The 2021 Life Jacket for Cyber Attacks At Small Businesses

There’s no point in denying the truth. Cyberattacks are on the rise, and this upward trajectory won’t abate soon. Even corporate behemoths, like Facebook and Marriott International, were hit with cybercriminal attacks over the past few months. While smaller businesses may seem like less appealing targets to criminals, they’re still just as at risk.

It’s tempting to think that cyberattacks aren’t something that your small business really needs to concern itself with.

Unfortunately, this is a dangerous misconception.

Research shows that a hefty 41% of small businesses surveyed have been struck by a devastating digital attack sometime over the past year.

Why Smaller Businesses are Prime Targets for Hackers

As a small business owner, there’s probably no need to tell you how busy you are. Startup entrepreneurs almost always have their hands full. Because of this, many delegate cybersecurity to the bottom of their to-do lists as a result.

Unfortunately, hackers have smartened up to this fact. Many now view small businesses as prime targets, as most of them don’t have the resources or knowledge they need to protect themselves.

This is compounded by the fact that many small businesses still aren’t taking cyber threats seriously. Research shows that 37% of them don’t have cybersecurity plans in place, and 40% would have no idea who to contact if an attack did take place.

The hard truth is that even if you have all the right programs, protocols, and technologies in place to protect your business, in many cases, it still won’t be possible to stop a breach. This is why you need a strategic response plan. You need to get the situation under control while minimizing its impacts on your company, your customers, and their personal data.

Here’s your 2021 life jacket for cyber attacks and a guide to how to respond quickly, proactively, and intelligently to threats.

How to Respond Immediately to a Cyber Attack 

It’s Better to be Safe Than Sorry

Build your cyberattack response plan according to these guidelines to safeguard your small business against threats.

  • Sharpen your knowledge. It’s crucial to act with speed after an attack takes place. You need to be able to find out what caused the breach, how to rectify the issue, and how to ensure that it cannot happen again.

You may not have this experience as a small business owner, so align yourself with IT and cybersecurity experts who can handle the basics and provide you with the information you need.

  • Take legal matters into account. The introduction of GDPR privacy laws last year included certain guidelines about how to handle data breaches.

They stipulate you must immediately inform your Information Commissioner’s Office about the breach in order to guard your company against claims of malpractice. Have a lawyer ready to provide support as soon as you become aware of an attack.

  • Keep your customers informed. Depending on your industry, your customer base, and the scale of an attack, you could be dealing with an avalanche of concerned consumers if cyber criminals strike. Create a plan for handling these communications efficiently across numerous channels like email, social media, and telephone.

Your communication with customers about breaches needs to be personal and authentic, but there is some information you may need to keep private. Consult with your legal adviser as to what you should and shouldn’t tell your customers after a security breach.

  • Train your staff well. It’s no use training your staff on how to handle cyberattacks after they’ve occurred. This training needs to happen before a breach strikes so that your employees are fully equipped to handle the problem as it takes hold.

Train your staff about proper personal security practices and cybersecurity comprehension. Then, hold regular refresher sessions to drive the message home. Instruct your staff to keep their passwords private and unpredictable and to never share their professional login details with others. They must also always report suspicious emails and links instead of clicking on them and risking your business’s precious data.

How to Protect Your Business from Future Attacks

It’s far easier to put preventative measures in place than it is to deal with the aftermath of a devastating cybercriminal attack.

Put these measures in place to protect your small business from attacks and prevent the financial and organizational turmoil that they can generate.

1. Insure Yourself

If your crime-related fears come to pass, we guarantee that you’ll be grateful for having a specialist cyber insurance policy already in place. These policies can vary widely. It’s important to seek expert advice regarding the right options for your needs and how these options could change over time.

Some insurance carriers offer immediate response plans for cybersecurity breaches. Others offer in-house forensic security experts and financial compensation to cover any losses you may incur. Do your research and find a plan that covers you and your company adequately.

2. Earmark Sensitive Information

It’s a good idea to have a clear idea of what information your business stores is sensitive and what is not. The personal details and credit card information of your customers will obviously be favored by criminals. But depending on your sector, there could be other data that puts you at risk.

3. Put Technological Safeguards in Place

There are plenty of different technological tools and programs you can use to protect your website and your business systems against intrusion. Consider setting up a web application firewall, installing antivirus and anti-malware software on your employees’ computers, and utilizing cloud-based accounting software, like Freshbooks.

Ensure that your eCommerce site is PCI-DSS Level 1 compliant and that limited access permissions are enforced, with only employees who require access to software, programs, and data granted it.

These measures will protect you against online data security network breaches that target your payment network instead of a single bank card. If you have a dedicated hosting company, check that they have staff on board to regularly patch security vulnerabilities. If not, it might be time to move to a more secure web hosting service.

4. Secure Your Business Hardware

There’s a huge amount of focus on digital data breaches today. But the reality is that physical property theft can lead to data breaches too. Your business’s laptops, PCs, mobile phones, electronic equipment, and servers need to be secured to safeguard them against theft.

Install alarms and security cameras at your physical premises, and lock down computers and servers if you can.

5. Hire a Security Expert

There’s no shame in admitting that you need specialist guidance to protect your small business against cyber attacks. If your budget allows it, we highly recommend hiring an outside security expert to evaluate your risk areas and guard your data and property, both in the real world and online.

It’s important to be scrupulous with the company you choose to entrust with your data, so do your research and find a security agency that you can bank on, no matter what may come.

6. Back Up Your Data

Backing up your business’s most important data is very important if you want to protect it against threats of all shapes and sizes. Your data is the backbone of your company, and if an invasion strikes, it’s crucial that you’re able to recover it. If you can’t, you risk losing your customer, employee, financial and operational records forever.

Most modern businesses choose to back their data up to the cloud, as many cloud-based storage services offer additional layers of security to lock out threats. You can also save your backups to an external hard drive. But be aware that physical hard drives are prone to theft and destruction due to natural disasters and other unexpected occurrences.

7. Educate Your Staff

We’ve mentioned this previously, but it’s possibly one of the most important steps you can take to protect your business against outside threats. A huge percentage of cyber criminals gain access to business systems through the unwitting actions and errors of employees, and it only takes one mistake to open up a window of opportunity for them.

Educating your team can be as simple as reminding them not to open suspicious attachments, sending them refreshers on procedures for securing and encrypting sensitive and personal information, and asking them to change their passwords regularly.

Simple measures like these can go a long way in ensuring that criminals don’t find the chance to attack that they’ve been waiting for.

Be Proactive, Not Reactive

The age of the internet has brought about dozens of exciting new prospects for small businesses. Unfortunately, with these prospects have come the risks of cyberattacks and data theft.

You can’t enjoy the many opportunities the online world has to offer without facing the risks. But you can safeguard your business against them and ensure that you know exactly how to react should a breach take place.

At the end of the day, the best way to curb cybercriminals is to stay one step ahead of them at all times. Put a variety of proven proactive measures in place, and you will be able to minimize the negative impacts of a cybersecurity breach on your company, your employees, and your customers, regardless of its scale.