Protecting your business against cybercrimes

22 Feb, 2018

How small businesses can protect themselves against cybercrime

You may think you know what cybercrime is but do you understand the potentially devastating impact it can have on your business? No matter the size. For cyber criminals, size doesn’t matter. Studies show that nearly 60% of attacks are aimed at small businesses and with over 22.5 million Internet users, South Africa has become a prime target for cyber attacks.

Cyber criminals use computers and the Internet to carry out illegal activities. They thrive on ignorance, denial and weak cyber security. This is evident in the launch of over 230,000 malware, and 4,000 ransomware attacks every day.

To understand what is at risk, consider the value of the data you collect and store. This can include anything from financial and customer records to marketing plans and intellectual properties. Security breaches can disrupt your business and result in a significant financial loss, not to mention the damage to your hard-earned reputation.

Businesses have to look beyond the archetypal hacker stereotype and realise that competitors, clients and employees can just as easily disrupt businesses by intentionally or unintentionally compromising data and technology. When employees click on malicious email links, viruses can quickly spread throughout your business. It can also give cyber criminals access to confidential information.

Shift your cyber security into high gear

Cyber security deals with the protection of your business data, finances and technology from illicit access, corruption, theft or damage. It creates a secure business setting vital to the maintenance of trust and confidence in your business. Although there is no such thing as 100% protection, there are many ways small businesses can sharpen up on cyber security.

  1. Invest in a razor-sharp security
    Protect your data, computers and network by investing in reputable antivirus software. Remember to run scans after each update. Secure your network with an advanced firewall to restrict infectious websites and emails. Wi-Fi networks should be secure and hidden. Anti-malware software, self-detecting data breach systems and two-factor authentication can go a long way to closing the gaps in your online security.
  2. Promote a safety-conscious culture
    Your team could very well pose the biggest threat to your business. Unsolicited emails and unprotected devices are the most common breach for small businesses. Educate your employees on the latest cyber threats and how to identify them. Establish basic security policies and procedures that stipulate appropriate email, device and Internet usage guidelines. Security procedures should clearly indicate how your employees should handle confidential information.
  3. Secure the data on your printers
    When using a multifunction printer (MFP), confidential information might be at risk. Whether you print, copy, scan or fax, images will remain on the hard drive of your MFP. Deleting print jobs from your printer doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve deleted them from the hard drive of the printer. The hard drive of your MFP doesn’t only store printed documents, but login details and email addresses too.

    All information stored on printer hard drives should be secured by encryption and have disk overwrite security that overwrites all data stored on hard disk drives. Ensure your printer has this function. Access to the machine’s network interface board can be restricted to a certain IP range to prevent unauthorised access.

  4. Get rid of weak passwords
    Research shows that 80% of hacking-related breaches are due to weak passwords. One way to create stronger passwords is to randomly pick a few words from a dictionary and to add a few numbers and capital letters. Consider implementing multi-factor authentication that requires additional information to gain entry.
  5. Backup everything, regularly
    Make regular backups of critical data such as financial, accounts and customer files, spreadsheets and databases. Backups should run automatically and can be stored on external hard drives and in the cloud. Data encryption translates your data into secret code and is a great way to maintain the integrity of your data and additional copy. Remember to encrypt your data before storing it in the cloud and make sure that you are dealing with a trusted cloud service provider that clearly explains how your data will be stored.