5 Essential Cybersecurity Measures for Small Businesses

5 Essential Cybersecurity Measures for Small Businesses

As a way of introducing somebody to just about any subject, one could list out a few of its fundamentals. For example, if you wanted to help a friend understand the stock market, your list would include big-picture advice like “choose well-managed companies,” “buy fairly-priced shares,” and “know your risk tolerance.”

The same holds true when Managed Services Providers (MSPs) want to introduce small-business owners to the finer points of office IT. It’s easy to imagine a short list containing things like backing up data, optimizing WiFi networks, and upgrading to Internet-based phone systems.

One aspect of office IT where the list of fundamentals is particularly important is cybersecurity. Having one helps companies keep their data and systems protected, and since hackers have the potential to completely derail ones that don’t, you’ll need to know these 5 essential cybersecurity measures for small businesses.

#1 - Hook up a Frontline Defense

There are plenty of options out there for fending off hackers, but one thing your network must have is a strong firewall. Even if you haven’t partnered with an MSP yet, your internal IT department will be able to set one up for you. Installation is relatively simple; they can be implemented as either hardware or software, and they’re affordable.

Another frontline defense mechanism a small business mustn’t do without is an email encryption program. It will make sure everything going out your front door is protected from the elements, which in this case are hackers waiting to pounce on your sensitive customer and employee data.

And you, of course, need to install anti-malware tools from reputable vendors to provide another layer of protection. This one will watch over your email server, scan every machine on your network at regular intervals, and even stay updated by itself.

#2 - Make Strong Passwords

Another essential measure that’s so often overlooked is to ensure you have a company-wide policy for smart passwords. There are plenty of Dos and Don’ts in this area, but any good MSP will let you know how to set up usernames and passwords the right way.

If you don’t, you are practically inviting cybercrime. Even the most rudimentary “brute force” hacking attempts will have high success rates. That’s because without smart passwords, all it takes to get inside your network and send in viruses and ransomware is some simple predictive software and enough spins of the wheel.

#3 - Train Your Troops

Cybersecurity measures for small businesses go beyond hardware, software, and password protection policies. Your people need to know what’s going on with respect to your company’s network defenses, and the surest way for that to occur is by setting up an ongoing training program.

The reason it needs to be ongoing -- as opposed to simply being part of your new-employee onboarding -- is because the cyberthreats you’re most likely to encounter will always be evolving. And even worse, new ones are always being created, as in 2017 when there were 22 million new malware specimens in the first quarter alone!

#4 - Keep Current

So after you’ve installed the necessary technology, and now that your employees are becoming more and more aware of the dangers lurking online, what’s left to do? Time and time again, we receive calls from companies that wish they’d have asked this question sooner.

What they failed to do is make sure that their cybersecurity hardware and software solutions and their cybersecurity education programs were kept up to date. Running outdated versions of your antivirus application or your firewall’s firmware, and failing to keep your cybersecurity knowledge base current with the latest IT news and trends, is tantamount to having no cybersecurity scheme at all.

#5 - Prepare a Recovery Plan

So if you are lacking the time or personnel to ensure your network defense mechanisms are always running the latest versions, or that your cybersecurity training materials don’t fall behind the times, we suggest calling an MSP for a consultation.

At which point you can find out about establishing a disaster recovery plan for those rare occasions when something does go awry. It will help you rebound from a natural disaster like a fire or flood -- or from a hacker-made disaster like a data breach or ransomware -- much more quickly.

We’ll be the first to admit that even the most diligent businesses can experience cybersecurity accidents, which is why you need not only preventive measures in place, but also reactive ones that will mitigate the damage of a cyberattack as much as possible.