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Karen Cohen

By: Karen Cohen on October 07, 2023

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18 Essential Cybersecurity Tips To Secure Small Businesses

Cybersecurity | IT Support | Information Security

With the proliferation of technology comes a steady increase in cyber incidents. With the global average cost of a data incident this year approaching $4.5 million, keeping data safe is critical to the success of every business.

If you are a business or IT leader of a small organization and are wondering what you can do to secure your data, devices, and infrastructure, this article is for you!

At Kelser, we work with small businesses across a variety of industries. We aren’t writing this article to convince you to work with us, but to share the firsthand information we’ve gathered from our partnerships with businesses like yours during our 40 years in business.

In this article, I’ll provide 18 essential cybersecurity tips you can use to secure your business, devices, infrastructure, and data.

Implement These 18 Cybersecurity Tips To Keep Your Small Business Safe

Cyber threats continue to evolve. Here are 18 things you can do to keep your small business safe:

1. Lock Up

It’s important to not only secure your data center, but also your devices.

It only takes seconds for someone to gain access to sensitive customer or company information on your device or drop a malicious payload on the network when you are logged in and leave your computer unattended.

So even when you just step away for a short time, make sure to lock your computer. The few seconds it will take to log back in is well worth the protection locking your computer offers.

Related article: Why Should I Lock My Work Computer And How Does It Protect My Company?

2. Limit Access

We’ve discussed the importance of limiting physical access, but restricting electronic access is equally important.

Small organizations are often less likely to limit access to information. But, when you think about it, does your financial organization need access to your engineering designs or manufacturing processes and machining tools?

Use a balanced approach that allows access to the tools and systems people need to do their jobs, while protecting your most sensitive information from prying eyes. It only takes one person with malicious intent (and easy access) to wreak havoc on your entire organization.

Related article: What Is Role-Based Access? (Benefits For IT & Users)

3. Use MFA

Multifactor authentication requires multiple pieces of identification before allowing access to a resource. Whether it’s a combination of username, password and biometric (such as an eye scan or fingerprint), or another blend of identifiers, MFA helps ensure that only authorized users gain access.

Related article: 4 Security (& Other) Benefits of Multi-Factor Authentication For Business IT

4. Back Up Data

The best defense against a cyber incident is taking proactive measures. These include backing up your data often and making sure you know how to access it. Backups are valuable tools that allow you to revert to the most recent uncontaminated files quickly in the event of an incident.

So, make sure that you not only back up your data regularly, but that you know how to quickly access the most recent back up in an emergency.

Related article: Data Backups Are Key To Disaster Recovery

5. Provide Security Awareness Training

One of the most cost-effective (and under used) cybersecurity tools is employee security awareness training.

By keeping employees informed about existing and emerging cyber threats and providing tools to report suspicious activities, you empower them to act as a human firewall and contribute to the overall security of your business.

Related article: Employee Security Awareness Training: An Honest Cost-Benefit Analysis

6. Update Systems & Software

Software and system updates are provided to enhance efficiency and to plug security gaps.

Updates are issued often and should be implemented quickly. If an update has been issued it means that before the updates are installed, your systems are vulnerable to attack. Make installing updates a priority!

Related article: Why Do I Need To Patch & Update Business Software & Operating Systems?

7. Develop A Plan

The common thinking in cybersecurity circles today is that it’s not a question of if, but when a given organization will fall victim to a cyber incident.

Again, the best defense is a proactive approach. Develop a plan that will guide you during a crisis. By thinking ahead, you will have the time to develop a strategic plan rather than responding in crisis mode.

Developing this plan will also help you identify potential areas of vulnerability or gaps, limit the damage of an incident, and allow you to remediate quickly and effectively.

You’ll also have the time to spot areas where you can improve your processes and protections before you need them.

Related article: 10 Steps To Include In Your IT Disaster Recovery Plan

8. Add Layers

When implementing cybersecurity tools, think layers.

Think about how you protect your body from the cold. Every layer of clothing is warm, but when you combine different types of material, and weight, you get more complete coverage. The same principle holds true for cybersecurity tools.

Every tool you implement enhances the security of your devices and network. While tools like firewalls, MFA, and password managers (see below) are a good start, one layer of cybersecurity protection is no longer enough for most organizations.

Related article: Firewalls: What You Need To Know (Function, Features, Capabilities)

9. Monitor Systems & Networks

Proactive monitoring can alert you to suspicious activity on your network, allowing for quicker response to unauthorized access, and remediation of threats. There are a variety of automated tools and systems that can provide real-time monitoring of your IT environment.

