Small business owners tend to have neverending to-do lists. Adding a digital security plan to your list of responsibilities may feel overwhelming, but it’s essential to protect your company. This article helps you simplify the process.

You’ll learn:

Why Your Business Needs a Digital Security Plan

Many small business owners neglect digital security. They feel they don’t have the knowledge or resources for cybersecurity or think their business is safe because it’s too small to grab a hacker’s attention. Whatever the reason, this line of thinking is exactly what makes small businesses appealing to cybercriminals.

In 2019, cyberattacks against small businesses increased by 424%. Why? Simply put, small companies are easy targets.

Every business, no matter how small, has to generate and store sensitive information to function. While you see employee tax forms and design plans for an upcoming project, a hacker sees valuable social security numbers and intellectual property.

This data is surprisingly easy to steal when there’s no digital security plan in place to protect it.

data security illustration
Source: Vecteezy.com

How To Create a Digital Security Plan

Your digital security plan should be an official, written document that covers your company’s cybersecurity protocols. Now is not the time for a set of unwritten rules employees are vaguely aware of. A detailed security plan that everyone in your organization can reference is essential to preventing costly data breaches.

Assess Your Current Digital Landscape

The first step in creating a digital security plan is getting a lay of the land. You need to know what digital assets you have and how they’re used so you can protect them properly.

  • Take inventory of all software, network hubs, and company-owned devices in use. Is everything updated?
  • How do employees share files with colleagues and clients?
  • Do employees ever work remotely? Do they use public internet connections?
  • How often is your company data backed up? Is it done automatically or manually?
  • Identify who has access to sensitive business accounts and information. Does everyone with this access actually need it?

Every organization has a unique blend of software, hardware, and digital policies. However, the questions above provide a good starting point for any business owner looking to improve digital security.

Understand Common Cybersecurity Threats

You have to know what you’re up against to create an effective digital security plan. The most common cybersecurity threats are:

  • Weak passwords. One of the most common passwords of 2021 is “123456,” and it takes less than a second to hack it. Securing a business account with a weak password is like leaving the door to a bank vault open.
  • Public Wi-Fi. “Man in the middle” attacks are common on public wireless networks. This is when a hacker essentially eavesdrops on the connection between an employee’s laptop and the host server. They can steal login credentials, corporate secrets, files, and much more.
  • Spear phishing. In a spear-phishing attack, a hacker spoofs a known email address and uses it to send a recipient an infected file or a link to a phishing website. Because the recipient recognizes the email address, they don’t hesitate to download the file or click the link.
  • Malware. Malware is malicious software designed by hackers to steal data or destroy a device. It takes many forms, such as fake apps, website ads, spam text messages, or infected USB drives.
  • Unpatched security bugs. Software companies regularly issue patches to address newly discovered security vulnerabilities. Most people inwardly groan every time they update their devices and put it off in some cases, leaving their software open to attacks.

Keep these common threats in mind as you build out your digital security plan.

Policies for your digital security plan

While cybercrime isn’t likely to slow down anytime soon, you can make your business a less appealing target by implementing strong digital security measures.

Require strong passwords

Make sure your employees understand that all business accounts must have complex and unique login credentials. This means no reused passwords, at least 12 characters, and a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols.

Whenever you need to invest in new business software, look for providers that offer strong password enforcement. This is an easy way to ensure everyone is following best practices for secure passwords automatically.

Use a VPN for public Wi-Fi

Remote and hybrid work models are increasingly common for businesses, so it’s important to make sure employees use public Wi-Fi responsibly.

Provide a virtual private network (VPN) employees use if working remotely from a public space. A VPN establishes an encrypted internet connection, so hackers can’t interfere with a worker connected to a public network. Using a VPN should be mandatory for any employee accessing company data on public Wi-Fi.

Install a firewall

A firewall protects your network from malicious activity by monitoring traffic and blocking anything that looks suspicious. You can think of a firewall like a filter. It sifts out dangerous code and lets through clean traffic, protecting your network from viruses and other harmful content.

Keep devices updated

When company’s release a security patch, it’s because they’ve identified a vulnerability that is exploited in some way. Everyone within your organization must apply updates as soon as possible, both for company-owned and personal devices.

Don’t share files via email

Email is a popular file-sharing method, especially among small businesses, but it’s not secure. If email is the standard for file sharing in your company, it opens you up to security issues on two fronts: hacked attachments and spear-phishing attacks.

Email attachments are easy to intercept. Hackers steal the information from these files without the sender or intended recipient ever knowing. Hackers also steal data by sending corrupted attachments via spear phishing.

If employees are used to receiving company files via email, they are more likely to trust a file that appears to come from a colleague’s email address. When they download the file, their computer is infected by the attachment, giving the hacker access to the computer or even the entire network.

Make it your company’s policy to never share files via email. Designate an alternate file-sharing method such as cloud software or a secure file transfer protocol (FTP) client.

How To Implement Your Digital Security Plan

Many small business owners create solid security plans and then fail to implement them successfully. Employees have deeply ingrained work habits, and it’s not easy to get everyone on board with new procedures. Awareness and training are the keys to success.

You can help your employees fully incorporate the security plan into their daily routine by bringing it up often. If you have monthly staff meetings, select a different security measure to highlight each time. Or create an email series breaking down different security guidelines each week. The delivery method isn’t as important as the frequency of the message.

The more your employees hear about your digital security plan (and cybersecurity in general), the faster and more thoroughly they’ll follow the plan. Also, include the plan in your onboarding process, so new hires know how to keep your data secure from day one.

digital security illustration
Source: Loginradius.com

What To Do if Your Digital Security Is Breached

As our technology becomes more sophisticated, so do hackers’ attacks. If cybercriminals find a way around your security protocols, here’s what to do:

  1. Inform all affected parties about the breach. Let them know what information has been compromised and provide steps to mitigate the consequences, such as changing their passwords and monitoring their credit reports.
  2. Identify how the breach happened and address the issue. If it’s unclear to you and your team, consider calling in IT experts. A digital security breach is a serious issue, and it’s imperative that the vulnerability is found and fixed as soon as possible.
  3. Communicate the changes you’ve made. Let everyone affected by the breach know how your company will protect their data better in the future. This is an important step that helps restore confidence in your company.

Digital security is overwhelming to many small business owners, but it’s critical to be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to cybercrime. Now that you know what the common security threats are, you can follow the tips in this article to create strong cybersecurity measures that will keep your business data safe.

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