Owning and operating a small business is a combination of highs and lows. Business growth, excited and engaged employees, and happy customers? You’re on cloud nine. A difficult day where nothing is going right? That can be rough. As you navigate through such a journey, your tools and technology go a long way in making your business have more good days than bad. One such place that is of critical importance? Your IT security.
A secure business is able to protect its customer information and business intelligence from those that would do you harm. Unauthorized access to your systems or premises can harm your business from multiple avenues, so it is critical that you put strong security measures in place. Otherwise, your business can be prone to various risks that could drive it to the point of closure. To keep your small business protected, we have compiled a few best practices for securing your technology infrastructure. With the help of the following information, you can build a solid foundation for safeguarding your business against regular threats. First, however, it is important to understand the reasoning behind making security a priority.
Why is Security Important?
Regardless of the size of a venture, IT security is critical to almost every business’s integrity, reputation, and functionality. In addition to protecting businesses from external attacks, strong security also extends the same benefits to customers and employees.
Protect the Business
Established IT security protects your business in a holistic manner. They not only keep bad actors from accessing internal systems and confidential information but also decrease the chances of financial theft and data theft. This also secures the organization from being exposed to lawsuits by stakeholders such as customers, employees, or shareholders.
Regardless of the type of business you run, IT security can help you protect your customers’ privacy and data. The right IT security posture also has the benefit of making your organization trustworthy. When a potential customer knows that your organization is looking out for their best interests, it makes the decision easier to patronize that business.
Robust IT security mechanisms also protect employees. This includes personal data, sensitive details, and financial information that rests within the organization’s internal records. Security best practices also help employees avoid falling prey to shady phishing attempts and data exploitation mechanisms.
A Security Breach Can Sink the Entire Business
If a business’ security is compromised, it can have massive and long-lasting consequences. This can most definitely affect the brand’s reliability and reputation. In some cases, a security breach can also result in financial downfall in terms of legal liabilities and damage to privacy.
A glaring example of such an instance happened to Equifax, one of the most renowned credit reporting companies in the world. In 2017, the company faced a data breach that compromised the information of more than 147 million customers. The breach took place due to a security flaw that was overlooked by Equifax.
After years of litigation, Equifax was subject to pay at least $650 million in damages to customers and U.S. government agencies. Making matters worse, since the company also extended up to 10 years of free credit reporting services to the victims of the breach, the company has a significant ongoing financial obligation as a result of the breach.
Now that the importance of security is crystal clear, here are our recommended best practices for making security a key component of your IT infrastructure.
IT Security Checklist For Small Business
Train Employees on Physical Security
When you are trying to secure your small business, your staff can be your strongest and your weakest barrier at the same time. This is because your staff has all the relevant authorization, login credentials, and entry access to access your premises or systems. As a result, they make an active target for any malignant entity to breach your organization.
In 2016, Snapchat noted a data breach of the confidential information of around 700 active and former employees. The culprit? Simple human error. Precisely, an active employee fell for an email that posed as being written by Snapchat’s CEO, Evan Spiegel. When the email asked for staff data, the employee promptly sent it over and swiftly compromised the private information of hundreds of coworkers.
In addition to falling for phishing, employees can also make other mistakes that put their security at risk. This includes the inadvertent downloading of data to portable storage devices, just so the employee could work from home on relevant files. This poses a massive vulnerability to your business.
Keeping this in mind, train your employees on physical security and ensure that they can differentiate between phishing attempts and authenticated emails. Protecting passwords, key cards, and company information should also be part of your training program.
Some points that you can cover in this training can include the following aspects:
Ask employees to always lock their computers and devices when they step away even for a few moments.
Train them not to connect to public networks without a VPN.
Advise against using unknown storage devices (USB/portable SSD) on a company machine.
Instruct them not to download .exe files from emails or links.
Teach them how to recognize phishing attempts.
Backup All Data to an External Location
When a security breach takes place, numerous consequences can occur. Depending upon the type of data that is breached and the intention of the hackers, the aftermath can range from financial theft to restricted access for your own organization.
That is why it is important that you back up all of your business data regularly and to a secure location. This lets you be assured that even if a breach takes place, you will be able to have access to unaltered records. This can help you on various legal and operational fronts and ease your burden after a breach. Restoring things back to working order is made easier with offsite backups in place.
Backing up your data at different locations also helps in the case of the physical destruction of your infrastructure. This way, you can secure your business’s information in the face of unforeseen events such as natural disasters, fire, or flood.
Establish Strong Password Policies
Weak passwords such as an employee’s birthdate, family names, and anything related to your company’s history can compromise your security. To make sure that you remain protected in this case, encourage your employees to set strong passwords at all times.
Instead of plain numbers or lowercase letters, introduce uppercase letters as well as special characters to the mix. You should also mandate your employees to set their passwords to be at least 8 characters in length. This increases the probability of safety and helps you against data breaches to a significant degree.
Similarly, implement the regular rotation of passwords. Every ninety days should be sufficient. This decreases the chances of unauthorized parties getting their hands on your business’s or employee’s passwords.
Administer Access Controls
It is also important to administer access controls that allow you to manage the level of accessibility employees have to your systems. This ensures that only authorized personnel are allowed to use certain systems and parts of applications and network devices.
To ensure that you are meeting this requirement, we suggest the following:
Determine who needs to use which applications for their duties.
Identify the need to access specific data within those applications.
Set access levels based on your findings and make sure they stay that way.
Quickly disable accounts and access of employees upon their departure from the organization.
Keep and Update The Inventory List of All Hardware
You should also move forward with keeping an inventory list of all the hardware that you own. This makes sure that you are aware of all the devices that are connected to your business network while also identifying any unauthorized hardware or devices via regular audits.
Such accounting also provides you with the ability to perform regular security upgrades on your hardware, updates that keep your network safe from software-based breaches.
Have a Strong Password on your WiFi
If possible, make it a point to establish two different WiFi networks, where one is dedicated to your business and employees while the other is reserved for guest use.
If your small business has a customer waiting room or guest waiting area, for example, a secondary guest network allows them to connect to your local WiFi while prohibiting access to your business network.
Need Help Securing Your Business?
Security can be a complex subject to handle. However, the best practices detailed in this IT Security Checklist for Small Business can improve your security posture significantly. Need help securing your business? The right managed service provider can lend a hand and deliver the peace of mind you require. TeraLinks has been partnering with small and medium businesses for years to deliver exactly that, peace of mind and a sense of comfort that threats will be thwarted before they become a problem. From malware scanning to intrusion protection, from firewalls to security training, let TeraLinks help you protect your business and deliver more great days. Contact us today to learn how to secure your organization.