Broadband and information technology are powerful tools for small businesses to reach new markets and increase salesÂ and productivity. However, cybersecurity threats are real and businesses must implement the best tools and tactics toÂ protect themselves, their customers, and their data.
The Department of Homeland Security wants to help all small businesses secure their technology. Owners are encouraged to visit www.fcc.gov/cyberplanner to create a free customized CyberÂ Security Planning guide for your small business and visit www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect to download resources on cyberÂ security awareness for your business.
The Department of Homeland Security also offers these ten key cybersecurity tips to protect your small business:
1. Train employees in security principles. Establish basic security practices and policies for employees, such as requiringÂ strong passwords and establish appropriate Internet use guidelines, that detail penalties for violating company cybersecurityÂ policies. Establish rules of behavior describing how to handle and protect customer information and other vital data.
2. Protect information, computers, and networks from cyber attacks. Keep clean machines: having the latest securityÂ software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats. SetÂ antivirus software to run a scan after each update. Install other key software updates as soon as they are available.
3. Provide firewall security for your Internet connection. A firewall is a set of related programs that prevent outsidersÂ from accessing data on a private network. Make sure the operating system’s firewall is enabled or install free firewallÂ software available online. If employees work from home, ensure that their home system(s) are protected by a firewall.
4. Create a mobile device action plan. Mobile devices can create significant security and management challenges,Â especially if they hold confidential information or can access the corporate network. Require users to password protect theirÂ devices, encrypt their data, and install security apps to prevent criminals from stealing information while the phone is onÂ public networks. Be sure to set reporting procedures for lost or stolen equipment.
5. Make backup copies of important business data and information. Regularly backup the data on all computers.Â Critical data includes word processing documents, electronic spreadsheets, databases, financial files, human resourcesÂ files, and accounts receivable/payable files. Backup data automatically if possible, or at least weekly and store the copiesÂ either offsite or in the cloud.
6. Control physical access to your computers and create user accounts for each employee. Prevent access or use ofÂ business computers by unauthorized individuals. Laptops can be particularly easy targets for theft or can be lost, so lockÂ them up when unattended. Make sure a separate user account is created for each employee and require strong passwords.Â Administrative privileges should only be given to trusted IT staff and key personnel.
7. Secure your Wi-Fi networks. If you have a Wi-Fi network for your workplace, make sure it is secure, encrypted, andÂ hidden. To hide your Wi-Fi network, set up your wireless access point or router so it does not broadcast the network name,Â known as the Service Set Identifier (SSID). Password protect access to the router.
8. Employ best practices on payment cards. Work with banks or processors to ensure the most trusted and validatedÂ tools and anti-fraud services are being used. You may also have additional security obligations pursuant to agreements withÂ your bank or processor. Isolate payment systems from other, less secure programs and don’t use the same computer toÂ process payments and surf the Internet.
9. Limit employee access to data and information, and limit authority to install software. Do not provide any oneÂ employee with access to all data systems. Employees should only be given access to the specific data systems that theyÂ need for their jobs, and should not be able to install any software without permission.
10. Passwords and authentication. Require employees to use unique passwords and change passwords every threeÂ months. Consider implementing multifactor authentication that requires additional information beyond a password to gainÂ entry. Check with your vendors that handle sensitive data, especially financial institutions, to see if they offer multifactorÂ authentication for your account.