There is often a misconception that cyber-attacks and data breaches are a concern for larger organisations. People often assume that hackers will focus on the ‘big boys’ due to the valuable data they can steal or the biggest profit that can be made from their attack. However, the reality is smaller businesses are just as much at risk. In fact, research suggests that over 70% of all security breaches are aimed at small businesses. What’s more, hackers are usually looking to expose the flaws of a particular system, software or network and in these cases, they rarely look at the size of the business they are attacking. This means that small businesses need to take just as much care when it comes to protecting themselves against cyber-security attacks.

If you are a small business and you are concerned about your security, why not follow these tips to help keep your data safe and secure.

1) Current security knowledge is key to keeping you protected – Outsourcing your security operations – either in full or part – to a third party security vendor is probably the best and easiest way to make sure your data and infrastructure remains safe. This is because an external provider is constantly updating their knowledge and will know the latest and safest techniques to help keep you protected not just now, but in the future too.

2) Regularly update your system – It’s a proven fact that regularly updating your software and patching up any weaknesses can greatly reduce the risk and impact of cyber-attacks. Make sure you build in time to update IT systems and perform maintenance tasks, even if this means doing it outside of the working day to minimise any downtime caused. For small businesses particularly, time is often precious but this really is an area not to be missed.

3)    Monitor network traffic – It is crucial that any business monitors network traffic regularly and identifies any suspicious IP address or unauthorised file transfers. Once identified, they can be added to a block list which means they can’t access the network in the future. Web Application Firewalls are particularly important as they will immediately alert you (or a third party provider) if a hacker it attempting to access your platform, allowing you to take immediate action.

4)    Back Up! – Ransomware is the most common attack conducted by hackers and it does exactly what it says on the tin. Essentially they access your data and hold it hostage until you pay a ‘ransom’ amount for its safe return. Unfortunately in many cases, the data is not returned and lost forever. That’s why it is essential for all businesses to back-up their data, ideally on an external hard drive, which is then kept in a safe and secure place.

5)    Train your staff – Human error is often behind many data breaches with staff not realising that their actions have opened the gateway to hackers! This is even more likely with the increasing use of BYOD (Bring Your Own Devices) in the workplace. It is critical to ensure that you keep your staff informed about the basic security precautions that need to be taken when accessing networks and devices in the workplace. Prevention really is key!

Jake Simpson

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