Small Businesses Can Mean Big Business for Hackers

As a small business owner, you may think you are safe from security threats. After all, why would a hacker go after your little business when there are so many larger targets out there? It’s that very thinking that’s placing small businesses at risk, making you a prime candidate for hackers. In 2012, almost half of the hacking incidents occurred in companies with fewer than a thousand employees. The number of hacking attacks on businesses with fewer than 250 employees is up to 31 percent, a large increase from the 18 percent the previous year.

Many small businesses don’t have strong firewalls and monitoring systems in place. They may not track employee internet activity closely, and may allow more freedom of access to accounts. Small business owners often do not fully understand the protection offered by the banks on their business accounts vs. their private accounts. Some use outside companies to handle tasks, such as accounting and payroll services, that can put them at risk. They also probably don’t have a full time IT staff to handle security issues. All of these shortcomings add up to a high risk in terms of “hackability”.

As a small business owner, you don’t have to be vulnerable to hackers. Here are some ways you can protect yourself and your company:

ARM Yourself – Business Insider recommends that you remember to ARM your business, which stands for assess, remediate, and monitor. Assess the tools you are using to scan and protect your business. Only use tools from reputable companies and keep them up-to-date. Remediate any problems the tools identify. Patch security holes or seek professional advice when needed. Monitor your logs frequently for irregular activity. Address any irregular activity as soon as possible.

Secure Your Information – Intuit accounting software stresses the importance of securing your information. Limit the number of people who have access to accounts, enforce strong password policies, and have strict rules in place regarding employee computer use. Limiting the downloading abilities of employees can prevent issues. A well managed site layout and data security plan can also help enhance your site’s security as well.

Check Your Bank Accounts – Find out what your bank protects on your business accounts and what it doesn’t. Federal regulations do not cover commercial accounts. Select a larger, more well established bank. Inquire about their policy and methods for tracking unusual activity on accounts to make sure everything’s secure. Also require multiple steps or approvals on transactions, such as voice and text, or approval by more than one person.

Do Your Research – When using outside companies for services, be sure to check them out before trusting them with your information. Using reputable, highly rated companies to handle your accounting, tax preparation, payroll services, and tech support can reduce the risk to your business. There is a high risk involved when using outside companies to handle your secure information that you can be held responsible for.

Secure Your Hardware – Just as important as what you have available online is the equipment you use. Entrepreneur business magazine reminds business owners that devices such as cell phones, tablets, computers, laptops, flash drives, need to physically be secure as well. A stolen cell phone, flash drive, or laptop may give a hacker an easy window into your company

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Cathy Earle