7 Ways Small Businesses Can Protect Against Cybercrime
Small businesses are prime targets for cybercrime. Learn how to care professionals can protect themselves.
Did you know that businesses with fewer than 100 employees suffer a loss of about $155,000 every year due to online fraud, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE)? And of small businesses that fall victim to cybercrime, nearly two-thirds are forced to close their doors within six months.
Small-business owners may assume they’re invincible to Internet threats, figuring hackers are looking for bigger fish to fry. But nearly half of cybercrime targets small businesses. In fact, small businesses are actually more likely to suffer from fraud than larger corporations.
Don't let a false sense of security prevent you from taking the necessary steps to protect your business.
The following seven tips can help you protect your business from the most common forms of cybercrime and fraud on the Internet.
- Create Strong Online Passwords
Something as simple as creating a unique password can help to significantly boost the level of protection for your company. Joe Ferrara, president and CEO of Wombat Security Technologies, emphasizes the importance of creating separate passwords for every online activity, including online banking, emailing and purchasing online.
"If you use the same password across all of these activities and a cyber-criminal steals it, they will have access to all of your accounts," he says. Create a password that has a varied combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols.
- Be Wary of All Links in Emails
Just because you receive an email from a friend or colleague doesn't automatically mean attachments or links are safe to click. Cyber hackers have the means to gather email addresses from social networks and send them to you, making them look legitimate. The safest approach is to apply a “when in doubt, check it out” strategy of verifying links -- even those apparently sent by friends and family members, Ferrara says.
Read about How Technology Can Help Small Businesses
- Make Sure Disk Encryption is in Place for Sensitive Information
Any sensitive data, such as Social Security Numbers, should be protected through disk encryption technology, which converts the information into unreadable code to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information. And certain types of information, such as customer payment credit card details, should never be stored locally -- retained in a page on a web browser -- unless totally necessary, according to Jeff Cherrington, VP of product management/marketing at Prime Factors, a data security company.
- Require Customers to Enter a Card Verification Value (CVV) for Payments or Purchases
These three-digit codes are found on the back of a physical credit card and can help prevent a plethora of fraudulent purchases online. Janeesa Hollingshead, digital brand manager for 2Checkout, recommends all businesses require customers to provide this information before a purchase is complete. "These codes are only available on physical cards, which means someone who has only stolen credit card numbers cannot provide the CVV and complete a fraudulent purchase," she says.
- And Be Careful with Your Own Cards and Accounts
The same way you take care with customers’ account information, be judicious about how you’re using your own bank accounts and credit cards. Separate your personal and business cards, and create a guideline for business spending, including how you’ll make your payments. Check your receipts and account activity regularly, so you can quickly identify any fraudulent activity.
- Be Wary of Public Wi-Fi Networks
If you travel for business or client meetings, then you've probably used public Wi-Fi networks. Unfortunately, public Internet connections can make your sensitive information vulnerable to lurking hackers. Peter Olson, a former police detective and head of WiredBlue, is adamant about avoiding the use of public Wi-Fi. "Don't do work on open Wi-Fi networks [and] use a VPN if you are doing anything you would not want someone to have access to,” he says. VPNs, or virtual private networks, are a protection measure that secure Internet connections and data sent to and from computers that are networked together but not necessarily in the same physical location.
- Protect Your Infrastructure
It goes without saying, but all business owners should be protecting their networks and data by investing in a firewall, as well as the latest anti-virus, malware and spyware detection programs from major providers like MacAfee or Bitdefender.
Brenda Barron is a mother and writer. Her work has appeared in numerous online outlets and she loves offering tips and tricks for other parents. She also enjoys knitting and watching Doctor Who. Find out more about her at Digital Inkwell .