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Cybersecurity Essentials for Small Businesses

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Cybersecurity Essentials for Small Businesses

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: December 23, 2013 Updated: August 1, 2016

You may be hearing the term “cybersecurity” more frequently these days and wondering how it applies to your small business – if at all. It does. Cyber threats are an issue for everyone, and small businesses are becoming more common targets for such threats and crimes because they often have fewer preventative or responsive resources. So, what do you need to know? Here are some essentials as featured in one of our latest online trainings.

What is cybersecurity?

With the help of technology and best practices, cybersecurity is the effort to protect computers, programs, networks and data from attack and damage.

Why is cybersecurity so important?

Consider all the information you have that needs to be secure:

  • Personal information for employees
  • Partner information
  • Sensitive information for customers/clients
  • Financial and sensitive business information

It’s essential to do your part to keep these details safe and out of the hands of those who could use your data to compromise you, your employees and the foundation of your small business. Think it can’t happen to you? Think again:

  • CNN reports nearly half of the data breaches that Verizon recorded in 2012 took place in companies with less than 1,000 employees.
  • A Symantec report showed that 31% of all attacks in 2012 happened to businesses that had less than 250 employees.
  • A different Symantec report showed cyber attacks were up 81% in 2011.

What are common cyber threats and crimes?

There’s a broad range of information security threats. Some of the most common include website tampering, data theft, denial-of-service attacks and malicious code and viruses.

  • Website tampering: Website tampering can take many forms, including defacing your website, hacking your system and compromising webpages to allow invisible code that will try to download spyware onto your device.
  • Data theft: Data theft can come in various forms, and the problems that come with it depend on what kind of data is stolen. Some examples include:
    • Theft of computer files
    • Theft of laptops, computers and devices
    • Interception of emails
    • Identity theft
  • Denial-of-service attacks: A denial-of-service attack happens on a computer or website and locks the computer and/or crashes the system with which you’re working. This results in stopped or slowed workflow and prevents communication. The ultimate goal of this kind of attack is to prevent you from conducting business with your internet-connected systems.
  • Malicious code and viruses: These threats are sent over the internet and aim to find and send your files; find and delete critical data; or lock your computer or system. They can hide in programs or documents and make copies of themselves – all without your knowledge.

What can I do to protect my business? 

The first step to protecting the information in your business is to establish comprehensive security policies – and keep them up to date. Make sure your employees know and adhere to your policies and best practices for internet, email and the desktop. Here are just a few to keep in mind:

  • Don’t respond to popup windows telling you to download drives
  • Don’t allow websites to install software on your device
  • Don’t reply to unsolicited emails
  • Use screen locks and shut off your computer at the end of the day

Ensure that your computer hardware and software are updated regularly on all devices throughout the company. Change passwords periodically and use firewalls to protect your systems. You should also consider backing up your data on a regular basis so that if anything is compromised, you have a copy.

Want to learn more about how to help make your business more cyber secure? Check out our self-paced online training course, “Cybersecurity for Small Businesses,” which features more tips and additional resources to help you along the way.

Related articles:

Do Small Businesses Need to Worry About Cyber Security?

About the Author:

Katie Murray

Contributor and Moderator

I am an author and moderator for the the SBA.gov Community. I'll share useful information for your entrepreneurial endeavors and help point you in the right direction to find other resources for your small business needs. Thanks for joining our online community here at SBA.gov!


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Great post. I would just like to add that potential customers are always to get themselves familiar with an open-source platform inherent flaws and keep up to date with the latest version of the software.
Cyber security is a requirement for all websites. Websites need to secure their data and information so that hackers can't access it. A lot of website owners seek the help of programmers and website creators to make of the security.
A must-read for all small-business owners.Often cyber security is overlooked and skipped upon on grounds of cost cutting but this cost-cutting could lead to cost-escalation in the long run. Do upgrade your firewalls and install good e-security. It is a must in today's digital world.
Glad you're finding this information helpful and informative! Thanks for the positive feedback. Best of luck with your business ventures!
The tragedy is that cyber thieves are like conventional thieves, they look for the easy hits most of the time. Reasonable efforts to obfuscate what you have and where along with some industry practices in tokenization, encryption, and network security would keep most small businesses out of trouble.
A lot of SMB say that "cybersecurity is too expensive, besides we're too small to bother with". Unfortunately, It's a case of "pay now, or pay a LOT later". Oh, and SMB are the target of choice among hackers...
This is such good information which will help not only my business but my clients as well. Securing your business information as well as your client information is imperative in this day and age!! Thanks for the information
Very good article.Thanks for making aware of cyber attacks that can be done on small businesses.I was expecting some more details on Do's and Don'ts,How to use the anti malware software for best results and so on.
As a dentist, I have plenty of data about my patients to protect and these are stored digitally. I've had security problems in the past and hope to protect the integrity of my practice. I constantly keep my antispyware programs updated and also run daily scans.


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