Like it or not, small businesses don’t slip under scammers’ radar. They’re perceived as easy targets that lack the IT security budget of a Fortune 500 company — overall unprepared to face today’s sophisticated email phishing, spoofing attacks, and credit card fraud.
But just because your organization is smaller doesn’t mean you can’t protect it. Here are five ways to keep your customers, email users, and IT systems safe without breaking the bank.
1. Pay attention to the basics
Yes, email scams continue to evolve, but social engineering tactics and the warning signs of email fraud have remained the same over time no matter company size. For instance, beware:
Nonbranded business email addresses
Virtually anyone can set up an email account like [email protected] with a free service provider. For that reason, it also means that anyone can try deceiving you into revealing customer data using these addresses.
Poorly drafted communications
Have you received a message with grammar mistakes, formatting errors, and generic greetings? That smells phishy. Legitimate senders care about business reputation and make sure their email communications are proofread and displaying correctly.
Urgent calls to action
Scammers know the clock is ticking until they’re detected, so they put a lot of pressure on recipients to reveal data or complete other tasks asap with urgent requests like “do this now or service will be disrupted.”
2. Make cybersecurity a hot topic
You can raise security awareness in your business without having your staff attending expensive training programs. You may, instead, start curating news about recent data leaks affecting customer data and discuss what went wrong and how incidents could have been prevented in a simple internal newsletter or even chat discussion. You may also run DIY phishing simulations, sending test emails to employees and assess how likely they are to fall into a trap.
3. Set up security policies
Cybercriminals like to impersonate trustable sources — typically decision makers or a long-term customer — and use email as a disguise to make believable fraudulent requests. You can stop scams like these by creating policies and processes that require, for example, your staff to follow up via phone or face-to-face whenever money or confidential data is involved. Someone legitimate won’t have a problem with that, while fraudsters will insist to communicate via email only or walk away not to compromise their identity.
4. Encourage scam and breach reporting
How do scammers boost their odds of making money or stealing confidential data? They carry out attacks on a large scale. So if you spot a fraudulent email, always remember that you’re probably not the only one who has been targeted.
Alert others immediately, and make sure that everyone in the business do so as well to prevent customer data loss and avoid financial damages. For reporting to happen in practice, however, it’s important that employees feel comfortable speaking up without being afraid of retaliation even if they were the victim of a fraud.
5. Use email security technology
There is a growing number of free or affordable software that small businesses can work with to flag suspicious messages and senders. Useful features of these tools and solutions include:
– Domain blacklisting, blocking all email coming from addresses known to carry out fraud
– Spam filters, with rules to stop communications that contain phishy keywords, excessive punctuation, and unsafe URLs
– Content scanning to identify viruses, spyware, ransomware and other corrupted attachments
– Spoofed email address detection, telling recipients when they never interacted with a specific sender in the past
All in all, smaller organizations may not have a five- or six-figure IT security budget, but that doesn’t mean they can’t outsmart scammers. You can combine email security awareness, policies, and technology in multiple ways and tackle email fraud without spending a lot of money.