6 Tips to Protect Your Business, Employees, And Customers From Cybercrimes

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You may consider it unlikely that cybercrime will affect your business. However, the number of enterprises falling prey to attacks is increasing. According to a 2018 report by Hiscox, 47% of small businesses reported one cyber-attack over the course of a year. Of these, 44% reported more than one. The same report found that cyber-attacks cost small businesses an average of $34,604. This increased to $1.05 million for large enterprises. 

The other significant cost of a cyber attack is customer loyalty. Compromising customers’ data can lead to an immediate loss of trust, and decisions to spend elsewhere. In a study by Ponemon and IBM, organizations that lost less than 1% of their customers due to a data breach reported an average loss of $2.8 million.

These aren’t figures that anyone wants to gamble with. It’s crucial to take measures to ensure the cyber safety of your business, staff, and customers. We’ve outlined six steps you can take toward a more cyber-secure future.

1. Be prepared

Knowledge is your greatest asset when it comes to tackling cybercrime. Start by performing a thorough risk analysis. This should identify and examine areas of your business that might be at risk. From here, you can learn of any major risks, and identify the correct tools to reduce and react to them.

In the event of a cyber-attack, having a plan in place is crucial to mitigating costs. According to the Ponemon report mentioned earlier, it takes on average 197 days to identify an attack. After this, the average time to contain an attack is 69 days. This is a costly delay. Companies that contained a breach in less than 30 days saved over $1 million, compared to those which took longer.

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2. Prioritize education

The security of your employees and their information should be a top priority, but don’t forget that your employees could unintentionally cause breaches without adequate training. Increased use of mobile devices means any individual with access to company data could be a touchpoint for cybercriminals.

According to a 2020 report from Cybersecurity Insiders, 66% of businesses expect increased security threats due to working from home. Home networks could be easier to compromise than devices in the workplace, leaving your online data open to attack. To avoid these risks, employees working from home need to install a firewall on their home network. You can encourage compliance by providing firewall software and support.

We may think we can tell the difference between genuine emails and phishing scams. However, the FBI reported 11 times more phishing complaints in 2020 than in 2016. The cybercrime landscape is advancing every day, foiling even those of us who think we’re aware of scams. It’s important to ensure employees have regular training, which could help them to identify new attacks.

3. Invest in security tools

Whatever the size of your business, security is one area where you can’t afford to cut costs. According to the Flexera 2021 State of Tech Spend Report, 50% of organizations cited cybersecurity as a top initiative for IT spending. 

Invest in software that can detect and neutralize malware before your system is hacked. One simple but crucial line of defense is a firewall. This provides a barrier between your data and those who wish to access it. Consider both an external and internal firewall to increase your level of protection.

The right tools can keep you one step ahead. Just as cybercrime is getting more advanced, top security systems are constantly updating their databases to eliminate threats as soon as they’re identified.

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4. Back up data

Ransomware is a cyber-attack in which criminals access your data. They then threaten to publish it or permanently deny access to it, unless you pay a ransom. Ensure these threats have no hold over you by securely backing up your data. Start with the most essential data – that is, anything without which your business could no longer function – and work outward until all your information is saved in multiple places.

It’s best to create two backups for increased security: One on a physical hard drive, which can be kept in a separate location, and another on the cloud. The cloud allows for constant backups via automated processes, ensuring you can recover your most recent data.

Of course, it’s important to ensure that your customers’ data is stored securely, especially when backed up on the cloud. Write a data protection statement, informing your customers of how their data will be stored and used, and allowing them to consent to this before submitting their details. This is not unlike the “calls may be recorded” disclosure on customer service phone lines, and is key to maintaining a trusting relationship.

5. Protect the cloud

While the cloud’s automatic backups are a benefit to the security-savvy business owner, saving data to the cloud incurs the risk of that server being compromised. It’s crucial to shop carefully for a service provider, ensuring they have a plan in place for regulatory and internal data compliance. This protection should be specific to the requirements of your industry and protect both your business and your customers.

You also need to ensure your cloud server uses encryption. This makes it impossible for those without proper authentication to access private data by storing it in code. Increase internal security by educating employees on cloud data security best practices, such as using strong passwords and two-factor authentication.

6. Protect your calls

Most businesses now make and receive calls via Voice over IP services. This means that spoken conversations could fall prey to the same attacks as written data without proper safeguarding. 

Combat this by ensuring your VoIP service and server message block (SMB) feature encryption at several points. Set your VoIP calls via a VPN or virtual private network. This will add another layer of protection by making the portals opened by calls virtually untraceable.

Modern VoIP routers have a feature called network address translation (NAT). This provides a private IP address for devices using the service. These addresses can only be viewed by users in the same LAN (local area network), rendering cybercriminals unable to remotely manipulate them.

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Stay a step ahead

The unfortunate truth is that cybercrime isn’t going anywhere. As security experts eliminate one threat, another springs up in its place. If you feel overwhelmed, you’re not alone: The aforementioned Hiscox report found that 66% of small businesses felt extremely worried about cybersecurity risk.  

However, with the right tools and processes in place, you can rest assured that you, your employees, and your customers are prepared in case of the worst.

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