Entrepreneurs have long enjoyed many advantages over their big-business counterparts. They can adapt to market changes more quickly and easily.
They aren't necessarily subject to federal regulations governing large companies. They can focus on and better serve smaller market segments. And they aren't generally targeted by cybercriminals…..
WAIT! Scratch that last one.
More and more small businesses are falling under attack by hackers and malware. For one thing, cybersecurity at smaller shops is often inadequate and outdated (a recent Applied Research survey of 1,500 small businesses revealed that a third of them don't even use anti-virus software), making it easy for even inexperienced hackers to find their way in to sensitive areas. Also, cybercriminals can take advantage of economies of scale by using infected computers to increase their scope of attacks and seek out even more targets.
What's more, hackers aren't simply engaging in online vandalism or denial of service attacks; they're going straight for the money. That means that many small businesses are just one infected email attachment away from surrendering access to their bank accounts and getting wiped out financially. And unlike with consumer accounts, banks often don't reimburse companies for stolen funds if the financial institutions aren't at fault.
So what can entrepreneurs do to protect their online operations, bank accounts, and sensitive data? Here are some suggestions:
Assess your risk. Ask yourself some simple questions, such as: does your business store customer credit card information? Who in your company has access to bank logins and passwords? What sites are being visited by your employees? How are you protecting your machines currently?
Rank data values. As you know, some data files are more sensitive than others, so you should shape your online protection accordingly. A random or one-size-fits-all approach to cybersecurity may not be an efficient use of your resources. Skew your defenses toward banking processes, customer data, online applications, and other areas where you would suffer the worst losses if your system was compromised.
Educate your workers. It's quite possible that your employees don't realize that by downloading music on peer-to-peer networks or looking at scantily-clad women on pop culture sites, they are making your entire network vulnerable. Teaching them about the security consequences instead of preaching to them about their Internet behavior may go a long way toward them buying in to your security philosophy.
Do the easy stuff. Update your anti-virus software periodically. Download patches to major software programs as they become available. Employ filtering technology for your email and online systems – because those are the two most likely channels where security breaches will occur.
Consider outsourcing. If all of this is too much for you, look into companies that will handle your cybersecurity for you. This industry has grown in recent years, which means prices are dropping for these services. Plus, delivery of these services is much easier now that security firms are embracing the software-as-a-service model rather than installing expensive and cumbersome hardware for each customer.
The main thing to keep in mind when it comes to cybersecurity is that the big-fish little-fish theory of hacking is no longer valid. Lots of barely-competent hackers are trying to acquire whatever money they can, and they're looking for the path of least resistance to do it. In other words, they're searching for entrepreneurs like you. So be prepared.