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Managing a Business, Security & Privacy

Is your business making these 5 cybersecurity mistakes?

As new entrepreneurs rush to launch their businesses and capitalize on current trends, they can often neglect the security basics and leave themselves vulnerable. As a new small business owner, what cybersecurity mistakes should you avoid, and are there any that you’re already making? 

While you may believe that small businesses are not targeted as often as large corporations, this isn’t true. Your business revenue may be smaller, but attackers can still infiltrate your network to retrieve sensitive client and partner details.

In this article, we will explore five cybersecurity mistakes your small business might be making. 

Why cybersecurity is important for small businesses

Protecting your clients and customers is just as important as protecting your financial data or banking details. Negligent businesses who suffer data breaches can be fined and charged under laws and standards such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). 

This can result in a hit to your business’s reputation and finances. In fact, 60% of small businesses close within six months of suffering a cyberattack and/or data breach.

What are some of the cybersecurity mistakes your small business may be making?  

1. Prioritizing cybersecurity last

As a business owner, you must be proactive when it comes to cybersecurity. This means keeping cybersecurity at the forefront of your mind when establishing your IT and network infrastructure. You must research which territories and regulations your business will be subject to. Then you must exhaustively study all documents, guidelines, and materials related to these data regulations and restrictions.

This will give you an idea of what tools, protocols, and practices to implement as you’re planning and building your IT infrastructure. 

For instance, when creating a checkout flow for your e-commerce store, always remember: 

  • Do not store unnecessary personally identifiable information (PII).
  • Hold on to information for only as long as it satisfies business requirements.
  • Do not use PII unnecessarily.

Additionally, you should ensure anyone who works with you or helps you with your website follows good security practices. Ultimately, “security first” should be your business’s mantra.   

2. Failing to implement sensible access control

Insider threats don’t just impact large companies. They can also present a security risk to small companies. 

It may be tempting for business owners to grant website support staff and freelancers access to all elements of a website or e-commerce data. This is a big no-no. Everyone should only receive the access that’s necessary to perform their tasks. They should not have full administrative access to clients or servers.

Chicken with checklist reviewing padlock

3. Being lax on passwords

This goes together with the last point. There’s no point in using authentication tools if they’re weak and can be bypassed. Using weak passwords such as ‘password123’ is no different from failing to have one at all. 

When you implement password-based authentication, force unique and strong passwords for yourself and anyone who has access to your digital assets. 

Some common password rules include:

  • Force unique complex passwords above a certain length (7) with a mixture of lower case, upper case, special and numerical characters, and avoid using simple dictionary words as passwords. This will ensure that your passwords are guarded against brute-force attacks. 
  • Store and encrypt passwords securely.
  • Protect against password or authentication bypass by adding two-factor authentication.
  • Protect against brute force attacks by implementing a profile/credential lock/block when a user has entered their password incorrectly too many times (three most commonly).

4. Failing to use comprehensive encryption

Passwords aren’t the only information that must be encrypted. Sensitive business data such as user personally identifiable information (PII) and financial records should not just be encrypted upon being stored. The channels they are transmitted through should be encrypted too. Sensitive data must be kept secure throughout its lifecycle. 

Your company should use industry-tested and accepted methods to encrypt data. Furthermore, you should check your configurations and backups routinely. This will ensure the integrity of the data and its encryption.

5. Failing to implement secure remote access to your network

You must secure remote access to your network, especially if you plan to hire remote workers and freelancers. If your company provides remote access to employees, you must ensure that those access points are secure.

Each device that connects remotely creates potential entry points for security threats. As such, it’s important to ensure endpoint security. This means forcing each device that connects to your network to comply with the specific security requirements of your company before it can have access to your network. 

Practice good security to avoid costly downtime      

Of course, these aren’t the only cybersecurity blind spots your business’s IT infrastructure may be harboring. For instance, failing to segment your network and failing to routinely monitor for new vulnerabilities may also leave you at risk. Your company should also restrict connections to certain IP addresses and ports on your network and place a time limit for how long remote devices can access certain network resources. 

But ensuring you aren’t making the above five security mistakes we’ve covered here today will ensure your small business is much better protected against today’s cyber criminals than most other small businesses are. 

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Gary Stevens avatar

Gary Stevens

Gary Stevens is a web developer and technology writer. He's a part-time blockchain geek and a volunteer working for the Ethereum foundation as well as an active Github contributor. More articles written by Gary.

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