Digital lock to illustrate implementation of cybersecurity for small business.

With the growing state of affairs, cybersecurity should be an integral part of any business, whether a company is simply using email, maintaining a website, or deploying enterprise-wide cloud-computing solutions.

The U.S. Small Business Administration states that small businesses are becoming more common targets of cyber threats because they have fewer resources than their larger counterparts. These threats to cybersecurity–data breaches, identification theft, website tampering, ransomware attacks, etc.—are real and growing in sophistication, and many businesses are recognizing the increased risk in recent years.

There are a number of simple yet effective ways you can safeguard your business from cyber threats. This list below is certainly not exhaustive but presents a good starting point for startups and small businesses in their efforts to minimize the risk of damage.

1. Familiarize yourself with cybersecurity and educate yourself on exactly what it is

Cybersecurity is the protection of internet-connected systems, including hardware, software, and data, from cyberattacks. In a computing context, security comprises cybersecurity and physical security — both are used by enterprises to protect against unauthorized access to data centers and other computerized systems.

2. Train employees on security principles

It is important that you establish basic security principles and policies for your business and ensure your employees are trained on a regular basis. These efforts can include requiring strong passwords and providing internet usage guidelines that clarify company policies and consequences in case of violation.

The SBA resource mentioned above contains a link to upcoming cybersecurity events. There are also a number of other security resources that small businesses can use, including the Federal Communications Commission’s Small Biz Cyber Planner and ProtonMail, an email app that focuses on privacy and security with end-to-end encryption.

3. Secure networks and limit access

Set up a firewall: A firewall is a key security measure as it prevents outsiders from obtaining access to your business’ private network. If some employees work from home via laptops, the home networks also should have firewalls installed.

Control physical access: Restriction of access should take place physically as well as via software. Prevent access to or use of business computers or equipment by unauthorized people. Ensure information is not disclosed to non-authorized individuals. Each employee user account should be created separately and require passwords, and admin capabilities should only be given to a small, trusted group of IT staff and personnel.

Multiple Factor Authentication: Multi-factor authentication is an authentication method in which a computer user is granted access only after successfully presenting two or more pieces of evidence to an authentication mechanism: knowledge, possession, and inherence. The most commonly used is two-factor authentication which is a type of multi-factor authentication.

Consider all devices: Any device that connects to your Wi-Fi network must be secured. Think not only of office computers but also work laptops and corporate mobile phones that some employees might have, as well as any personal devices that employees might be using at work—such as their own laptops, mobile phones, and smartwatches. These can provide entry points to hackers, so the same cybersecurity guidelines that you apply at a company level should also be applied to personal devices.

4. Back-up copies

You and your employees should make it a habit to back up key files and applications or set the system so that these files would be automatically backed up on a regular basis. These key files could include financial documents, human resources files, databases, client files, and memos. A cloud-based system is commonly used for backups, but another layer of caution would be to make backup copies on an external drive that is not connected to your network.

5. Employ best practices

Threats to cybersecurity continue to evolve, which means your business also has to stay alert and keep cybersecurity a priority. Fortunately, measures to prevent cyber attacks also evolve. If possible, invest in the most trusted and validated tools and anti-fraud software and services that are in use today. Companies that do not have in-house IT experts would do well to hire a technology consultant that understands cybersecurity and how to implement protection measures for small businesses. There are costs involved in protecting information, but the costs of not protecting information can be greater. Be sure to maintain a comprehensive, up-to-date set of policies and make it easily accessible to all employees. Hold trainings to keep everyone informed of safe practices for internet and device usage, as well as to provide opportunities to address any questions.