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Overcoming cybersecurity challenges for small businesses

by | Oct 14, 2021


While you may think cybersecurity is only a concern for large companies, an estimated 40% of cyberattacks target small businesses. That’s because small businesses face unique cybersecurity challenges. Because they typically have fewer and less robust cybersecurity protocols, small businesses are often a more inviting target for bad actors than larger businesses. Hackers can gain access to sensitive information like credit card information, banking details and confidential plans, leading to significant financial losses. Luckily, there are several steps you can take to protect your business from cyberattacks. Using cybersecurity software should be your first action to protect your devices against malware, but your cybersecurity shouldn’t stop there. Learn how to face your cybersecurity challenges with these tips.

A woman updates the security settings on her work computer.

Implement a cybersecurity policy

Developing clear cybersecurity policies and protocols for your small business will help protect your company from cybersecurity challenges. Asking employees to agree to the policy will ensure they follow guidelines while also giving them a better understanding of cybersecurity. Your policy should address issues like:

  • Confidential information. Ensure your employees know what business information is confidential and what can be shared externally with customers or clients. Sensitive business information, like passwords and other online account information, should be kept confidential.
  • Device use. Having a policy that addresses how employees can use their business devices can help protect against cybersecurity threats. Employees should also clearly understand if they are not able to use personal devices for work, including accessing their work email. If you allow your employees to use their personal devices for some aspects of their job, like their personal smartphone, make sure they agree to security measures including a strong password and multi-factor identification.
  • Work from home. If your employees can work from home, address proper cybersecurity protocols for remote work. Require employees to use a private WiFi network with a strong password.

Use strong passwords

Creating strong passwords can help protect your small business from cyberattacks. All passwords set by you or your employees should meet specific requirements, such as including symbols, numbers and uppercase letters. Remember to never use passwords that include birthdays, your name or other easy-to-guess information. Change passwords regularly, at least once a year, to keep them safe from potential hacks. Remember, it’s important to use a strong password for all your devices, email and other online programs. It’s also best to use a different password for each device or account. If possible, using multifactor identification can add an extra layer of protection to your business’s devices and accounts.

A business leader hosts a cybersecurity training for her staff.

Provide cybersecurity training for employees

Even if your small business only employees a few people, you should provide hands-on training to minimize the chance of data breaches. Cyber breaches are often a result of human error, typically occurring when people don’t know how to identify cybersecurity threats. Malicious software, also called malware, causes damage to computers or networks. Employees should gain an understanding of various forms of malware and how to avoid them. Avoid cybersecurity challenges by including information on these common cyber threats:

  • One of the most common cyber threats that small businesses face is phishing. Hackers use email or malicious websites to infect your devices. Phishing emails appear as if they come from a legitimate organization and prompt recipients to click on links or open attachments containing malware. Advise employees to verify they know who sent the email before opening attachments and links.
  • Another type of malware that employees should be aware of is viruses. Viruses are dangerous programs designed to spread from computer to computer and give hackers access to your devices. Employees can avoid viruses by only downloading software, documents, and other files from reputable websites and avoiding unknown websites.
  • Typically sent through phishing emails, ransomware is another type of malware that restricts your access to your device until a ransom is paid. By practicing good cybersecurity, you may be able to avoid ransomware. But in case one of your employee’s devices does get infected, create and maintain backups for your files and systems. In case of encryption, you can use your backups to keep the business running.

In addition to initial training, conducting follow-up training will ensure you and your employees stay updated on evolving cyberthreats and new protocols. If your employees work remotely, your cybersecurity training should include information relevant to working from home.

Secure your WiFi

Securing your business’s WiFi can help prevent cybersecurity threats, as hackers often access confidential information over wireless networks. Secure wireless connections are protected by passwords, while unsecured connections can be accessed by anyone in range of the router. You should always create your own, unique WiFi username and password instead of using default information that other people may have access to. If your small business offers free WiFi to your clients or customers, it’s a good idea to create a public access point that is separate from the private and secure access point used by employees.

If your employees work remotely, provide them with information on how they can secure their home WiFi, like making sure their router has a firewall. Using a VPN for your small business can also provide an extra level of protection. VPNs establish a secure and encrypted connection to the internet, protecting any data you send. They also hide your IP address which makes it more difficult for cybercriminals to track your online activity.

Group of employees work together in an open office plan.

Final words

Following these cybersecurity tips can help protect your small business from costly cyberattacks. Cybersecurity threats can lead to financial losses and customer distrust when sensitive information gets in the wrong hands. Small businesses face many unique cybersecurity challenges, but you can avoid common pitfalls by training employees and implementing a strong cybersecurity policy. Explore other CenturyLink articles to learn more tips and strategies for your small business.

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