When it comes to business and data security, every small business needs to ask three crucial questions:
- How secure is the business? (This can point to the infrastructure of the business, think of small businesses that deal with payments)
- What are the security loopholes in our operation models? (Think of your third party apps that you incorporate into your business models either for communications or gateways)
- Are we prepared for the evolving cyber threat landscape? (How versatile are your employees with cyber threats)
These questions form the foundation of our exploration into data security for small businesses. In a world where digital risks are ever-present, it’s essential for small enterprises to evaluate their security measures and identify potential weaknesses.
What must every small business know?
A small business is majorly defined as an organization with a limited number of employees and a minimal flow of income.
In the USA, the Small Business Administration (SBA) defines a small business based on the number of employees. The size standard ranges from 500 employees for certain manufacturing industries to fewer than 10 employees for some service providing industries.
It is important to note that every business or company is vulnerable, but smaller businesses need to understand that malicious actors manipulate data and information for fraudulent activities.
While it is essential to be compliant with governmental laws through KYB and other legitimate protocols, if proper security measures are not put in place, such businesses might fall victim to a data breach, resulting in potentially severe consequences.
What is data security for small businesses and why is it important?
Data security for small businesses involves measures and protocols that are put in place to guarantee the safety of data from unauthorized access.
The Verizon Business Data Breach Investigation Report revealed that 28% of data breaches in 2020 specifically targeted small businesses. These statistics reveal that data from small businesses are as essential as data from larger companies and a major reason why they must position well on data security.
A thriving small business experiencing data breaches and loss of crucial information that is essential both to the company and the consumer might end up crashing or getting stuck with redundant growth.
This simply means that for every business to scale into a larger enterprise, their data security game must not be handled with levity.
In fact, data security is so important that certain organizations have dedicated technical staff overseeing the affairs of their company’s security. Though this might be budget-consuming for small businesses, there are ways to stay safe in this cyberspace.
9 data security tips for small businesses
To guard against cyber threats and prevent malicious activities that could potentially breach compliance laws, every small business should adhere to the “prevention is better than cure” model. Implementing the following tips is essential to ensure robust data security.
Train your workers:
Every secure system continually requires human effort to remain secure. Whether it’s through technical means, such as checking for loops in codes, or non-technical aspects, like understanding how social engineering works, every employee should undergo training to comprehend the risks associated with human vulnerabilities when it comes to data security.
Anyone within the organization can potentially become a loophole, providing access to the entire business network and even larger businesses connected to it.
In this context, well-informed employees will grasp hacking methodologies employed by malicious actors. They will be knowledgeable about confirming suspicious activities and will be equipped with the necessary steps to counter potential threats, such as phishing emails or links.
One crucial aspect of the training is instilling a sense of responsibility and helping individuals understand that their role is pivotal for the overall security of the organization. In May 2023, a phishing email incident resulted in JBS paying cybercriminals a ransom demand of $11 million.
Conduct thorough risk evaluation:
Risk evaluation should be done intermittently to reveal vulnerabilities that are not easily identifiable. For example, a company adding storage on the cloud might decide to strengthen its foundational layer of security by incorporating a private blockchain.
Additionally, other risks may involve scrutinizing third-party apps or utility software used within the business that could serve as a vulnerability link for malicious actors.
Maintain up-to-date software and use robust anti-virus software:
Ensure that every piece of software used in your business operations is legitimate and licensed. Also, use an all-round antivirus software that is well-equipped for your type of business operations.
Furthermore, when threats are discovered, take prompt action to analyze sources and other essential information to aid in implementing safety measures. If threats are linked to any suspicious activity, take bold steps to tackle them.
Apply encryption to critical information:
This step might seem technical for a small business model, but depending on the services they offer, encryption adds a crucial layer of protection to their data. This automatically prevents unauthorized users from gaining access to the content of the data, enhancing the overall security posture.
Control access to sensitive information:
Recognizing that not all workers should have direct access to certain channels is essential. For instance, communication channels like Slack can be bifurcated, with one dedicated to general employee use and another reserved for more sensitive discussions. This segregation ensures that sensitive information remains accessible only to those with the appropriate clearance, reinforcing your business’s control over its data flow and privacy.
Do your due diligence with business partners:
Sometimes, hackers can break into business associates’ networks to gain access to other business networks. For example, the Microsoft hack of 2021 targeted companies in the USA and not directly Microsoft.
If it could happen to big companies like Microsoft, it is even more likely that it could happen to smaller businesses with limited resources. Make sure your business partners are also data security conscious.
Regularly back up your data:
A deleted database can jeopardize the whole operation model of a company and can even affect bigger networks connected to it.
For instance, Company X, relying on data from another statistics company for efficient operation, can face significant disruptions if the data is compromised.
To avoid permanent loss of data, research about where and how you can securely back up your data.
Develop a response strategy:
At this junction, it is believed every worker now understands what role they play in data security. In case of a cyber threat emergency, develop a strategy to tackle this, it could be informing organizations dedicated to data security.
Use strong passwords, 2FA and password managers:
Avoid passwords that can be easily guessed or cracked, encourage the use of lengthy passwords that are mixed with symbols, alphabets and symbols. Also to increase security consciousness, passwords can be changed in dedicated time intervals.
The use of strong passwords and password managers is not only for key employers but every one directly attached to the company.
Recently the SEC twitter’s account was compromised to update a BTC ETF news, it was during the course of investigation that X formerly Twitter found out that the account does not have a 2FA.
For every business engaged in data transactions, security consciousness should be integrated into the operational model from bottom to top. Regulating bodies have designed frameworks to scrutinize the efficiency of your security model. If these frameworks are closely followed, coupled with expert advice, you will not only be safeguarded from cyber attacks but also be well-prepared to mitigate potential risks to your data.