10. Assess Risk & Take Action

For years, cyber criminals targeted large, international organizations, but as those companies invested large sums of money to upgrade their cyber defenses, smaller businesses have become easier targets.

Use tools like vulnerability scans and penetration tests to identify potential vulnerabilities. And, be honest about your risk. Some industries have higher risk than others, but every organization has risk.

But don’t stop there! The real value comes when you use the information from the risk assessment to develop a prioritized plan to plug the gaps.   

Related article: What's The Difference Between A Vulnerability Scan & Penetration Test?

11. Consider Password Managers

As complex passwords have become the norm, many organizations have implemented password managers.

Password managers securely save passwords for websites and applications and store them in a vault that can be accessed with one secure password.

Related article: 3 Advantages And Disadvantages Of Password Managers

12. Use Antivirus & Anti-Malware Software

Antivirus software protects against viruses and other known malicious software like ransomware and spyware.

Anti-malware is a proactive tool that scans networks and data for new threats that can penetrate antivirus software. It constantly tracks programs.  It tracks exactly what’s running where and when across your endpoints, sending alerts if a program suddenly turns malicious, containing and remediating it.

Related article: What Is Ransomware? How Does It Work? How To Avoid It

13. Encrypt Information

Encryption scrambles data to help protect information from hackers or other unauthorized people. A decryption key (which can consist of a password or series of numbers) is required to decode the data when it arrives at its destination.

Encryption helps businesses that store or transmit sensitive information keep the data safe.  

Related article: What Is Email Encryption? Does It Keep Business Communication Secure?

14. Use a DNS-based Web Filtering Solution

Domain Name Services (DNS) identify web addresses.

DNS-based web-filtering protection tools block malicious websites at the network or endpoint device level and ensure that the address you think you are going to is legitimate and hasn’t been compromised before you get there.

15. Protect Internal Wi-Fi Networks

Wired equivalent privacy (WEP) offers some encryption, but most businesses today have embraced wireless protected access (WPA) technology as the industry’s best-in-class encryption option.

And establish a separate guest Wi-Fi network. Allowing guests to access your organization’s Wi-Fi is a serious security risk. Many routers and networks provide straightforward options for establishing separate guest Wi-Fi networks and it is not usually difficult.

And don’t forget to password protect all internal networks.

Related article: Does My Business Need A Separate Guest Wi-Fi Network?

16. Implement Mobile Device Management (MDM)

MDM allows your mobile devices to be remotely configured, monitored, supported, controlled, and secured. MDM is primarily used to track and lock down devices in specific ways or configure mobile devices for a specific need. 

For example, if a device is stolen or lost it can be remotely wiped, making it unusable and keeping the data stored on it safe.

Related article: What Is Mobile Device Management (MDM)? How Does It Benefit Businesses?

17. Establish A Virtual Private Network (VPN)

A VPN establishes a virtual point-to-point connection allowing data to travel unseen and unchanged through a private tunnel. It also protects the integrity of the data, ensuring that it remains unchanged in transit.

Related article: What Is A Virtual Private Network (VPN)? Does My Business Need One?

18. Cybersecurity Liability Insurance

Cyber liability insurance is the latest tool for protecting your organization from the damage that can be caused by a cyber incident. While it can be viewed as reactive, the process of establishing coverage before you experience an event is actually a proactive step. And, it is quickly becoming a contractual requirement.

Related article: Cyber Liability Insurance: What Is It? Why Is It Important?

What’s The Bottom Line?

Cybersecurity can be overwhelming. After reading this article, you have 18 actions you can take, putting you ahead of the curve.

You may have an internal IT person to implement some of these items, but many small enterprises lack the internal staff to handle the day-to-day technical needs of users and implement proactive solutions. Don’t let that stop you!

There are many qualified external IT service providers that can help. If you decide to explore external support, check out several providers so that you find one that is a good fit.

Read this article to learn criteria you can use to select the right IT provider. And, don’t worry, we won’t try to convince you to work with us. The truth is that we’d rather help you find the right provider for you even though we realize this means you might not end up working with us.

While we offer a comprehensive managed IT solution and work with businesses across a variety of industries, we know that managed IT isn’t the right solution for everyone. Instead, we focus our efforts on providing information business leaders can use to make the right technology decisions for their organizations.

If there comes a time when you want to talk with a human, we’d welcome the opportunity to learn about your business, your goals, and your technology pain points because we may be a good fit to work together.

We’re here if you want to start a conversation. Just click the button below and we’ll schedule a 15-minute chat at your convenience.

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About Karen Cohen

Karen brings unending curiosity to her role as Kelser's Content Manager. If you have a question, she wants to know the answer.

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