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Ask SCORE: Protecting your small business from hackers

While data breaches at big companies like Target, The Home Depot and Sony get a lot of press, small businesses are also at risk. And because small companies don’t typically have the financial resources, technical support, or processes in place to lock down data as effectively as larger firms, they are arguably at greater risk.

The threats are very real and growing for all companies — not just large corporations. According to Symantec’s 2016 Internet Threat Report, 65% of spear-phishing attacks (a type of targeted cyberattack that involves sending fraudulent email messages to obtain confidential information) in 2015 were aimed at small and mid-size businesses.

Cybercriminals often look at attacking less-protected small companies as a gateway for attacking larger companies with which the small businesses have relationships.

Getting hacked can cause a plethora of problems, including:

» inconvenience;

» lost productivity;

» additional costs (to make corrections to your system to remove the threat and prevent future successful attacks);

» liability (if customers’ confidential data is compromised); and

» damage to your brand’s reputation.

Although hackers have become extremely sophisticated and efficient in their methods, you do have ways to help prevent your small business from falling prey to them.

For starters, educate yourself:

» The Small Business Administration offers a free online Cybersecurity for Small Businesses course. It covers topics such as identifying information that should be secured, identifying types of cyber threats, best practices for guarding against cyber threats and more.

» The Federal Communications Commission also offers information and resources to help small-business owners learn how to protect themselves from cyber threats. You can even get started creating your own customized cybersecurity plan through the website’s Small Biz Cyber Planner 2.0 tool.

Other ways to increase your cybersecurity include:

» Using anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-malware software for protection and keeping your computers’ software up to date.

Preventing unauthorized use of your computers, mobile devices and networks by protecting them with passwords and securing them in a safe place when unattended.

» Securing your Wi-Fi network. Configure your access point or router so it won’t broadcast your network name (SSID), and require that users need to have your password to access your Wi-Fi.

» Using strong, unique passwords for all of your online accounts. Consider using a password management tool that stores and encrypts your unique password info. These programs make it easier to manage using random, complex passwords because you can authorize them to automatically fill in your info or automatically log you into accounts. They alleviate the worry of remembering individual passwords every time you need to log in on a site.

For more ways to minimize the risk of getting hacked by cybercriminals, talk with a knowledgeable information technology professional who understands the security needs of small businesses. Also consider reaching out to your local SCORE chapter for guidance. SCORE mentors have wide-reaching expertise and experience in helping small businesses face challenges and grow their companies.


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