The Importance of Data Protection for Small Businesses

Cybersecurity and data protection must be a priority for your small business. Technology is constantly evolving – and so are the tactics used by cyber criminals. 

If you aren’t proactive in stopping threats, your organization could face damages so severe that you’re forced to close down. 

It may seem daunting to create a plan that covers all potential cybersecurity threats, but it’s important that you do so. In this blog, we explain how effective data protection can help your small business thrive. 

Why data protection is essential

Many organizations – particularly SMEs – believe that they don’t need to take data protection seriously because they are a small fish in a big pond. Surely cyber criminals wouldn’t target you? 

But those organizations are playing right into the hands of cyber criminals. In most cases, crooks don’t target specific businesses, instead looking for known vulnerabilities that they can exploit. It doesn’t matter how large or small the organization is – it will still have sensitive data that’s worth stealing. 

According to an Advisor Smith study, 42% of small businesses suffered a cyber attack in 2021, yet more than three in ten respondents said they weren’t worried about cyber attacks. This shows that small businesses have a lot to learn about cyber threats. 

When criminal hackers breach your systems, it can mean an end to your business as you know it. If you store any corporate or customer information in your systems, the criminals can use that data for malicious purposes. 

Although most of us know that credit card and Social Security numbers can be used to take out fraudulent loans, many business owners don’t realize that even email addresses and birthdates can be sold on the black market or be used in phishing scams. 

If your company is hacked and customer information is compromised, your organization could face serious consequences. The average data breach can cost a business several million dollars in fines, forensic investigations, and improving security, but the hit to your reputation can be just as damaging. 

Customers will likely think that you don’t prioritize their security, and many won’t hesitate to take their business elsewhere. Can your company afford that loss? 

Use tech when you don’t have time

Criminal hackers use a variety of tactics to breach systems, so becoming informed is the first step. Many use phishing emails (fake communications that appear to be from a figure of authority or a real organization) to try to trick employees into clicking a malicious link or opening an attachment that will essentially open the door for the crook to access your network. 

Criminal hackers can also promote fake software or put a message on a website that falsely states that an employee has computer bug, but when they click the message, it allows the criminal to upload a virus.  

There’s a lot to remember, but the good news is that small businesses can rely on new technology to help them stay ahead of threats and remain secure. 

For instance, advancements in artificial intelligence are benefiting workplaces by using intelligence-driven automation to learn from past threats and continuously check your systems to see if you have any vulnerabilities that will allow a breach to happen again. 

AI apps can also review your systems and any new processes to try to predict future threats, so you can resolve those issues before they become a reality. 

If AI tech is out of your budget, you should at least consider moving all of your data and software to the Cloud. In addition to having all of your information available from anywhere, your data is also much safer when it is housed in the Cloud

That’s because large internet service providers and hosting services have their own security teams that are constantly watching your data, and they are alerted as soon as a threat occurs. When you store your information on your own servers, you also run the risk of a ransomware attack where a criminal takes your data hostage until you pay a ransom. That potential threat is minimized when your data is housed in the Cloud. 

Overall Protection

Even if you have embraced technology to improve your security, your organization still needs to take common-sense precautions to reduce the risk of a data breach. 

That starts with enforcing a strict password policy, where every program or piece of software must be locked by a complex password that includes a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters. When an employee leaves your organization, be sure to revoke their access. 

It is not only your computers that need to be protected. Office equipment such as printers and scanners often store corporate or customer information, so they can operate more fluidly. 

However, if a criminal hacker breaches that device, your data becomes their data. That’s why you should never simply throw out equipment that you no longer need. Instead, you must use a shredding service to properly destroy them so they can never be accessed again. 

Finally, don’t forget about the basic protections that keep every network secure, starting with antivirus software. Make sure that your antivirus is updated to catch the newest threats and run scans multiple times a week. 

Also, your corporate network should have a firewall installed, and employees should be restricted from visiting any websites that aren’t necessary for work so they don’t stumble onto a malicious site. 

As you can see, it is vital that your small business prioritizes data protection. By taking on board these tips and advice, you can be confident that your organization is secure. 

This is a guest article written by Jori Hamilton. The author’s views are entirely her own and may not reflect the views of IT Governance USA.