With all the recent cyber attacks, large corporations are all too aware of the threat the internet and technology can pose. However, large corporations are not the only businesses that need to implement online and technological security measures. Small businesses and startups are increasingly becoming targets for cyber attacks. This is likely because they usually have poorer or fewer security features in place than large businesses. A major reason for this deficiency of security is the cost. Decent security features can be too expensive for startups or small businesses. That being said, there are many affordable things that you, as a small business owner, can do to protect your business.
1. Practice Proper Password Habits
You’ve probably heard this piece of advice more times than you care to remember. Even so, it is still the most important (and easiest) way to protect your small business. Passwords serve as your first line of defense against security breaches, so you should be using them in the correct manner. Luckily, it does not cost anything to use passwords in the right way. Proper password habits include:
- Never using obvious passwords such as “admin” or “password”
- Never using personal information passwords such as your birthday, your loved ones’ names or your home address
- Never using the same password for different accounts
- Never sharing your passwords with other people
- Creating passwords that are at least eight characters long
- Creating passwords from a combination of numbers, uppercase letters, lowercase letters and symbols
- Creating passphrases
- Changing your passwords regularly
Given how complicated all those tips can make your passwords, it is worth making use of a password manager to help you manage all your passwords. This is especially useful if your business has many different online accounts. While you will need to pay for certain password managers, you can download and use some for free.
In addition to practicing proper habits, you may want to consider using two-factor authentication wherever possible. Two-factor authentication for online accounts is an access control that only allows a user to access an account after providing two pieces of information, usually a password and a one-time pin (OTP). Many online accounts offer two-factor authentication, including email accounts and bank accounts. It is free and adds another layer of security.
2. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a type of network technology that constructs a secure connection over an existing public network, such as the internet. A VPN secures your computer’s internet connection to ensure that all the data you send and receive is encrypted. This will prevent hackers from accessing and fraudulently using your business’s sensitive data.
Major corporations already make use of VPNs to protect their data. Contrary to what you might believe, not all VPNs are prohibitively expensive. This VPN review from Secure Thoughts will help you select the best VPN for your needs at the best price. Spending a small amount of money now might end up saving your entire business in the long run. A VPN will also protect any personal data your clients send to you, such as credit card details. If your business suffers a data breach and your clients’ data is exposed, they can take legal action against you. This is enough to crush a startup.
3. Use Security Software
Security software is another vital part of proper online security because it can help protect your small business from cyberattacks. There are two main pieces of security software that your business needs. The first is anti-virus software. There are a number of anti-virus products that are available for free, such as Avast Free Antivirus. Techradar has a review that will help you choose one that suits you.
The second piece of security software your business needs is a firewall. This is software (or sometimes hardware) that filters what goes into your computer from the internet. It stops things like viruses and hackers from getting into your system. There are quite a few free firewall products you can download, such as ZoneAlarm Free Firewall.
4. Back Up Regularly
Backing up data regularly is a security tip that is often forgotten, but it is crucial. Even though it might seem to be a pointless exercise, it isn’t. If your business’s computer is stolen or breaks, you need to be able to recover all the data. Recovering data without a backup can be a very pricey task.
You can back up your business’s data using a free product, such as EaseUS Todo Backup Free. You can back up all your data to a free file-hosting service such as Dropbox. However, keep in mind that you need to set the software to back up your data automatically regularly or you need to do it yourself regularly. Regular backups are definitely preferable to sporadic backups.
5. Other Affordable Security Practices
There are many other security practices that you can use to protect your business, and many of them are inexpensive or even free. So implement the following additional security measures to add extra layers of security:
- Consult a security expert (this is usually more affordable than hiring a permanent employee)
- Reset passwords on new devices that come with standard passwords (such as routers and any other Internet of Things devices)
- Log out of any accounts you are not busy using (your blog, online banking, email, social media)
- Switch the internet off when you are not using it
- Update all your software regularly and set up automatic updates where possible (your operating system, bookkeeping software, security software, etc.)
- Keep up to date with new internet scams such as phishing and spear phishing
- Don’t click on suspicious links
All of these security tips for startups and small businesses are important and affordable, so there is no excuse to neglect security. Your business is too valuable for that.
These are by no means the only affordable security tips for small businesses and startups. Do you have any others? Please let us know in the comments section below.