Small company cybersecurity: Avoid these eight common blunders that might allow hackers access.

Cyberattacks may appear to be something that small businesses do not need to consider. Because cyber criminals only target large, profitable targets, right? Why would they choose a small firm to target?

Unfortunately, small companies may be highly appealing targets for unscrupulous hackers and cyber thieves since they store the same kind of data that major firms do, such as personal information, credit card numbers, passwords, and so on.

However, due to the nature of small businesses, information may be maintained less securely than it would be in a large company, particularly if a specialized information security employee is not on staff.

Small companies can also be appealing to hackers attempting to acquire access to a larger corporation as part of a supply chain assault – by compromising a small business that may be a supplier to a larger organization, the attacker may be able to penetrate the network of a larger corporate partner.

Whatever type of cyberattack a small business is subjected to, whether it’s phishing, ransomware, malware, or any other type of criminal behavior in which attackers may access and tamper with data, the consequences can be disastrous. In other situations, the expense of being a victim of a cyberattack has pushed businesses to close permanently.

Fortunately, it is feasible to assist in keeping your company and personnel secure online.

Here are five fundamental cybersecurity errors to avoid.

1. Never use weak passwords to protect internet accounts.
To get access to commercial email accounts and other apps, cyber attackers do not need to be highly trained. In many situations, they are able to get access because the account owner has used a weak or easily guessable password.

The transition to cloud-based office apps and remote working has also offered cyber thieves new attack vectors.

Because remembering several passwords might be challenging, users may use easy passwords across many accounts. Accounts and organizations are therefore exposed to assaults, especially if cyber thieves can employ brute-force attacks to swiftly search through a list of regularly used or easy passwords.

You should also never create passwords based on easily accessible information, such as your favorite sports team, since hints on your public social media platforms may reveal this information

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) recommends creating a password from three random words, which should make passwords tough to guess.

To safeguard each account, a distinct password should be used – a password manager can assist users by eliminating the need to remember each password.

2. Do not overlook multi-factor authentication.
Even a strong password might fall into the hands of the wrong people. Cybercriminals can obtain login information from users by employing techniques such as phishing assaults.

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) adds another layer of protection against account breach by forcing the user to reply to an alert – frequently via a specifically developed MFA application – to authenticate that it is really them attempting to log in to the account.

Because of this extra layer, even if a cyber criminal obtains the right password, they cannot access the account unless the account owner grants access. If a user receives an unexpected warning indicating that they have attempted to log in to their account, they should immediately notify their IT or security staff and reset their password to prevent cyber criminals from abusing a stolen password.

Despite the fact that demands for the adoption of multi-factor authentication – also known as two-factor authentication (2FA) – are among the most often offered cybersecurity advice, many firms are still not employing the technology – and this has to change.

3. Do not postpone the application of security patches and updates.
Taking advantage of cybersecurity flaws in apps and software is one of the most prevalent methods cyber thieves employ to penetrate and move around networks. When these security flaws are discovered, the manufacturers who create operating systems normally provide a security update to address them.

The security patch will repair the weakness, safeguarding the machine from cyber thieves who try to exploit it — but only if the update is installed.

Unfortunately, many companies are hesitant to implement security patches and upgrades, leaving their networks and systems susceptible to hackers. These vulnerabilities can sometimes go unpatched for years, putting the company – and perhaps their customers – at danger from cyber disasters that could have simply been avoided.

As a result, one of the most important things a small firm can do to strengthen cybersecurity is to develop a strategy for implementing crucial security updates as soon as feasible.

This can be accomplished by configuring the network so that software upgrades are done automatically, or by dealing with them on a case-by-case basis. However, it is crucial to recognize that significant security upgrades – which are frequently specified by cybersecurity authorities such as CISA – should be implemented as soon as feasible.

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4. Do not overlook antivirus software or firewalls.
Antivirus software is available to help protect computers – and people – from cyber dangers such as malware and ransomware, but these tools are useless unless they are installed and functioning. Small firms should use antivirus software to strengthen their cybersecurity across all network computers and laptops

Nowadays, antivirus software is frequently included for free with popular operating systems, but you may alternatively install a program from a specialist antivirus software provider.

However, you cannot just disregard antivirus software after it has been installed. As with other software, it’s critical to keep antivirus solutions up to date against emerging cyber threats, so install updates and patches as needed.

Installing spam filters and firewalls may also help employees keep safe from cyberattacks – and, like antivirus, these solutions must be switched on and maintained up to date in order to be effective.

5. Do not leave staff untrained in cybersecurity.

Even if your small firm simply has a few workers, it’s critical to give cybersecurity awareness tools and training since all it takes for malevolent hackers to get access to the network is one person unwittingly committing an error.

For example, they may accidentally click on a link in a phishing email and install malware on the network, or they could fall prey to a corporate email compromise scam and send a big quantity of money to someone posing as a business partner – or even their boss.

As a result, educating and advising staff on how to recognize phishing emails, strange links, and other possible methods of attack is critical for helping to keep data, money, personnel, and customers secure.

It is also critical that employees understand who they should report possible suspicious activities to in order to avert suspected cybersecurity issues.

6. Do not disregard backups.
Even if your network simply has a few machines, one of the most important things you should be doing to make systems more robust to assaults is making frequent backups of your data.

This technique ensures that in the case of an incident encrypting, deleting, or otherwise taking the network down, a recent duplicate of all of your data may be recovered — resulting in a relatively speedy return to normalcy. Backups should be updated on a regular basis to ensure that the data saved inside them is as current as possible. Furthermore, backups should be maintained offline to prevent any attackers who get access to the network from accessing and erasing them.

7. Do not leave your network unattended.
Setting up a network with controls to assist prevent cyberattacks is beneficial, but small firms should not install tools and then disregard them, hoping for the best. Someone in your company should be in charge of monitoring network traffic for potentially dangerous behavior.

This strategy begins with understanding which computers and other internet-connected devices comprise your network — since you can’t protect what you don’t understand. Then, you must verify that these devices are secured with the appropriate upgrades.

Identifying internet-connected devices on a network may appear to be a straightforward operation, but it may rapidly become challenging. These gadgets include not just PCs, but also IoT devices, point-of-sale equipment, security cameras, and maybe much more. All of these gadgets have the potential to be exploited and abused by cyber thieves if they are not properly maintained.

As a result, it is critical to audit your network and thoroughly understand what is on it. It’s also critical to understand what constitutes normal network behavior and what can be considered suspicious or abnormal. If your small firm suddenly starts receiving logins from all over the world, for example, this might indicate that something is amiss and needs to be investigated.

8. Never face a cybersecurity problem without a strategy.
Even if you have a strong cybersecurity policy in place, cyber thieves may enter the network and utilize their access for evil purposes, such as installing ransomware, conducting espionage, stealing credit card information, or focusing on a variety of other destructive assaults.

In the event that one of these occurrences occurs, it is beneficial to have a plan that can be implemented — and it should be available even if the network goes down.

Having a strategy in place for how your company will respond to a cyberattack, how it will continue to operate, and which cybersecurity organizations and investigators should be notified will assist your company deal with a difficult circumstance.

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