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Fact: Anything stored on a device that’s connected to the internet is at risk of cyberattacks.
This is the first thing that you should consider when running a small business website in the modern, digital age. Even if you are not conducting online transactions and payments, aspects of your business are almost definitely stored on devices that connect to the internet.
If you are a small business owner, you must remain updated on the latest best practices in cybersecurity for small businesses. Neglecting your cybersecurity puts your website at risk of cyber-attacks, which can affect your whole business.
What Is Cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity refers to the processes individuals and enterprises apply to protect their electronic equipment and data from those who might try to access it without permission. In other words, it is a combination of security practices that focus specifically on electronic equipment and the data that is in it.
The US Department of Homeland Security divides cybersecurity into two areas:
- Protecting your networks, devices, and data from criminal or other unauthorized access
- Keeping information private and using it responsibly
As a small business owner, learning how to keep your business safe online and offline is essential. If cyber attackers access your devices, sensitive data—whether related to the business itself or its employees—could be made available to others. Additionally, viruses and cyber-attacks can damage your electronic equipment.
Cybersecurity Statistics and What They Mean For You
Cybersecurity is a growing problem, especially in the United States. Many people are aware of the ever-growing risks of identity theft and other attacks on your personal information. Still, it is crucial for an entrepreneur also to recognize the risks to their small business.
One report found that small businesses are at significant risk of cyberattacks. Even worse, each cyber attack resulted in an average loss of $188,000 for the company – not a small number!
Verizon’s 2022 report found that 82% of all data breaches involved a human element. This fact shows how important it is for small businesses to train their employees on cybersecurity and how to stay safe online.
To further emphasize how damaging a cyberattack can be for your business, a study found that 60% of all small businesses that experienced a cyber attack closed within 6 months of the attack. Unfortunately, just one cyber attack can be all it takes to ruin decades (or more) of hard work and dedication to growing your business.
Types of Cyber-Attacks You Should Watch Out For
There are many types of attacks to be wary of when planning your cybersecurity strategy. Here are a few of the most common types used against small businesses.
A phishing attack occurs when a criminal sends you an email that tricks you into clicking a dangerous link. Once you click the link, you arrive at a page that will trick you into providing the criminals with sensitive data.
You might receive phishing messages in your email, text messages, or even as a pop-up on a website you are visiting. You and your employees need to know what phishing looks like and how to recognize these malicious links.
Phishing emails typically come from an email address you are likely to trust. The sender could look like they are from your bank or appear to come from the email address of someone you know personally.
Phishing emails try to trick you into believing you are providing the requested information to a provided source. They might ask you to “confirm” information for your bank, donate to a charity, or even confirm details to allow delivery of a package.
Here are a few types of information phishing attacks might ask you for:
- Bank account information
- Credit card information
- Addresses or other personal information
A ransomware attack occurs when a criminal gains access to your data or bank accounts. They then lock you out and demand a ransom payment to give you back access to your information.
Ransomware attacks can happen in many different ways. They are usually initiated through email or malware.
Email Ransomware Attacks
A criminal will send an email to someone in your business that asks them to click on a link or open a file. Once they do, the criminal can take control of the user’s computer and through their device, your business network.
After the criminal has control of the user’s device, they will encrypt all the files. When you try to access the files, you will see a message asking for payment in exchange for regaining access to the device and files.
Malware Ransomware Attacks
Malware is another way to fall victim to a ransomware attack. Malware is a code a criminal plants on your computer. This code allows them to collect your data, access your programs and files, and eventually engage in ransomware attacks.
Cybercriminals can plant malicious code on your computer if you do not have adequate security for your network. They might hack into your system to drop the code or trick a member of your organization into downloading it without realizing they have done so.
Like with phishing and other attacks, it is crucial for you and your employees to recognize the signs of malicious files, links, programs, and attachments. The best way to avoid a ransomware attack is to not engage with malicious items.
9 Ways to Secure Your Website Against Cyber Attacks
Luckily, there are many ways to secure your website against cyber attacks. We will cover the essential steps you should take to keep your devices and data safe from cyber-attacks.
1. Choose a Good Web Host for Your Secured Website
Choose a web host for your website that will keep your website and your data safe from cybercriminals. There are many hosting options, so do your research to select one specializing in security for small businesses.
Some hosting sites will offer you a free security certificate for your website. These are great for your web security and help your customers know that your website is a safe place to trust with their personal data. Without a security certificate, your customers will receive a “this website is not secure” warning when visiting your site on most internet browsers.
Check out the next section for our recommended hosting services. These providers will host your website and provide the security you need to keep your business information safe from cyber criminals.
2. Assess Your Risks and Vulnerabilities
The first step in creating a comprehensive cybersecurity plan is determining your risks and vulnerabilities to attack. Small businesses can benefit from hiring an outside consultant to help with this process because they may not have someone on staff who is qualified to complete the analysis.
You can begin to address your vulnerabilities once you understand how cybercriminals are most likely to target you. This process will also help you devise an action plan if you become a victim of cybercriminals.
Consider all devices your employees regularly use when analyzing your risks and vulnerabilities to cyber threats. For example, many employees check work-related email on their phones or other mobile devices and on their computers at work. You will need to ensure email security on each of these devices.
3. Train Your Employees about Basic Cybersecurity
Take the time to train your employees in cybersecurity basics. Your employees are a crucial part of your cybersecurity strategy. Many cybercriminals will attempt to gain access to your business through them.
Hold meetings or seminars that share best practices with your employees. Review the different types of cyber attacks, such as phishing, malware, and ransomware. Show employees examples of what malicious emails, links, and files look like so they can recognize them if they appear in their inboxes.
