Small business cyber security

Protect yourself today: Practical steps small businesses can take to protect against cyber security threats

With the ever-growing number of cyber security threats, all businesses should take immediate steps to ensure that their operations, systems and networks are secure. In the July/August issue, we looked at some of the threats facing small businesses. Now, let’s discuss steps that every small business should consider immediately.

Below are four inexpensive steps that will provide some immediate protection from cyber security threats for any business. These are four steps of many, but they provide a good starting point.

Michael Ramage is the Associate Director of the Center for Telecommunications Systems Management at Murray State University.

Michael Ramage is the Associate Director of the Center for Telecommunications Systems Management at Murray State University.

  • Anti-Virus Software — An essential step that every business should consider is software to help keep its systems clean of viruses and malware. Having a clean computer is vital to a secure network. Several anti-virus software options are available, some even for free.  Choose an option that provides real-time monitoring.
  • Password Usage — A basic requirement that is often overlooked by organizations is the use of passwords. First of all, use them. Every computer, no matter how insignificant, should require a password to log on. Complex passwords should be used if possible. The SANS Institute (www.sans.org) provides tips on security and password usage, such as not mixing personal and business passwords.
  • Employee Training  — Employees are the first line of defense in cyber security protection. Many security attacks could be prevented with proper security awareness training. This should include the do’s and don’ts of Internet and cyber security. Examples would include proper password usage, what information can be shared over the phone and how to protect customer information.
  • Regular Backups — Data loss happens all the time. Sometimes it is due to human error, sometimes to natural disasters. Other losses are due to malicious activity. Every business should create a regular backup schedule for its critical data and provide offsite storage. Ideally, a business should follow best practices. For example, if you back up to a system within the same building and your building burns down, then you lose your original data and your backup data.

These are just a few steps that small businesses should take immediately. In the November/December issue, we will discuss some longer-term measures small business should consider to protect their systems and information.