In light of the recent Equifax security breach, small business owners should be wary and cautious about their own security, as well as that of their business. All business owners have reason to worry, because it doesn’t matter how big or small a business is – it can still be victimized by a cyberattack.
When security breaches occur, most often we hear about it occurring to large corporations. This can lead small and medium-size business owners to believe that hackers will only go after larger companies, which is far from the truth. The reality is most small and medium sized businesses are targeted because they think they won’t be affected, and therefore they’re less likely to keep up with software and web maintenance or security updates. If you’re in doubt that hackers will target your business because you’re too small, think about this analogy: When hunters pursue their prey, they’re not likely going for the leader of the pack – they’re opting for the weakest links, the stragglers, and the easy targets.
During situations like the Equifax security breach, businesses often have the disadvantage. You may have heard the advice from others to place a freeze on your credit, which is a safe option for individuals, but a business cannot place a freeze on its credit report. Therefore, businesses and owners can still become victims of identity theft and fraud. How? Using both personal information acquired through security breaches and hacks along with public information about your business, a thief can open new accounts or lines of credit in your business name and use them to purchase items or pocket the cash.
This type of fraud alone can damage a business’s credit, subjecting the owner to higher interest rates and outright rejection for future loans. This hurts small businesses because many banks are already wary of lending to small businesses due to their high rates of failure within the first few years of establishment. With all this in mind, how can a business protect itself from the vulnerabilities brought about by the Equifax breach?
1. Protect your business from vulnerabilities and threats
Despite the disadvantage of not being able to place freezes on your business’s credit, there are several ways you can protect your business from becoming a target and victim to cyberattacks and fraud. First, it’s recommended you hire an IT professional to examine your vulnerabilities. Otherwise, you’ll likely only find out where your vulnerabilities lie when someone attacks them. Additionally, safeguard your website and your computer against cyber threats with security monitoring. There’s no excuse not to protect your business and prevent these attacks from happening.
Another recommendation is to use your IT consultant to ensure your systems are up-to-date. For instance, some companies still running older software – like Microsoft XP – should upgrade their operating system, because systems like these become major targets. In this case, Microsoft stopped providing security updates for PCs running the XP operating system years ago. Without these security updates, it’s quite easy for hackers to gain access through these systems and therefore, gain access to all your business information.
2. Prevent successful cyberattacks by training your employees
Reports show that the most common types of attacks against small businesses are web-based attacks and phishing scams, both of which can be easily avoided.
One of the best ways to prevent cyberattacks from happening to your business is to ensure your employees are also on the same page when practicing internet and email safety. Discourage employees from sending confidential information over email. Use secure login and password credentials to ensure access to your accounts isn’t easy and encourage them to report any suspicious information at the first sign of computer virus or malware detection. Also, it’s recommended that you change your passwords every few months…and don’t make them your dog’s name.
3. Prepare your business for the worst possible outcome
Cyberattacks can occur anywhere and at any time. Small businesses typically aren’t prepared or capable to recover from cyberattacks like larger companies are. Do what you need to ensure your business can recover the financial costs (and productivity costs) before an attack occurs – whether this be signing up for insurance to cover a cyberattack or setting aside an emergency fund for when this happens.
For large companies, it’s easy to recuperate costs because they typically have this sort of fund set aside. For small and mid-size businesses, a few thousand dollars can be detrimental to the operations. Businesses should also continuously backup their data and information as a safety precaution. Although many hackers are looking to make a quick buck, there are malicious hackers that exist exclusively to go after a business’s data.
The best way to protect your business from security vulnerabilities and cyberattacks in the day and age of Equifax-level breaches is to protect, prevent, and prepare your business. It’s important to remember that no business is too big or too small for someone to attempt to capitalize on your vulnerabilities and there’s no good excuse not to take the necessary precautions to prevent this from happening to your business and customers.