Cyber security – essentials for small businesses

Cyber security
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Cyber security is one of those issues that small business owners can be reluctant to tackle. The whole subject can seem too complicated or technical, and so it is tempting to leave it to one side and worry about it tomorrow. The problem is that tomorrow may be too late. Every single computer or device that is connected to the internet is under constant threat of attack from hackers. They either want to steal your data, or cause damage to your business. You wouldn’t leave the door of your shop or office unlocked at night. The security of your valuable data is just as important as the physical security of your stock and premises. Your customers will also want to be reassured that you are handling their data safely.

Larger businesses usually have an IT department, who take care of cyber security issues. Small businesses do not usually have the luxury of a dedicated IT expert. Luckily, there are a few simple steps that you can take to enhance cyber security in your business, they are all pretty straightforward. In other words, you don’t need to be a boffin or a computer geek to implement them. You can also get your business certified under a government scheme, the Cyber Essentials Certificate. This certificate may be essential in order to do work for the government, and will certainly reassure your customers that you take cyber security seriously.

Ensure your internet connection is secure

Any electronic device that is connected to the outside world via the internet is open to attack. You need to put in place a buffer zone between your computer and the internet. Any incoming contact will come into the buffer zone, and it can then be checked to ensure it is safe to allow in. The usual way of doing this is to install a firewall.

If you have a simple IT setup, consisting of just a few computers or devices, you can install a firewall on each individual unit. There is usually a firewall already available within each device’s operating system, if so, you simply need to enable it.

If your IT setup is rather more complicated, you may wish to have a firewall surrounding the whole of the network. In this case, it may be a good idea to call in some professional help to ensure you get the right product set up in the best possible way.

Set your cyber security settings to maximum

If you buy a new computer or some new software, the default security settings will be set to be as open as possible. This is done so that it is easy to get everything connected and up and running quickly. However, it can also make it easier for hackers to access your precious data. Once you have done all the setup work, it is advisable to check if there are any ways you can enhance security by switching off functions that you don’t need.

Always use passwords wherever possible, and never leave the default password in place. You need a password that you can easily remember, but one that someone else won’t easily guess. Don’t write passwords down. If your device has touch ID capability, or allows you to add a PIN, use it.

Only give data access to authorised users

For your own protection, and for the protection of your employees, it is crucial that data can only be accessed by the people who need it to perform their role. Tight access control means that valuable information will be harder to steal. In the event of a data breach, the fewer people who were given access, the easier it will be to investigate the loss. It is also better for any other (innocent) parties not to have to come under suspicion.

Use anti-virus and anti-malware software

Virus and malware attacks are more frequent, and increasingly sophisticated. Protect your system with the best available software, and ensure you keep it up to date.

Keep everything up to date

Change is the only constant in life. You need to keep all business IT equipment and software up to date.

Manufacturers continually issue operating system and software updates in order to address issues, and counter the latest cyber threats. Ideally, set your devices to update automatically. This works well unless you have a slow internet connection and automatic updates slow down your computer. If you don’t use auto update, you will need to keep an eye out for any that come in, and install them as soon as possible.

Hardware has a limited lifespan too, so if you are using elderly IT equipment and devices, it may be worth considering replacements. Newer devices operate more quickly, and tend to be more secure in use.


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