An internet connection is a necessity for most small businesses. You can handle marketing, sales and customer service through an online connection with much faster response time. You can also tap into online markets which would normally be unattainable for a brick-and-mortar store. However, the internet also brings the risks of viruses, ransomware, and data breaches to your doorstep. Small businesses can be especially vulnerable to online threats.
Limited Security Education
If you run a small operation, you just do not have time to keep up with the speed of change in the online world. There are always new ways that bad actors are trying to exploit connections and steal data or cause other harm. It is hard enough to manage everything else in your business without trying to learn to be a security expert. Small businesses often assume that their security is adequate because they have not had a serious problem yet. This lack of knowledge can leave systems at risk. So it’s a good idea to train employees regularly on the best practices of cybersecurity.
Finances are a common concern for small businesses. When you are starting up and barely making a profit, you do not have the money to pay for the top security resources. It is not unusual for businesses to rely on open-source software, freeware and other low-cost options for their software needs. While these programs may be convenient, they often have lower levels of support and security measures. There are services available that can shore up your firewall and make remote connections safer, but they are expensive. That being said, they’re worth the investment for the long-term protection that you get in return.
Older Equipment and Software
One of the side effects of having low funds is the struggle of trying to extend the life of older equipment. In an effort to be frugal, small businesses will use computer hardware and software that is no longer supported by the companies that produced it. After all, not only is it expensive to update equipment, but it also takes time to learn new systems. A major problem that arises from this is that unsupported software is no longer updated against security threats. An older operating system can have vulnerabilities that are easily exploited by hackers. If they can access your network through an older connection, they can have access to the whole network and data.
Poor Password Protection
The humans that operate computers are often the biggest risk for any business. Because small businesses are less attractive targets for hackers, employees will often get lazy about computer security. If you have never had a problem with a breach, you may not feel like it is necessary to have a unique, strong password for every connection. You may even opt out of password protection for programs you use all the time. If you reuse passwords, when hackers are able to figure out the password to one program, they may gain access to all of your connections.
Unsecured Remote Connections
It is more common for businesses of all sizes to allow employees to do some of their work from home. By using remote access protocols, an employee can use his or her work computer through a unit at a remote location. This is both convenient and productive. What many people do not realize is that this is also a vulnerable connection. The remote computer has passed through your firewall and is now connected to your network. If your employee’s laptop is stolen, the thief will now have access to your whole system including the data on your server.
Larger businesses normally have a department devoted to network connections and internet security. Small businesses often don’t have a CIO. They cannot offer the salary and benefits that a highly trained professional would normally require. Many times, small businesses will use third-party IT services instead to identify business risks. By using a security contractor, they are getting some of the benefits of a full-fledged IT department. They may be missing out on the consistency of security that a full-time employee can provide. It is great to have someone you can call when you have a problem. It is better if someone is on-site working to prevent security issues before they develop.
When a business has an IT department, there is often a security protocol structure. In most cases, employees do not need access to the whole system. The marketing team does not need to access accounting software, and neither marketing nor accounting should be fiddling with security settings. Since employees of small businesses are regularly handling multiple jobs, it is easier to just give everyone access to everything. This means that an employee may inadvertently change security settings without anyone realizing it. It is also part of the reason why small businesses get into the habit of little or no password protection.
Internet of Things Vulnerabilities
One of the newest security threats to all businesses is the growth of the internet of things. All of those network-connected devices that make life easier are also vulnerable connections to your network. The robotic vacuum that cleans your floor overnight or the smart thermostat that lowers your energy costs are connected to the same network as your office computers. Just as hackers are working hard to access vulnerable computer systems, they are also figuring out how to sneak onto networks through other connected devices. At the same time, the companies that manufacture these devices are updating the software to keep them safe. It is important that you pay attention to security updates for every device that is connected to your network.
It is hard to imagine a business that does not use the internet in some way, and those uses continue to expand. In many cases, if you are not on the internet, you are invisible to the world. Yet, it is not a connection you can afford to take for granted. By making intentional choices about internet security, your business can thrive while keeping your customer information safe and secure.
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