Cybersecurity tips for small businesses

Cybersecurity Tips for Small Businesses web 1400x800 (1)

When a massive data breach happens, large companies usually grab the headlines. However, it's often the case that small businesses are attacked more often and are more vulnerable to cyberattacks. Their limited security measures due to their smaller size create better odds for an attacker.

For this reason, prioritizing security against these threats should be crucial for business owners. Effective security measures can help safeguard vital data, maintain customer trust, and prevent costly cyber incidents. This article discusses essential cybersecurity tips for small businesses to enhance their security posture.

Best practices for small businesses

A successful cyberattack puts business revenue, data, and equipment at risk, but it doesn't stop there. Cybercriminals may also use their access as a launchpad into the networks of other companies connected to your business.

Small businesses lack the resources of corporations, but cybersecurity must still protect data, internet connection and network resources. With a lot at stake, here are some industry best practices to help you navigate the world of cyber threats.

Conduct a thorough risk assessment

Your cybersecurity plan should start with assessing the risks your business faces. Timely identification of potential vulnerabilities helps put the risk in perspective and assess the impact of cyber threats on critical data. This is the foundation for all further actions.

A comprehensive risk assessment helps prioritize security efforts and effectively allocate resources. That way, the key areas will be taken care of sooner rather than later, which enables businesses to patch up the weakest points first and then move on to less critical areas. It lays the groundwork for a solid cybersecurity strategy.

Create an Incident Response Plan

Preparing for a cybersecurity incident can help reduce the impact when a business falls under a cyberattack. While neutralizing active threats is a priority, so is restoring normal working conditions. This allows it to continue business operations as if the cyberattack was merely a setback.

To prepare, there are two main areas to focus on:

  • Calculate risk probability for threats. Include an assessment of where critical data resides. Assign an individual responsible for protecting important data and connecting every resource with risk-reduction strategies.

  • Create a recovery plan for all critical assets. This should include security scans to identify malware or virus infections. Document access requests during security alerts and determine whether data loss has occurred.

An Incident Response Plan (IRP) is vital for prompt and effective handling of cyber incidents. It should also include contact information for key stakeholders, guidelines for containing and investigating the incident, and a plan for communicating with customers and authorities.

Keep software and systems up to date

Regularly updating operating systems, applications, and software is necessary to avoid cyber threats. Cybercriminals often exploit gaps in outdated software, so staying current with patches is a sure way to stop some attacks right in their tracks.

Software updates also address bugs and glitches that may affect the software's performance, stability, or functionality. So, in addition to increased security, updates typically include bug fixes that improve the overall user experience and resolve known issues.

Implement a strong password policy

Weak passwords are common entry points for cyberattacks as they're easy to guess or brute force. That's why it's important to make sure that your employees use strong passwords: a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.

Passwords should also be unique for each account. Enterprise-wide password management tools can help. They make storing and changing passwords easier, eliminating the risk of human error. This allows to avoid password reuse, which could compromise a user account if other accounts sharing the same password are breached.

As an additional precaution, passwords should be periodically updated to limit the time when criminals could exploit them.

Limit access to sensitive data and systems

Access to sensitive information and critical systems should be provided only on a need-to-know basis. This means that users should have minimum access rights. Elevated privileges should be assigned under special conditions and for separate user account types. Such a setup minimizes insider threats and contains damage in case of a data breach.

User permissions should also be regularly reviewed, ensuring only authorized personnel can access sensitive data over an internet connection. Quickly disposing of inactive and zombie accounts helps clean up your user base and establish that only authorized users can access sensitive data.

Implement two-factor authentication or multi-factor authentication

Small companies need to secure the network edge with robust authentication procedures. Two-factor authentication or multi-factor authentication are the best options here. These methods require multiple identification factors whenever users connect to network assets. This makes it far harder to obtain access illegitimately.

If MFA is too burdensome for employees, consider using it solely for administrator accounts. Alternatively, try user-friendly 2FA options such as fingerprint scanning. Balance user experience and security. But always go beyond simple password protection, as even strong ones can benefit from additional layers of protection.

Use network security measures

Technological solutions can help to secure business networks, making it harder for external penetration. A robust firewall, antivirus software, intrusion detection systems, and virtual private networks (VPNs) are a good starting point to tighten security around your network perimeter.

The network is the main channel for data exchanges and communication, so its security is key for business continuity. Firewalls provide a barrier between your internal network and the internet, while intrusion detection systems can alert you to potential cyber threats. VPNs encrypt internet connections, ensuring data privacy and protecting against unauthorized access. Meanwhile, antivirus software is a good all-rounder that helps to deflect simple network threats.

Implement protection for sensitive information

No matter where sensitive information is kept or transferred, appropriate security measures should be in place.

