One manifestation of freedom is the privilege to be a small business owner. Freedom and independence allow small business owners to decide how their business will operate and grow, how it will be managed, who will be its target market, and how it’ll compete in the marketplace. As an independent business owner, you make your own decisions, and your business is free from outside control. This freedom is the hallmark of small business ownership.
But what happens when that business independence is taken away from you? What happens when something impinges on your ability to run your business as you see fit? Regulations, insufficient staff, financial risk, and time management issues are all part and parcel of the acceptable challenges that affect small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), but there’s also something far more nefarious, far more dangerous, and potentially far more damaging that can affect your business. It’s called cybercrime, and it can take away your business independence and freedom to operate as you choose.
A bullseye on their backs
Today cybercrime is the fastest growing crime in the US, with damages expected to reach $10.5 trillion worldwide by 2025. If measured as a country, cybercrime would be the world’s third-largest economy, right after the US and China. And the primary target of all that cybercrime is businesses. Businesses have the proverbial bullseye painted squarely on their backs, making cybercrime one of their biggest threats. Cyber attacks can damage and destroy data, cause financial loss, diminish productivity, steal intellectual property, and personal and financial data, hack data and systems, harm business reputations, and disrupt the ordinary course of business operations. Sometimes the attacks can even cause the permanent closure of a business; sixty percent go out of business within six months of falling victim to a data breach.
SMBs more vulnerable
Compounding the problem for SMBs is that they are more vulnerable compared to large enterprises. SMBs typically have less financial power to combat attacks, a minimal number of employees delegated to IT tasks, many without proper training, a lack of awareness about cyber threats and security issues, insufficient defenses, and a treasure trove of valuable data. Cybercriminals know all this; they’ve been paying attention. 43% of cyber attacks are aimed at SMBs.
So how can businesses protect their independence?
The bottom line is that, while navigating business growth, finances, and networking, small business owners must also protect their businesses’ data and systems. Implementing and enforcing the following cybersecurity best practices is where to start:
Install comprehensive endpoint security**.** Endpoint security will protect business networks and endpoints from cyber attacks and malicious activity.
Raise awareness**.** Knowledge and awareness is the best defense. Employees should be made aware of cyber threats and trained how to spot potential scams and avoid suspicious emails and links.
Implement proper password protocol**.** Good password hygiene offers excellent protection. Never share passwords, make all passwords unique, create passwords that are at least 12 characters long, and use a mix of uppercase and lowercase alphanumeric characters as well as special characters.
Keep software updated**.** Software updates often contain patches to known software vulnerabilities. Keeping your software updated patches those vulnerabilities.
Restrict employee access. Access to data and systems should be restricted and it should be granted to employees according to the role they have at your organization.
You’ve earned it; now you’ve got to protect it
In many ways, small business owners have a special reason to celebrate the 4th of July; small business ownership and the independence to operate and grow it is at the core of the American Dream. However, in today’s hyper-evolving cyber threat landscape, it’s not enough to just earn your business independence; you must constantly protect it too. By implementing and enforcing the cybersecurity measures listed above, business owners can help protect the business independence they’ve strived so hard to achieve.