Secure Your Business Network
Small Business Data
If you own a small business today, then you know that much of your work involves using the internet in some form. From your online accounting to email correspondence with your customers and clients, you require the internet to connect you to the outside world, so your daily business operations can be maintained. That also means that everything your business does is at risk of being stolen, sold or held hostage. For many small business owners, myself included, our first thought when we hear these scary facts about online safety and privacy, is why would anyone want my small book of information? Easy answer, money or boredom! Your data as a small business is easier to get to than a wealthy, larger business with lots of data protection measures in place. Here in the Columbia Area there are thousands of small businesses with millions of clients and that equates to a lot of easy to steal data. All data, regardless of if you think it is important or not, can be sold online for a plethora of reasons including identity theft, target marketing and digital warfare.
Why should your small business care?
Again, you may be thinking to yourself, that still doesn’t really matter to me or I have enough to worry about running my small business. Consider these facts, according to the Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report, 61% of breaches hit smaller businesses in 2016. And, according to UPS Capital, Cyber-attacks cost small businesses between $84,000 and $148,000 with 60% of small businesses going out of business within six months of an attack. 90% of small business don’t use any data protection at all for company and customer information, which means that all these statistics are preventable. Now take in to account that changes to the FTC, PCI DSS and many processing agreements with credit card merchants or banks say that YOU are the party responsible for data breaches that happen on your premises, especially if you didn’t take the required action to PREVENT the breach. As we move forward in this digital world, fines for small businesses in data breaches will increase and become more strict, claiming ignorance will no longer work.
How do I secure my network from these threats?
Now that we have explained why you need to care, we will help make it easier for you as the over worked, very busy small business owner. With decades of experience in the IT field, helping small businesses and homes with IT Support, we at Bristeeri Tech have complied a list of 6 easy to follow steps to help you secure and maintain your network.
- Firewall and Access Control
- Encryption and Password Management
- Data Backup
- Education for Everyone
- Professional IT Support
Firewalls and Access Control
Lock down your network from the inside with a firewall and assess control lists (ACL). Probably a task best done by an IT professional as to provide the best firewall and setup for your office, you will need to know the type of devices used and how they are used and how many access points will be necessary. To simplify, a firewall can be a piece of software or a separate device that controls all communication that goes out to or in from the internet. When setting up a firewall your IT professional will need to know how many computers are in the office, if you allow any personal computer or device use in office, how many printers or WIFI connected devices (like TVs, refrigerators or security systems to name a few) and if you need guest WIFI access for your clients. A firewall is probably the most important piece of equipment for your network security and in 2018 no one should be without one.
Why Anti-Malware instead of Anti-Virus? Wikipedia put it best “Malware, short for malicious software, is an umbrella term used to refer to a variety of forms of hostile or intrusive software, including computer viruses, worms, Trojan horses, ransomware, spyware, adware, scareware, and other intentionally harmful programs.” So, if you have anti-virus software you are not fully protected from all the possible threats out there. An additional benefit of properly protecting your system is workforce efficiency as additional applications running in the background can slow down your internet or computer processing speeds. Not all anti-malware is made the same so make sure you have a tested piece of software and ask the manufacturer if it scans all email attachments, videos, flash drives and downloads.
Encryption & Password Management
This is probably the simplest step and the most neglected. Passwords are your first form of defense, and most of us keep the default passwords in place on our devices or remove the password altogether. First start with your Router, change the admin password, so no one else can log in to your router and make changes to the settings. Then change the password to access the WIFI, these two passwords should not be the same and should never be left to default. It is important to have a password policy in place. These polices should state that all devices should have a password, that your email should have a different password, passwords should be at least 12 characters in length and never be shared with anyone, even IT support. If IT support needs access they can change the password and give the user a new temporary password afterwards. You should also consider if you need passwords to expire or be changed quarterly for additional security. Lastly, you should have encryption on any devices that leave the premises of your office. Whether it be a disgruntled employee or a theft, you should be able to prevent access and theft of your business data should a laptop be taken without permission. Set up two factor authentication on any sensitive applications and activate Disk Encryption, which comes on all Windows 10 professional.
This is your last line of defense, although it doesn’t prevent any data theft it does make sure you do not loose your information. Having your data backed up off site is a great way to ensure our business can keep running. If you have a malware infection, an IT professional can come in and wipe the network and restore from a previous backup, minimizing the amount of work lost. If you have a flood and your computer is destroyed, at least you can access your files on the backup and purchase a new computer. Data backup doesn’t provide network security, it is just a safety net to help you recover when something happens. Remember when, not if, as something will happen to your business network, it is just a matter of what and when.
Education for Everyone
In the previous steps you may notice that nothing is set up and forget. All the previous steps must be maintained as the world of IT changes daily. As more and more of us turn to the internet to run our business we must also start to understand how the internet works, how our computers and devices communicate and how to be less afraid of the digital world. Educating yourself and your workforce is the best way to defend your business from these unwanted threats. You can start with YouTube videos, most IT companies like Microsoft, offer online videos that can be viewed, and most are 5 minutes or less. Just make sure you check the date of when it first aired or was published, anything over a year old is probably out dated. You can also team up with your IT service provider to ask them the trends and changes to the IT field.
IT Support do not go it alone
Having a partner to help with your IT support and services is vital to your network security. Setting up a Firewall for example is not an easy task and if done wrong will prevent you from being able to do anything online. It could even make it seem like you do not have internet access. Plus, once you start to set up a secure network it becomes difficult to tell what is causing the issue when a technical glitch arises. Many small businesses we walk into have had someone that is listed as the IT support but is really the office manager or the owner’s nephew. Not that this is bad, but as your business grows this is not maintainable. Your IT should grow with your business and help facilitate that growth, not prevent it. Find an IT partner that fits your businesses needs and is willing to change the agreement as your grow. A good IT partner will help with ordering an installing business grade equipment and software as well as monitor your network remotely for updates, patches, license expiration and equipment failures.
Bristeeri Technologies has been providing Columbia homes and businesses with IT support and services for decades. We are proud to be your local Stop.Think.Connect partner and would love to be your local IT support. To schedule your network security assessment contact us today. For more information please view our resources linked below.