone or tablet so only authorized users can access it. TouchID makes this even easier by using thumbprints to identify you. Take advantage of encryption features. Do not use public Wi-Fi servers to access or transmit confidential information.

9. Create an expert plan.

Tap experts to help you develop a plan. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) offers Small Biz Cyber Planning 2.0. This online resource helps small businesses create custom cybersecurity plans. This newest version includes information on cyber insurance, best practices on spyware, and installing software to clean and track devices in case of theft.

10. Stay local.

Take advantage of a number of local government resources that help small businesses address their cyber risk. Services vary by state but they can include workshops, consultations, and alerts that can help owners respond to threats.

It’s critical today to be able to conduct business using the internet. Consider these data security tips to help safeguard your small business.

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