How to Secure Your Small Business Network
Small businesses may not be as attractive to hackers as larger corporations with far more private data and consumer identities to plunder, but don’t make the mistake of believing that you’re not susceptible to attack.
Just because small business data breaches don’t generate the same headlines as attacks on more prominent entities like Sony, Target, Anthem, and the U.S. government doesn’t mean they don’t occur with some frequency.
The only real difference is that most small businesses are woefully unprotected, making them easy targets. Naturally, you don’t have the same access to capital as your larger, corporate brethren, but you still have a responsibility to protect the sensitive data you’ve been entrusted with by employees, clients, and vendors.
If you’re looking to get your security in order and keep your business, your employees, and your customers safe from threats, here are a few tips to help you get started securing your small business network.
Start with the Basics
Most consumer model computers and devices come with a basic firewall already installed, but as a small business owner it behooves you to increase your security first and foremost by adding a more robust firewall. You should also make sure to install appropriate antivirus, anti-spyware, and anti-malware software. This is the bare minimum when it comes to protecting your network.
If you’re operating an online store or other web applications, then you should also get a web application firewall (WAF). You may even want to go a step further, though, by using some form of encryption for files housed on your network or for the purposes of secure transmission. You could also consider hiring a monitoring service to keep an eye out for suspicious activity and identify areas where you are most vulnerable to attack.
Hackers are always finding ways to get around network security features, which is why it’s so important to remain up-to-date. If you haven’t done so already, set up a weekly or monthly schedule to check for and update system software and firmware. Or see if you have the option to set up automatic updates so that you don’t have to run manual diagnostics as frequently.
One of the best ways to protect your network from outside incursion is to make sure that only approved individuals have access. This requires a system of passwords. You can ensure the best protection by requiring complex passwords, prompting users to change their passwords regularly, and encouraging them to keep passwords private. You may also want to look for additional protective features.
For example, some password programs will blank out both fields (username and password) when one is entered incorrectly. This way, hackers don’t know if they got both fields wrong or just the password. There’s no reason to help them by giving up any information that makes it easier for threats to get through your defenses.
If you want to allow employees, clients, vendors, and so on to access the network from outside, it’s a good idea to create a virtual private network (VPN). In addition to a password for login, this secure system generally requires some sort of additional authentication and provides encryption to protect any data being transmitted.
A VPN will also block access from potentially unsafe sources, like users operating on unprotected networks, for example. A VPN is especially important if you allow employees to telecommute, you hire for remote positions, or you regularly share data with clients.
Your security won’t do much good if employees are behaving unsafely where your network is concerned. Train them to create proper passwords, avoid potentially harmful emails, links, and websites, and generally act responsibly when using your business network. You might also want to apprise them of penalties for failing to act accordingly and thereby putting your network at risk.
Don’t forget, not all threats to your network security come from outside. It is therefor beneficial to adopt common sense policies such as removing access immediately for employees that have been fired, restricting access to sensitive data, tracking who is accessing data, and setting up alerts for suspicious activity.
As a small business owner, you may find securing your network to be a pricy and complex undertaking, but just consider how expensive and damaging a data breach could be and you’ll see that your efforts are worthwhile.