In 2020, we experienced a year of unprecedented disruptions—a global pandemic, country-wide lockdown, massive loss of employment, economic downturn, and an uncertain future outlook all combined to cre...
As the 21st century progresses and moves forward, our reliance on technology has grown at an exponential pace. As a result, hackers have become some of the most dangerous criminals in the business world. You can’t see them and you don’t know where they’re located, but they manage to access “secure” networks, steal sensitive data, and interrupt monetary transactions. No matter the size of a company, a cyber attack can cause catastrophic damage to a business.
Some small business owners often assume that their company is safe from breaches because larger establishments, due to the size of their business, will be hit first. Although large corporations are the ones making the headlines, according to NerdWallet, only 1/3 of cyber-attacks are aimed at them. It may come as a surprise, but smaller businesses can often suffer more damaging consequences from data breaches than larger businesses, not only in terms of fines but also over irreparable public reputation perception.
Related Reading: Is Your Business Too Small to Suffer a Cyber Attack?
At the end of the day, all companies, small or large, have the obligation to secure their customers’ valuable data against the possibility of a cyber-attack. Here are some steps you can take as a small business owner to help your company with the potentially disastrous consequences of a cyber attack.
1. Assess your business for vulnerabilities
The first step in risk prevention is to assess your company's current operations to identify vulnerabilities. No matter the size of your organization, you are at risk. Cyber criminals target smaller businesses with the hope that they'll have fewer defense mechanisms than larger entities. If your business depends on the internet for day-to-day operations, it leaves many windows open for a possible breach. Sensitive information at risk includes:
Sensitive customer data
Financial account numbers—both yours and your customers’
Financial records and reports
You can start securing your organization today by implementing a few best practices to help mitigate risk. Create a formal written internet security policy for employees, create policies regarding use of social media during work hours, provide internet safety training for all employees, and do not allow outside USB connectivity to work computers. These steps can set you down a path of security for employees and your customers.
2. Train your employees to identify cyber security risks
You train your staff to sell, provide exceptional customer service, and to operate new technology implemented into your company. Cyber security training is no different and is critical to building a workforce that is properly trained and dedicated to doing their part to prevent cyber attacks. A few things you can do to get your employees up to speed on cyber security include:
Establishing policies on what—if any—type of software an employee may download to their computer
Setting complex character password requirements
Conduct training that explains the different types of cyber attacks and how to identify them
Set expectations for your employees and empower them to report suspicious links and emails to your IT department
The most important part of training your employees is to communicate the importance and the value of protecting customer and colleague information and their role in keeping these things safe.
3. Protect your customer’s data
As a business owner, it’s your responsibility to protect the personal information a customer shares with you. Investing in technology resources that can help protect your infrastructure is a worthy and necessary investment to maintain security.
If a cyber criminal gains access to customer account numbers or personal information, they may be able to access funds directly from those accounts. In some cases, financial institutions do not cover losses, so you may lose the capital already invested within your company. This may mean an expensive recovery that could place a burden on your company for any future plans or growth. Take the necessary and effective measures; to protect all your information.
4. Plan for prevention, resolution, and restitution with cyber liability insurance
While cyber-attacks are devastating for those who are ill-prepared, cyber liability coverage provides valuable resources to help regain lost business. Policies generally safeguard against viruses and hacking and step in if a breach does occur. Some policies may also cover liability for web content.
Now that cyber liability coverage has gained some popularity, many carriers are able to provide affordable, competitive rates for businesses of varying sizes. While most believe they will not be able to afford it, this product comes at a low premium when compared to the potential costs incurred by a data breach. Although prevention should be the primary focus of your cyber security strategy, it’s wise to have a plan in place in the unfortunate event that you are faced with a breach. Cyber liability insurance will ensure that you’re prepared for any repercussions from a cyber attack or data breach, including loss of trust from employees and customers.
Make sure your small business is fortified against cyber attacks.
Brett Morgan specializes in alternative risk transfer programs, professional liability, Directors & Officers liability, and employment issues centered on protecting clients’ assets. He has an extensive background in understanding property exposures and a customer’s business processes. Brett has taught various seminars on business interruption, protecting your company while conducting business in foreign countries, and protecting your client’s internal controls from theft.