February 15, 2023 — In its 2022 Cost of a Data Breach Report, IBM says 83% of all companies will suffer a successful attack at least once, and often multiple times, at an average cost of more than $9 million each for American enterprises.
That’s a broad brush, of course, but the point remains that whether the bad guys make off with customer data that they can then sell, or with cash itself – either by raiding a bank account or collecting ransom that must be paid for vital systems to be freed – cyber attacks can seriously damage, and not infrequently shut down, small businesses across the country.
Of course, most businesses can’t live without the Internet, so as your trusted Internet provider, we want to share some basic information on how you can stay ahead of these constantly evolving threats. It begins with having a security policy that spells out risks and rules.
Secure Your Passwords
Experts estimate that up to 80% of all breaches occur because of password hacks. Create a password policy and enforce it.
That should include at a minimum:
- Requiring eight to 12 characters that mix numbers, letters, and symbols
- Requiring regular password changes that don’t allow re-using old passwords
- Requiring the use of password management software while banning keeping them in writing on or in a desk
- Using dual authentication tools that require a code be sent to a user’s mobile device after the successful password is already entered
Educate Your Employees on Phishing
Regularly remind your employees that no one will ever request their password or any other sensitive company information by phone, text or email. That’s how phishing succeeds. Spear phishing can be particularly dangerous: that’s when the attackers use easily accessed, often public information to target the spoof email at an individual employee while posing as a friend, peer, or supervisor. (You also might see the term “whale phishing.” That means the CEO or other top executive is the recipient of the phishing.)
Regularly remind your people and yourself to avoid clicking on links in any text or email that’s from an unknown email address or phone number. Look closely and twice: cyberthieves often use email addresses and phone numbers that resemble that of senior managers or close colleagues.
Such clicks are a great way to let in a virus or other malware that can hijack your system to participate in further attacks without your knowing it, expose your proprietary customer and company information to a breach, or end up in an expensive, even crippling, ransomware attack on your business itself.
Limit User Access and Devices
Your security policy should also spell out what devices are included, including any private phones, laptops, and tablets they use to do company work.
The more people have access to your software and systems, the higher the risk. Numerous enterprise management tools can limit authorizations to only those applications each user needs to do their jobs.
Also, either limit access to only company-issued devices or require employees who use personal devices for company business to follow the same policies for password and data protection on those personal devices.
Use Virtual Private Networks
Virtual private networks (VPNs) create a private pipeline for your system to move data back and forth among your off-site users, your data warehouse (whether on-site or in the cloud), and everyone and everything you communicate digitally with, including customers and all those business applications (still often referred to as Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS) that you use daily but live in the cloud.
The owners of those cloud sites are some of the largest, most-sophisticated Internet-based businesses in the world. Using VPN connections to and through them helps secure your operation.
Fire Up Your Firewall
Firewalls have been around for a long time. They were one of the first responses to the emerging business of cyberattacks. Basically, they’re filters in your on-site IT infrastructure that inspect incoming and outgoing traffic for computer viruses and other malware.
These attacks can cripple your system and allow access to customer data and worse, and the bad actors don’t even need anyone to click on an infected link to do their dirty work. Firewalls can help mitigate that risk, but you must keep them updated.
Keep Up With Patches And Fixes
It can be tempting to ignore all those updates and patches that your operating system and myriad other enterprise-level software systems send to you or alert you to download. Don’t.
Those fixes are coming from experts who spend their days analyzing the changing attacks from cyber crooks constantly trying to find their way into your software and hardware.
To learn more about our Fiber Internet for your business, visit this page. We want to be your Internet provider of choice. We’re proud to keep our local businesses connected on safe, secure and reliable 100% Fiber network.