Earlier this month, many of the world’s governments and corporations were held hostage by a band of cybercriminals in what was easily the largest ransomware attack in recent times. Businesses and government departments were forced to pay thousands of dollars in ransom as bandits took control of mission-critical data on networked computers.
While ransomware isn’t necessarily a new security threat for businesses, this recent attack highlights the evolving nature of threats within virtual spaces. Hackers no longer need sophisticated algorithms, phishing tools, and malware to get into your system. They don’t even need to steal your data – just hold it long enough to cause enough damage to force you to pay up.
For small businesses, ransomware and other forms of cyber attacks can be catastrophic. Small businesses often have dynamic organizational processes that often change in response to new requirements, for instance, a new Wi-Fi network to replace a cable connection or a new hardware device brought in by an employee. Plus, with sectors such as e-commerce fuelling the collapse of physical retail stores and many other traditional types of brick-and-mortar businesses going online, cyber security has never been a bigger issue.
This is why such businesses must rise up to the occasion and protect their systems from evolving threats. Here are a few suggestions for helping small business owners enhance web security while improving overall performance and data protection.
1. Create and Implement a Robust Security Plan
A good web security plan is one of the crucial first steps when setting up any online business. Unfortunately, a 2012 study conducted by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and Symantec found that over 69% of small businesses lacked any form of cyber security plan – formal or informal. Even more alarming was the fact that even though about 71% of small businesses used the internet for critical business processes, close to half of them didn’t see the impact of data hacks on their business.
A good web security plan should provide an analysis of potential threats, control and mitigation procedures, and responsibilities of each employee when threats have been identified within your network. The plan should also cover policies such as email, antivirus, encryption, remote access, and password policies to help keep your business running during and after an attack.
2. Ensure you’re using a Secure Hosting Server
One of the quickest ways for hackers to infiltrate your small business network is via a poorly-secured web or email servers. Therefore, a secure hosting server like VPSServer is an important component of web security and performance for any type of business with a virtual presence.
There are different types of servers and configurations that a business can go with, usually depending on the level of performance and security required. For small businesses without large IT budgets but are still keen on securing their networks, Virtual Private Servers (VPS) are often a great fit. A VPS server provides a trove of benefits for small businesses, including a secure hosting environment, improved performance, scalability, and greater control compared to other types of hosting server plans.
3. Invest in Personal and Employee Training
A successful hack only needs one weak link in your network to compromise the whole system. This can come in the form of a phishing email that was opened by the office administrator or a fishy Facebook app that was installed into a device at work. This is why you should always train employees to identify and report any suspicious activity on the network so as to safeguard your network from simple attacks.
You should ensure your employees fully understand the acceptable-use policies around the workplace so that they don’t go where they’re not supposed to. Send regular emails and hold workshops and meetings led by an IT expert to help keep your employees – and yourself as the small business owner – informed about evolving threats.
4. Ensure Physical Security
The most powerful antivirus or anti-malware software is still no match for a metal crowbar. Between 2008 and 2010, a gang of cyber criminals broke into at least 40 premises belonging to small and medium business and made away with over $300,000 worth of equipment, including servers and laptops.
As much as we’d like to put up advanced applications to safeguard digital information on servers and computers, the grim reality is that it’s actually quite easy to haul these devices out of an unsecured room with all the information and data contained therein.
For ballsy cyber criminals who are not fazed by your encryption software and antivirus applications, things like motion detectors and security alarms should make their criminal activities harder. Make use of your computer’s Kensington lock port and always ensure the doors to your server room are locked with the appropriate access control measures.
5. Enlist the Services of a Network Security Consultant
Because network and internet security are always evolving, getting help from a web security expert can go a long way in ensuring your small business network is protected from intruders. For a small business whose core competency is not related to the web or network security, subscribing to the services of a data security vendor can help ease the load for the business.
If your budget allows, you can cede control of your IT infrastructure to a managed service provider (MSP) that can help the business stay secure and productive remotely.
There is no failsafe method that will guarantee web security and performance, thanks to the evolving nature of threats and cyber security. For every minute a cyber security expert spends coming up with security protocols to fend off a piece of malicious code, you can be assured that a cyber criminal somewhere in the world is spending two or more minutes plotting new ways to circumvent existing measures.
Therefore, always stay vigilant and make it a habit of evaluating and implementing new security protocols and patches for your small business.