  • Encrypt high-value data such as personnel records and customer financial information. If you rely on SaaS or PaaS tools, use any cloud data protection tools provided by your Cloud Service Provider.

  • Use privileges management to limit freedom within network boundaries. Confidential data should only be available to users who need it for their tasks. That way, attackers struggle to access and extract data when a data breach occurs.

  • Minimize the number of users with administrative privileges. Avoid giving single users the authority to make fundamental network changes.

  • Consider using Data Loss Prevention tools as well. These tools track the location and state of important data. They block data transfers to unauthorized devices and log potentially dangerous access requests. DLP could be a sound investment if you handle high-risk and high-value data.

These measures add an extra layer of security and prevent sensitive data from falling into the wrong hands.

Train employees on cybersecurity best practices

Digital cybersecurity controls rely on human knowledge and behavior. How employees act when encountering cyber threats is crucial to a small business security setup. That's why it's vital to focus on what is known as the human firewall.

Strengthen the human firewall by instructing employees how to spot phishing emails and malicious links. Invest in employee cybersecurity training to create a security-conscious culture within your organization. Educate them about common cyber threats, phishing attacks, and social engineering techniques (don’t forget the importance of strong passwords).

Remote workers should also understand secure connection practices and the risks of using an insecure public Wi-Fi network. Regular training sessions and reminders will help foster a security culture within and outside the organization.

Stay compliant

Stay informed about relevant data protection and privacy regulations for your industry and location. Ensure your business complies with laws such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Compliance helps protect your business from legal consequences and demonstrates your commitment to data privacy.

Regulatory requirements are subject to change, so monitoring their developments should be ongoing. This allows to be prepared for any relevant changes in advance and align with applicable data protection and privacy regulations.

Schedule regular backups

Cyber attacks can lead to the deletion of data or system failures that compromise workflows. This makes it vital to back up high-priority data regularly. Use secure cloud services or external locations outside your core network for automated data backup.

The data recovery process should be periodically tested to ensure the integrity and availability of your backups. If this system is effective, it will quickly bounce back from all internal and external threats with minimal downtime.

Manage third parties securely

Small businesses rely on third-party vendors, but these partnerships can be vectors for cyber attackers. For example, CRM providers may not encrypt data securely, putting client data at risk. Virus checkers or low-quality VPNs may transmit spyware.

Check all third parties and ensure they have rock-solid security policies. Trust nobody and always ask for security assurances when in doubt. Evaluate their security practices, including data handling, access controls, and incident response procedures. Establish clear cybersecurity expectations in vendor contracts and regularly monitor their compliance.

Regularly review and update the cybersecurity plan

As cyber threats rapidly evolve, your cybersecurity plan should be periodically reviewed to address various changes. Small businesses, in particular, should stay informed about emerging threats and security best practices.

Conduct periodic audits and risk assessments to identify any gaps or weaknesses in your security strategy and take prompt action to address them. If done consistently, this helps to keep threats at bay and your business operations uninterrupted. 

Key takeaways

Let's recap some of the key insights on cybersecurity for small businesses.

  • Small businesses are often more vulnerable to cyberattacks than large corporations due to limited security measures. Small businesses must prioritize cybersecurity to protect their vital data, maintain customer trust, and prevent costly cyber incidents.

  • A thorough risk assessment should be step one of your cybersecurity plan. It helps to identify potential vulnerabilities and assess the impact of cyber threats on critical data.

  • Incident Response Plan (IRP) helps to prepare for cybersecurity incidents. It should include risk calculations, data protection responsibilities, recovery plans for critical assets, and guidelines for containing and investigating incidents.

  • The majority of cybersecurity risk management deals with ongoing maintenance. Keep software and systems updated, use network security measures, and conduct regular employee training sessions.

  • Implement industry-wide best practices such as the principle of least privilege, multiple-factor authentication, and rules for strong passwords to navigate the dangerous cyber landscape.

By following these cybersecurity tips, small businesses can enhance their security posture, mitigate risks, and protect their data and assets from cyber-attacks.

How can NordLayer help?

Nordlayer is the ideal partner for small businesses seeking to secure their data. We offer a variety of solutions to strengthen network defenses and manage employee identities.

Device Posture Checks make working from home safer. NordLayer's systems assess every device connection. If devices fail to meet security rules, posture checks deny access. Users will instantly know about access requests from unknown or compromised devices.

IP allowlisting lets you exclude unauthorized addresses at the network edge. IAM solutions use multi-factor authentication and Single Sign-On to admit verified identities. Virtual Private Gateways anonymize and encrypt data, adding more remote access protection. And our Cloud VPN services lock down hard-to-secure cloud assets that small businesses rely on.

NordLayer makes achieving compliance goals easier and provides a safer customer experience. To find out more, get in touch with our sales team today.

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