By Catherine Blinder
Are you one of the millions of people in the country who have had personal information exposed as a result of computer breaches at retail stores, government sites or large corporations?
We have all heard about the hacking of personal information at the state, national and international level, but the truth is that no business is exempt from having its system hacked and customer information stolen.
And when an individual or a small business has their system hacked, it is just as devastating for their customers as when the target is the government or a huge corporation – the customers risk exposure of credit card records, social security numbers and birth dates or financial institution information.
Computers and electronic payment systems have made it easier for small businesses to grow and reach new and larger markets. They also provide opportunities for a more efficient delivery of services. But with every virtual transaction or payment, there is exposure to hackers who seem to be a step ahead of those chasing them.
Whether a business is thinking of adopting cloud computing or just using email and maintaining a website, cybersecurity should be part of the plan. Theft of digital information has become the most commonly reported fraud, surpassing physical theft. Every business that uses the Internet is responsible for creating a culture of security that will enhance business and consumer safety.
There are many resources for those interested in creating higher security for their businesses – the FCC has launched the Small Biz Cyber Planner, an online resource to help small businesses create customized cybersecurity plans.
Below are a few tips to help you make your business as secure as possible while you continue to explore new ways to protect your business, staff, customers and data from growing cybersecurity threats.
10 Cyber Security Tips for Small Business
- Train employees in security principles
Establish basic security practices and policies for employees. Establish rules of behavior describing how to handle and protect customer information and other vital data.
- Protect information, computers and networks from cyber attacks
Keep clean machines: having the latest security software, web browser and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware and other online threats.
- Provide firewall security for your Internet connection
A firewall is a set of related programs that prevent outsiders from accessing data on a private network. If employees work from home, ensure that their home system(s) are protected by a firewall.
- Create a mobile device action plan
Mobile devices can create significant security challenges. Require users to password protect their devices, encrypt their data and install security apps to prevent criminals from stealing information while the phone is on public networks.
- Make backup copies of important business data and information
Regularly backup the data on all computers. Critical data includes word processing documents, electronic spreadsheets, databases, financial files, human resources files and accounts receivable/payable files.
- Control physical access to your computers and create user accounts for each employee
Laptops can be particularly easy targets for theft or can be lost, so lock them up when unattended.
- Secure your Wi-Fi networks
If you have a Wi-Fi network for your workplace, make sure it is secure, encrypted and hidden
- Employ best practices on payment cards
Work with your bank to assure the safest way to process payments. Don’t use the same computer to surf the Internet and process payments.
- Limit employee access to crucial data and information.
Do not provide any one employee with access to all data systems.
- Passwords and authentication
Require employees to use unique passwords and change passwords every 3 months.
These simple tips will help assure that your small business is safe and secure from scammers so you can focus on being profitable!
This article was written by Catherine Blinder, chief education and outreach officer of the Department of Consumer Protection for the State of Connecticut. To learn more about how the Department of Consumer Protection can help, call (860) 713-6300 or visit us online at www.ct.gov/dcp.