Held Hostage: Protect Your Small to Midsize Business from Cyber Attacks

It’s one of every small business owner’s worst nightmares: opening a laptop or other device and discovering that ransomware or some other cyber attack is extorting their data and information. And with cyber attacks on the rise, more and more small and midsize businesses are coming to grips with the need to step up their own online and digital security.

At DFN, we take cybersecurity extremely seriously, doing all we can to safeguard our high-speed fiber network at its source and keep it as reliable as possible. But individual internet users, including small businesses, must take precautions, too. We detail below six of the best ways small and midsize businesses can keep their devices, networks, and data—including their customers’ most sensitive information—protected from cyberattack.

1. Install Anti-Virus Software on Your Devices

Believe it or not, many small businesses fail to ensure that all their devices are properly protected with strong anti-virus software. While keeping the main server protected is paramount, other devices like laptops and tablets (and yes, even cell phones) also need protection, as well.

McAfee, Norton, Kaspersky, and Bitdefender are four of the most popular and well-regarded anti-virus software programs available, and many small businesses rely on them. These companies stay on top of cyber threats as they emerge and have features and options to better customize protection depending on your business’ particular needs and potential exposure.

2. Keep Your Software Updated

Your anti-virus software is only as protective as it is updated—so be sure to keep on top of it by regularly checking for and installing updates. But don’t forget to update the built-in security settings of your devices as well!

Operating systems, such as Windows and Mac, dedicate entire teams of software engineers and programmers to outwit clever cyber criminals and their latest schemes. They also test for previously unknown vulnerabilities in their operating systems’ codes, which necessitate frequent updates to overcome.

Though it can be a hassle to plan software updates for your business (and getting staff members to do so, as well), do not neglect this necessary part of doing business in the 21st century!

3. Establish a Firewall

After installing anti-virus software, another way to make your small business’ cybersecurity more robust is to set up a firewall. Firewalls protect your system from viruses, malware, and ransomware before they enter the company’s network and jeopardize the devices and data connected to it. In a sense, the two measures—firewalls and anti-virus software—perform similar and complementary functions at different points in your system’s security.

A firewall helps prevent cyberthreats from even breaking through your system and network, while anti-virus software identifies and eliminates them once they are already infected. Hence, ideally, a savvy small business will employ both anti-virus software and a firewall to improve overall protection.

4. Require—and Enforce—a Strong Password Policy for All Staff

Let’s face it—no one wants to remember onerous and lengthy passwords when logging into devices and applications. But as annoying as it is, strong passwords really do make a significant difference in small business cybersecurity. Thus, it is essential that everyone in the business employs difficult and unique passwords for their login credentials.

And no, the family dog’s name with an “!” won’t cut it—especially if it’s also being used for every streaming TV channel, shopping app, and social media login already! Discussing the importance of strong passwords with your team is critical, as is modeling good behavior by regularly changing the passwords of even the most senior staff—and even the business’ owner, too.

5. Consider Encryption

For businesses handling a large amount of sensitive information from customers and other third parties—especially credit card numbers, Social Security Numbers, and banking details—encrypting that data is essential.

There are many professional encryption software options available for small businesses. You’ll want to check out the details for more specific information and pricing to find the best fit. But make sure that the encryption “key” is also kept in a safe and easily accessible place, as well!

6. Set Up a VPN

Our final suggestion is to establish a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which can make remote access to the business’ server and network by staff much more protected. Once enabled, a VPN securely transmits all the data sent from and received by the business’ devices online through a secure “tunnel,” before reaching a private server, where that same data is encrypted before being sent out again on the internet.

According to many cybersecurity experts, businesses employing remote workers or staff that travel or work from public areas like airports, hotels, or coffee shops should view VPNs as a requirement, not an option. But any business can benefit from the extra level of protection a VPN offers.

It’s easy to get comfortable and let your guard down—but you’ve worked too hard to let cyber criminals take it all away from you. Implement these six steps as soon as possible to keep your company protected.

And if you haven’t already, be sure to call us at (541) 673-4242 to find out how you can get your business connected to the fastest, most reliable internet network in Oregon!

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