The internet has become an invaluable tool for small businesses, opening the door to a wide range of previously unheard-of possibilities. Unfortunately, as e-commerce continues to grow, so does the number of bad actors looking to exploit hard working entrepreneurs. Cybercrime is on the rise. According to RiskRecon, data breaches at small businesses globally in 2020 and 2021 increased by 152% when compared to the previous two years.
Cyberattacks cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars each year, and new threats emerge every day. Whether due to lack of time, funding, or other resources, small business owners are in a uniquely vulnerable position. A 2021 study conducted by IBM found that more than half of small businesses had experienced a cyberattack in the previous year, and yet only 50% had a cybersecurity plan in place at the beginning of 2022.
The good news is there are ways you can protect your business and employees from cyberattacks. The SBA and its resource partners are committed to helping you stay prepared and proactive in the event that cybercriminals target your business.
- Train your employees. Employees are a leading cause of data breaches, and should be your first line of defense against cyberattacks. Establishing basic security practices and policies is a must. Employees should maintain strong passwords; avoid suspicious files, downloads, and phishing emails; protect vendor and customer information; and follow all other company-related internet use guidelines. As a business owner you have a variety of trainings at your fingertips:
- Install antivirus software and keep it updated. With untold numbers of viruses and other malware circulating the internet, few things are as important as having the right digital safeguards. Antivirus software and antispyware are readily available and can protect your operating systems, web browsers, and other applications from unseen threats, especially when updated regularly. Such software is accessible through a variety of vendors.
- Secure your networks. Cybercriminals use private networks to gain access to sensitive data. You can fortify your internet connection by using a firewall and encrypting your information. If you have a Wi-Fi network, as many small businesses do, you can set up your wireless access point (WAP) or router so that it does not broadcast the network name, otherwise known as the Service Set Identifier (SSID). Using a password to protect access to the router adds another layer of protection.
- Back up all critical business data. You never want to find yourself in a position where you’re one cyberattack away from losing valuable data. That is why files such as Word docs, spreadsheets, and financial records should be backed up. Make them available off-site or via the cloud should your physical business location become compromised.
It is important to know what you’re facing. Learn about common cyber threats, understand where your business is vulnerable, and take steps to mitigate your risk. Whether it’s via initiatives like the Cybersecurity for Small Business Pilot Program or partnerships with Small Business Development Centers, SCORE, Women’s Business Centers, Community Navigators and Veteran Business Opportunity Centers, helping your small business stay cyber-safe is a priority of the SBA. Visit sba.gov/cybersecurity to learn more.