You may think that because you’re not a huge corporation, no one is trying to steal your data.
But unfortunately, you’d be wrong.
Reports indicate that 43% of all cyberattacks are directed at small businesses, while the cost of data breaches in South Africa, regardless of size, has grown to R40 million in 2020.
No matter the size of your operation, you need to work to prevent data breaches and their implications.
After all, it’s the safety of your business and your clients at stake.
Keep reading to learn more about data breaches, why small businesses are especially vulnerable, and how you can make sure that your company does not become a hacker’s next target.
What is a Data Breach?
A data breach is a security incident in which unauthorized persons access information that is confidential, sensitive, or protected.
For a business, this includes personally identifiable information, such as the full names, phone numbers, home addresses, and ID numbers of your employees. As well as staff payroll information, banking details, financial records, and trade secrets, or protectable interests – such as product formulas, price structures, operating procedures, customer lists, etc.
Hackers use this data for a variety of reasons. For instance, perpetrating financial and credit card fraud, making fraudulent purchases, identity theft, corporate espionage, blackmail, extortion, further hacking, and more.
Why are Small Businesses a Common Target?
While a criminal may reap massive rewards from hacking into banks and large corporations, big companies often have extensive safety measures that make this exceptionally difficult.
Therefore, cybercriminals turn their attention to small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) instead.
Most SMBs don’t invest in cybersecurity measures, making them the easiest targets due to weak digital infrastructure and a lack of expertise.
Additionally, SMBs have a harder time detecting a breach once it occurs. This gives hackers enough opportunity to cover their digital footprints well before any investigation takes place.
And then too, SMBs lack the financial means of hiring cybersecurity investigators, let alone engaging in a lengthy legal battle even if the hackers are eventually caught.
With this in mind, SMBs are an appetizing prospect for data theft.
5 Effective Ways to Prevent Data Breaches
Now that we understand the risk of data breaches, it’s time to learn how to prevent them.
While you certainly don’t need to pour hundreds of thousands of Rands into data breach prevention, there are some simple yet effective tips that almost every SMB can implement:
(1) Do Not Procrastinate System & Software Updates
Operating Systems and software applications, like Windows 10 and Google Chrome, are constantly updating their security measures on their own.
These updates and patches work to fix bugs and vulnerabilities to keep on top of the ever-changing attack methods of cybercriminals.
However, you will not reap the benefits of these upgrades if you constantly hit ‘remind me later’ when prompted to update. While waiting for an update can be inconvenient, dealing with a data breach is undoubtedly more troubling for your business.
An easy alternative is having a managed IT services company handle software updates for you.
This way, they can ensure all company devices are secure and updates can be scheduled for a time that doesn’t impact employee productivity.
(2) Utilize (Paid) Anti-Virus Software
Although it may seem obvious, anti-virus software works wonders in protecting your data and digital infrastructure. Malware is the oldest and one of the most popular tactics hackers use to mess with IT systems, but a good anti-virus can protect your IT systems pretty effectively.
Even if you don’t have a massive IT budget, a basic anti-virus from a reputable provider can dramatically reduce the likelihood of suffering from a cyberattack. At the same time though, never opt for a free version. They lack important features – such as password management and device coverage – which are essentials for business cybersecurity.
(3) Create a Plan for Mobile Devices
If you and your employees use mobile devices to access confidential data, it may complicate your protection efforts. For example, employees receiving work emails containing invoices or financial spreadsheets on their smartphone or tablet.
It’s best to require mobile users to password-protect their devices, install security and password apps for their mailbox, as well as regularly backup and encrypt the device itself. For protection on public Wi-Fi, such as in airports or conference centers, set up a business VPN so company data is always encrypted as it travels between the employee’s device and your company server.
Check out our article on How an Insecure Mailbox Can Cost You R100k
(4) Keep Your Wi-Fi Secure
Whilst it’s usually the case, hackers don’t have to be across the world to steal your data. Wi-Fi is just one gateway for disgruntled employees, local competitors, or any bad actors from stealing your data when physically nearby.
Make sure that your office Wi-Fi network is hidden, encrypted, and secure. Don’t broadcast the network name of your Wi-Fi, and ensure your router is regularly updated to the latest firmware software and physically located behind lock and key.
Along with a secure password, set up a Network Access Control (NAC) system. With it, users can only be added to the Wi-Fi network manually. And when an employee leaves, use NAC to ensure their personal devices are thereafter blocked from your network.
(Fortunately, NAC is built-in with most modern routers; You just need to configure it first.)
(5) Educate Your Staff
In South Africa, IBM found that 26% of malicious data breaches in the country were due to human error. Whilst a global study by Kaspersky found that SMBs were most frequently affected by data breaches because of inappropriate IT resource use by their employees.
When it comes to keeping your data and technology secure, many hackers make their way into business systems through the negligence or genuine mistakes of employees.
For fundamental protection, limit the access to information, and the ability to install software to only employees who absolutely need those privileges to perform the duties of their job.
It’s also a good idea to implement a policy to determine which websites are acceptable to visit while using work computers and which one’s employees should avoid.
Phishing emails are another simple thing you can teach your staff how to spot. These emails often pretend to come from a reputable source, such as a bank and ask a staff member to click on a malicious link that could bring data thieves into your system.
To get started with educating employees, try these free cybersecurity training resources for SMBs.
Invest in the Right IT Support to Give You One Less Thing to Worry About
Outsourcing your IT support to the right team of cybersecurity experts will help ensure that your data is as safe as possible.
At iSite Computers, we work with SMBs in South Africa to put in place systems to keep your technology safe. We’re experts at designing, building, and maintaining the best IT setup for companies who care about protecting their data and bottom line.