Your small business network may be under attack by cybercriminals. We don't need any inside information to know this, and it is not a scare line. It is a basic fact of business in the Internet age. Unlike "brick-and-mortar" thieves, who have to spend time and effort looking for places to break into, cybercriminals can case out thousands of potential targets with a few keystrokes. Providing small business security against these constant probing cyber attacks requires a culture of security within the business.
Employees – and the business owner – need to learn and follow good basic security practices. But vigilance alone is not enough. Businesses must also invest in appropriate security tools. After all, you can't teach employees to always keep the back door locked if there's no lock on that door in the first place.
Protecting a Small Business Network
Cybersecurity professionals talk a lot about "network security." It sounds like something that applies only to large enterprises, but any business with more than one computer has a network. In fact, if employees use their smartphones for work, one desktop computer plus those smartphones is a business network.
Internet security awareness is the first, critical layer of protection. Access to the network should be protected by strong passwords. ("Password" is not a strong password.) These passwords should be regularly changed.
Users with network access should learn to be careful about email. Don't click on links in emails unless you are confident that the email is really from a known and trusted source. Beware of emails that claim to be from colleagues, but have no real personal message. Also beware of emails, supposedly from banks or other businesses, asking you to provide account information. Both are red flags for "phishing" scams that seek to trick recipients.
To Keep a Door Locked, Invest in a Lock
Good, basic security practices will greatly reduce the chance of cybercriminals breaking into your business network. But small business security also requires appropriate business solutions.
Free small business protection is not always enough. Freeware security tools are essentially marketing devices. They can be helpful for getting a feel for a potential solution, on a try-before-you-buy basis, but they are inherently limited. Effective small business security tools are, however, available at an affordable price.
Effective business solutions should have these five basic features:
- It should include protection against computer viruses and other malware.
- Because some kind of mobile network access is now all but universal, it should provide mobile security.
- It should provide for encryption of individual files, folders, or an entire disk of data.
- It should protect endpoints – the various devices and locations that allow access to the network.
- Last but not least, an effective business security solution should include system management tools, such as patch management for updating the protection.
With effective protection and good Internet security practices, small businesses can make themselves tough targets for cybercriminals. They may try the doors to your network, but when those doors don't open, they'll go looking for an easier victim.
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