3 Key Cybersecurity Tips for Small Business Owners + Entrepreneurs

Cybersecurity is quickly becoming a critical issue in the small business and entrepreneurship communities, as well as a regular news topic. Whether it’s Wikileaks’ latest info dump or the latest cyber crimes + data breaches, cybersecurity has moved to the forefront of business concerns. This has presented a unique challenge to small business owners, as they are now both the most-targeted segment of the business community while also having the least amount of resources available to devote to cybersecurity personnel.

Cybersecurity for small businesses

Luckily, there are a few simple steps you can take that will go a long way towards preventing intruders, minimizing incident risk, and staying up to date on the latest threats. Check out the following advice for actionable tips to keep your business and your customers’ data safe from malicious outsiders.

Start with the Right Gear

Start on the right foot when deciding what office equipment to get. While Hollywood may make BYOD policies seem standard, the reality is that having sensitive customer data on employee-owned laptops is setting yourself up for a world of hurt later on. Having everyone on the same equipment being managed by the same people is a critical step in any comprehensive security policy.

Consider investing in business laptops with baked in security features, like these from HP. Encrypted hard drives provide peace of mind in any theft incidents (which are more common than you would think); biometric identifiers allow for more stringent login options, and built-in privacy filters allow employees to access sensitive data on the go. So shop around a bit when initially looking at equipment options-- a few smart investments now will pay off substantially down the road.

Stay Updated

Zero Day vulnerabilities are unpatched exploits that can be taken advantage of by hackers, and they present a serious risk to your business. The eternal struggle between black hat and white hat security professionals has proven to hold about even, with exploits being patched at roughly the same rate as discovery according to Verizon’s latest Data Breach Investigations Report. Having a full-time IT member on staff keeps your organization aware of the latest threats and allows you to respond accordingly while keeping both your physical and digital systems up to date.

However, for over two-thirds of small businesses hiring full-time IT staff represents a significat personnel challenge; consider an external support provider if your business isn’t able to maintain a staff member. They’ll still be able to provide maintenance and support that your systems need to stay secure.

Employee Education

This is perhaps one of the most important steps that you can take in your entire organization. Employee education allows your team to identify threats sooner, communicate threat patterns effectively, and maintain security protocol. Often times employees don’t follow password policy, not out of malicious intent but because the policy is cumbersome and the benefits haven’t been clearly communicated.

Phishing attacks are another area where teaching employees to recognize and report can save your company millions of dollars in the long run and be the deciding factor in the life of your business. No company is 100% from these types of attacks-- even major tech companies struggle to educate employees against the myriad of different forms cybersecurity threats can take. Investing in your employees through time and training will help them become more invested in the security of your data and encourage an atmosphere of following policy.

These tips are just the tip of the iceberg. While staying up to date on patch Tuesdays and encrypting laptop hard drives certainly help, cybersecurity is a vast and complex industry. The risks of not educating yourself and your business in this field are simply too great to ignore. Another great jumping off point is the SBA.gov’s list of top ten cybersecurity tips for small businesses. Keep your customers happy by keeping their data safe!