By Rieva Lesonsky
Has your small business ever been the victim of a “hack attack”? Mine has. When hackers got into our website a few years ago, we were fortunate we didn’t lose any sensitive customer or financial data. However, we did lose hours and hours of time, as well as money spent on IT services to get our site up and running again.
According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, cybercrime costs businesses worldwide some $400 billion annually. A study from Gartner predicts the financial impact of cybercrime will grow 10 percent per year through 2016 as new technologies, such as cloud computing and mobile devices, create new vulnerabilities for businesses.
And if you think you don’t have to worry about hack attacks because your business is small, think again. In fact, small businesses are more vulnerable than big ones to cyber crime, because they often lack the in-house IT staff and time to keep their networks secure.
Cyber attacks that can impact your business include viruses that affect your network or website; email problems such as phishing scams, spam and malware; and the accidental leakage or deliberate theft of sensitive data. How can you protect your business? Take these steps:
1. Develop IT policies. Draft guidelines for yourself, your employees and anyone you share information with, such as customers and clients. It should include rules for what type of software can be downloaded onto a work computer, use of social media and accessing outside websites. Be sure to require strong password protections and have employees change passwords regularly.
2. Keep your systems updated. Consistently updating your business’s systems and applications with the latest security patches is an easy step that makes a big difference. You can set applications to update automatically for peace of mind. Install virus protection programs on all company computers and devices.
3. Back it up. I can’t stress often enough the importance of regularly backing up your data. There are a variety of cloud services that offer secure, online backup, working in the background of your computer so it doesn’t disturb your work. (Added bonus: Since your data is stored offsite in the cloud, it’s safe from natural disasters, too.)
4. Protect yourself. Investigate business insurance that can protect your company in the event of a data loss or breach of sensitive information. The right type of insurance can ensure a cyber attack doesn’t destroy your small business.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at email@example.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.