Some companies arrange to send false “phishing” emails to their employees to test their ability to recognize them. This can be an excellent way to learn how proficient your staff members are in cyber security. It will also help them practice recognizing malicious emails in a low-risk environment.
Update the training often as cybersecurity is an ever-evolving field. New risks emerge frequently, so you want to keep your employees aware of how to stay safe while connected to your business networks.
4. Hire at Least One IT Competent Staff Member
Small businesses often have small staff, many members of which will wear many hats within the company. Keep an eye out for an employee competent in IT practices or at least in general technology best practices.
Always have at least one technology-competent staff member on the payroll. This person might significantly help draft your cyber security plan, keep your technologies updated, and notice potential cybersecurity threats.
5. Invest in Security Software
Robust security software can alert you to risks and vulnerabilities while identifying any malware that makes it into your device or network. There are many security software options, each with different specialties that might be right for your business.
Look for software that specializes in small businesses. It should identify and protect against hackers entering your system. It should also have an anti-virus component to protect you from viruses and malware on your device.
Once you have your security software in place, keep it updated, paid, and active on all devices that have access to your business files or network. Train your employees on how to use the software, what to do if it alerts them to a potential problem, and why they should never disable it.
6. Use Multi-Factor Authentication Whenever Possible
Multi-factor authentication requires you to approve log-ins on a second device, even after you enter your password. For example, you might type in your password to log in on a web browser and then be prompted to enter a code that was texted to you.
Two-factor authentication is an extra layer of protection that keeps your data secure even if someone else learns your password. It will also alert you to the fact that someone else is attempting to access your account by sending you a second authentication attempt.
Another form of two-factor authentication can require your biometrics to access the account. This might include facial recognition or fingerprint unlocking software.
7. Create Unique Secure Passwords and Keep Them Secret
It can be challenging to remember your passwords. Still, you are better off resetting them when necessary than compromising your security by repeating the same passwords for multiple accounts. Using the same simple password for all your accounts is tempting, but you must resist the temptation.
Follow password best practices by making them long, unique, and including different types of characters in every password. A good strategy for creating a hard-to-guess password is to think of a sentence you will remember. Use the first letter of each word in the sentence while incorporating numbers and symbols.
For example, the sentence: “A strong password should have numbers, letters, and symbols” might translate to the password: 4sPWshnl&s38495.
Once you have your strong password, store it somewhere safe and secure. Consider investing in a secure password keeper application to store your usernames and passwords for different accounts safely. Never store your password in an unencrypted digital location, such as an email draft or document on your desktop.
8. Keep Your Apps and Software Updated
Apps and software are constantly updating to provide users with new security features. Always make sure you are using the latest versions and approving any updates your programs request from you.
It can be tempting to click “later” or deny updates that require you to restart or stop using your computer for a period of time. However, doing this can put your small business at risk. Continually update every program you regularly use, especially your security and anti-virus software.
In addition to updating your own apps and software, be sure that your employees do the same. Utilize the administrator functions on staff technology to disallow use if security updates have not been performed. Additionally, ensure that personal devices connected to the business network (such as through an email app) are required to download and maintain stringent security requirements.
9. Create a Back-Up Plan in the Event of a Cyber Attack
Finally, create a backup plan to follow if you become the victim of a cyber attack. Know in advance who will take which actions immediately following a cyber security breach and how you will get your business back up and running quickly and efficiently.
The first step in any backup plan is to keep backups of your most essential data in a cloud server. This simple step means that even if a hacker takes control of your local device or files, you will have at least some of them available in another location. You can also back up your files to a separate hard drive that hackers cannot access through your internet-enabled device.
Another vital part of your backup plan involves your customer’s sensitive personal information. Familiarize yourself with the types of data you are collecting and any relevant regulations to safeguard the information. You will likely need to report a data breach within your network if you collect sensitive information.
Consider working with an external cybersecurity expert to develop your backup plan. Choose a security expert familiar with small businesses like yours and with experience working with companies that may not have a full-fledged and well-managed IT department. This will ensure that you plan for all eventualities and do not let anything important slip through the cracks.
Check out the Department of Homeland Security’s guide for more tips and tricks to keep your small business safe. You can also check with your local small business administration to find cybersecurity professionals to help you.
Top Web Hosting Services with the Best Security Practices
Here are a few of our favorite hosting services that do an excellent job of keeping your website and data safe.
WP Engine Hosting is an excellent service that integrates with your WordPress site. It only hosts WordPress websites, but that does not stop us from recommending it.
This hosting service allows you to fully customize your website while providing the security you need to guard against cyber attacks. It also provides data to learn about your website visitors, how they interact with your site, and how you can turn more visitors into customers.
InterServer is a popular choice for businesses of all sizes because it provides a super secure and consistent hosting service. It guarantees 99.9% perfection in keeping the network online and 100% power uptime.
Not only does InterService provide an excellent service, it also comes at an affordable price. You can purchase an inexpensive plan that includes everything from web hosting to email to free migration services from your current host.
InMotion hosting offers various plans that can meet any small business’s needs. In addition to their versatile plans, they adjust to your evolving business needs over time. They provide an excellent and secure experience for your website.
Aside from the great security features, InMotion will keep your website live as you switch to their services. This great feature means you can become more secure without losing business or shutting down.
Protect Your Website At All Costs
Small business owners need a cybersecurity plan to protect their small businesses from attacks. These attacks include phishing and ransomware attacks via email, text messages, or hacking into your system.
You can protect your business by choosing a quality hosting service for your website, training your employees, and creating a comprehensive cybersecurity plan. Visit our reviews page to learn about your website hosting options and choose the best fit for your business.