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Security Tips for Small Businesses

Security Tips for Small Businesses

With the increased digitization of the workplace, project managers need to now be more astute than ever before in terms of cybersecurity. Research shows that cyber crime damage costs are to hit $6 trillion annually by 2021 — and if past statistics are anything to go on, then cyber attacks pose a very real and rapidly growing threat. Here are five easy, yet often overlooked, security tips for business owners, to ensure the safety of their business and client information:

Install an Antivirus

An antivirus is an important line of defense against security attacks. Both private and office computers should be fitted with antivirus programs that provide at least a basic level of protection. Most free antivirus programs do so, but a premium plan will provide more advanced security in terms of security threats such as malware, viruses, spyware, and adware. Some plans might even throw in email virus scanning and protection. So, if you can afford it, a premium plan is worth the investment.

Regularly Back Up Your Data

Frequent data backups are essential to safeguard the longevity of your files and documents. A cyber attack can lead to the erasure of all your information, leaving you in the dust if you don’t have a recent backup. Regularly backing up your data allows you to easily reclaim any lost data, as well as continue to work if your system is victim to a major hack and needs to be shut down for a period of time. As a business owner, you must schedule backups often, encouraging team members to also constantly back up their data, in case they’re working from their own devices.

Research states that using online technology to manage distributed teams is a key project management trend for 2018. This means that companies are increasingly turning to flexible workplaces and remote working opportunities, managing these possibilities through online project management platforms. If your company follows a BYOD policy, allowing employees to work from various locations (which may often have unsecured network connections), it might be worth investing in a cloud storage management system. This way, information is centrally and regularly backed up, and always accessible online in case of a breach.

Learn Encryption

As I’ve written about in previous articles, encryption is an important tool to have in your skillset to protect your information from hackers should they intercept it. Regrettably, even though a basic knowledge of encryption is such a powerful tool in preventing data theft, not too many business leaders take the initiative to learn it — big mistake.

To better understand encryption, consider this analogy by Upwork: Imagine you are leaving your house for a holiday. In this case, you wouldn’t leave the front door unlocked so that anyone could walk in and steal your belongings — you would lock the door. Encryption is basically the equivalent of the lock, which requires a special key to open it. Today, free basic encryption courses, as well as how-to articles that show what type of encryption to use in a particular setting, are available online by the dozen. So really, you don’t have any reason to NOT incorporate this integral feature into your security framework.

Don’t Overlook Passwords

With so many new security measures becoming mainstream, we tend to forget about age-old protection methods, aka passwords. Even though passwords have been around for decades, they’re still as (if not more) important today as they were since the dawn of the digital age. Remember those MSN Messenger days when your password was your significant other’s name followed by their birthdate? Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. The point here is that most often, passwords are chosen because they are easy to remember. Unfortunately, easy to remember very quickly translates into easy to guess, putting all the information stored on your computer, cloud platform, and storage device at immediate risk.

Security experts claim that you should use a password that contains combination of numbers, upper and lowercase letters, and symbols to make it hack-proof. Don’t trick yourself into believing a short password will make accessing your files easier. The ideal password length is 10-12 characters, and anything less is more likely to threaten your security — a risk not worth taking just to have fewer characters to type.

Secure Mobile Devices

Mobile devices today contain huge amounts of data. There are many benefits associated with bringing your own mobile device to work. However, as a business owner, you must not overlook the risk of allowing outside equipment. Mobile devices are easy targets for hackers, as most people wouldn’t think to safeguard their personal devices, aside from basic security. Due to their smaller size and namesake mobility, mobile devices can easily get lost or stolen — making it even easier for hackers to steal the data on them while physically having the device in hand.

Even though these devices are harder to secure, you can put in place some policies for team members to safeguard their devices if they’re being used for work purposes. First, a thorough spring cleaning of the device should be carried out. Any data that isn’t integral to present work assignments should be deleted; only information needed to complete the tasks at hand should be allowed to be stored on a mobile device for the duration of the task.

Whenever possible, encourage using the cloud rather than saving information onto the device for offline use. Additionally, make sure features such as remote wiping and remote device location are enabled for any work-related mobile device. Finally, make sure all sensitive information on mobile devices requires two-way authentication to be accessed, while also being well encrypted.

2017 wasn’t a good year in terms of cyber security. In fact, by December 20, 2017, the Identity Theft Resources Center (ITRC) had recorded 1,293 U.S. data breaches exposing more than 174 million confidential records. Don’t let your company suffer the same fate this year. Invest in cyber security and use these tips to ensure that your data remains protected, safeguarding your clients’ information and general business interests.

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by Devin Morrissey // Devin has been a dishwasher, a business owner, and everything in between. He writes from his garage, occasionally rising to experiment on his friends' cars or do jumping jacks for no reason.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.