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Best cybersecurity practices for small businesses

Best cybersecurity practices for small businesses
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    There is a misconception that cyberattacks are aimed at large enterprises and small enterprises are not affected by them. However, there is a high chance for small businesses to be attacked by different types of cyber attacks. This is because cybercriminals are informed about the lack of business security systems implemented by SMEs. Therefore it is much easier to enter their systems and gain unauthorised access to sensitive information.

    Cyberattacks have increased over the last few months due to work-from-home policies implemented by many entities. Many small business owners will choose to go out of business in the case of massive cyberattacks because continuing operations will be more costly than closing down.

    This blog will give you some insight into cyberattacks and how your small business can implement controls to minimise any negative impact on the company’s operations.

    What are the most common cyber attacks on a small company?

    1. Malware attacks– Malware is any software designed to intentionally cause damage and disruption to a single computer or a network of computers. Malware creators intend to either steal data, access confidential data or delete important files from a system. Examples of malware include adware, Trojans, rootkits, etc. Small companies that face such attacks may suffer massively due to devices that require expensive replacement and/or repairs.
    2. Phishing attacks– Phishing is one of the most critical cyber attacks that can cause severe damage to business systems. It’s an online scam where people with criminal intentions impersonate established or legitimate organisations through text messages, emails or online advertisements that may try to persuade the user to access a particular link or piece of information to steal sensitive information.
    3. Ransomware– Ransomware is a type of software that infects a system and restricts or prevents users from accessing essential sites and information until a ransom is paid to access the data. Ransomware will have the following impacts on business systems: disruption to operations, losses incurred when trying to restore stolen files and loss of critical and sensitive information temporarily or permanently.
    4. Insider threats- An insider threat is a cyber attack caused by a party within the company, such as contractors, employees, business associates or even former employees. These individuals might have an idea of the internal policies and procedures of the company and will have overall knowledge regarding the most sensitive and vital information within the organisation. Examples of insider threats include: an internal party sells essential company data to a third party to gain a financial advantage, an insider having malicious intentions to obtain trade secrets, an employee laid off by the organisation and holding a grudge against the company trying to use their access credentials to attack important systems or alter data.

    Why do small companies need to pay more attention to cybersecurity, and why can’t they ignore it?

    There are multiple reasons why small enterprises need to pay attention to cybersecurity practices and policies, including:

    1. Cyberattacks may cause disruption to business activities– When you identify an attack on your business systems, you will be forced to temporarily close certain parts of your business to avoid further access to the other areas of your business that were unaffected by the attack. It will usually take a considerable amount of time to detect and correct the errors caused by the attack. The business might have to experience downtime of business operations, eventually leading to significant losses.
    2. Attacks on business systems will cause reputational damage– Suppose clients feel that their sensitive information is not safe with your company due to insufficient internal controls on computer networks. In that case, there is a higher chance of the company experiencing customer churn. This will not only affect your current business operations but will also cut opportunities for future client engagement and potentially cause significant losses.
    3. Regulatory fines and remedial costs– The immediate remedial action would be to close the area of the system affected by the cyber attack. However, this is not possible if the information is precious to the company. Therefore, the company might need to contact its customers and the relevant supervisory authority (the Information Commissioner’s Office). It will be a costly exercise to notify customers of the cyberattack. You might have to temporarily set up a helpdesk to deal with customer queries.

    What can a company do to secure its business against cyberattacks?

    1.  Keep applications up to date– Keeping software applications up to date with added security features is very important. Outdated versions are often not supported by the hosts and therefore are easy access points for cybercriminals. If operating systems and software applications are updated, your systems will become a more challenging target for attackers.
    2. Create strong passwords and alter them at regular intervals– At present, many companies follow the practice of having strong passwords to protect against unauthorised access to devices and essential websites. However, it is one of the most attacked areas by cyber criminals. There might also be insider threats due to storing passwords in areas that are accessible or visible to anyone in your workplace. Therefore, it is important to securely store or remember passwords to avoid unnecessary access to confidential areas in operating systems. You can also use multi-factor authentication, whereby users are granted access to information only after successfully verifying their identity by presenting multiple identifiers.
    3. Keep a backup of your data– A company needs to back up its data. This will enable it to have copies of essential information, should there be any theft or deletion of data from operating systems. If a company faces a ransomware demand, having backups can allow it to access a copy of the stolen data until legal or regulatory action is taken against the attacker.
    4. Monitor the use of systems and computer equipment at your workplace– Businesses must keep an eye on their employees’ use of computers and other devices. Business owners need to immediately remove access to systems for employees who leave the organisation. It is equally important to give proper training and instruction to employees to be mindful about where they store their work devices, not to connect to public networks, such as public Wi-Fi connections, and not to plug in external devices, including private USB drives, to their work computers. Delete software or remove equipment you no longer require while ensuring they do not contain any confidential information that may benefit any person with a malicious intention. In some cases, companies will even need to destroy hardware devices after the closure of particular projects.

    If you read thoroughly through this blog, you will understand the importance of cybersecurity to small businesses and how to protect a small business from individuals and organisations with malicious intentions. It is wise for companies to invest in software and hardware controls to prevent unauthorised access to data and information valuable to them.

    At WIS Accountancy, we look after small businesses across Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent and Berkshire. Contact us today to learn more about our accounting services.

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