Cyber Security for Small Business Owners

 

It is scary out there! The more you know about cyber security, the more scared you become... I have spent time with professionals, government officials, and just regular folks, and they all share a common perspective:
Our businesses can never be entirely secure from a cyber attack. So, what’s a small business owner to do? Your best. It is all you can do, and it will go a long way to making you and your business safer.

The Internet came into being as a set of “open” technologies that enabled connections between different computer systems. Prior to that, computers were isolated, like huge calculators. Over the past few decades, the connections have made it possible for an explosion of creative innovation meeting technology. Open technology now spans from e-commerce websites that offer same-day delivery, to the mobile phone in your hand that can turn on the lights in your office. But the very openness that first fostered collaboration at little startups like Google and Amazon, is now at the core of our vulnerability to abuse and attack.

Every complex system has vulnerabilities, and it is impossibly expensive to try and defend all of them, which of course makes them vulnerable to a cyber attack. The attackers, on the other hand, have vast arrays of what are essentially digital lock-picking tools and online weapons with global reach and at very low costs. Criminals are difficult to identify and often impossible to prosecute because they can launch attacks from anywhere in the world.  

The single easiest way to get your business cyber-compromised is through your personal email and social media accounts. Gmail, Yahoo, Facebook, and just about every financial bank are prime targets for attackers-- and they are getting attacked all the time. If you are like most people, you don’t even know where the locks are for your digital life. Do you use the same password on more than one site? Yikes! Is your password the name of someone in your life, or a birthday? Uh oh! Do you know what 2-Factor Authentication is? No? Well, it is time to find out.

Don’t be afraid- get motivated! Cover your butt and at least make sure that you aren’t making yourself or your business a prime target for cyber attack. When you leave home, you probably lock your door. The first step to protecting yourself from a cyber attack, is taking safety into your own hands. Below are some simple ways to start protecting yourself and your business:

  • Use a password manager, like 1Password or LastPass. Some of the browsers allow you to store passwords securely, too.

  • Don’t reuse passwords! Sooner or later, some site you have an account at will get hacked, and you don’t want the attackers to suddenly be able to log into ALL of your sites. They will try, believe me.

  • Don’t make up your own passwords. The point of a good password manager is that it will generate random passwords that an attacker can not easily guess, and the password manager will remember the passwords for you. Much safer than the name of your dog and the year that you got her.

  • Learn about Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) and turn it on for every site that you use. This means that whenever you login from a new device, the website will require more than just your password to login, such as sending a text message to your mobile phone with a special code. Should an attacker get a hold of your login, a 2FA will prevent the attacker from being able to log into your account, because they don’t also have access to your mobile phone to receive the special code. That Is the second factor in 2FA.

At the end of the day, you don’t have to be faster than the lion. You just don’t want to be the slowest gazelle. This list is just the bare minimum of starting points, but if you start taking these steps towards protecting yourself and your business from a cyber attack, you will be way ahead of the pack. Get scared, get motivated, get smart! There is a lot you can do, and the time to get started is today!

For more info on these topics, see:

Password Managers:

2FA:

Password tester: