Cyber-attack stories are all over the news with large companies seemingly the only victim. Large companies are often hit; however, don't let the headlines lull you into thinking it just happens to the big guys. Cyber-attacks hit both small and large companies alike, with many NH small businesses under siege as well.
What is a Cyber Attack?
If you go on-line to search the definition of a cyber attack, you will find many definitions, with the general definition from Wikipedia being a cyber attack is any type of offensive maneuver employed by nation-states, individuals, groups or organizations that targets computer systems by various means of malicious acts usually originating from an anonymous source that either steals, alters or destroys a specified target by hacking into a susceptible system. The question is- does your business have a "susceptible system?"
What are the Chances of My NH Small Business Being Attacked?
According to a report published by the National Cybersecurity Institute, 50% of small to medium sized business have been the victims of a cyber attack and more than 60% of those attacked, go out of business.
If you have a small business in New Hampshire, here are some steps you can take to protect your business from this very real threat.
How Do You Protect a NH Small Business from a Cyber Attack?
Keep Software Up-To-Date
Updating software is a simple step that can stop many cyber attacks. Cyber criminals frequently target specific weaknesses they find in software programs (e.g. operating systems, internet browsers or apps). Once their initial attack is launched, the company that developed the vulnerable program is immediately made aware of the weakness -- and the issue is usually promptly addressed through a patch or update.
Thus, keeping all your business’ software up-to-date will help prevent lots of older cyber attacks. This step alone might not stop a brand-new attack, but it’ll likely keep an attack that was launched a couple years ago from affecting your business.
Use Effective Passwords
Passwords are a primary defense against hackers and other cyber criminals, which is why it’s important for all employees to use effective passwords. Effective passwords generally:
- Are fairly long
- Contain a combination of lowercase letters, uppercase letters, numbers, and special characters
- Are changed periodically and anytime there’s a potential problem
Additionally, employees should use different passwords for work accounts than they do for personal accounts. Cyber criminals will sometimes steal an employee’s login information from a site or app with weak security, and try to log into a more secure site with that information. Having employees use different passwords for different accounts can help prevent criminals from taking advantage of this tactic.
Don’t Use Public Wi-Fi for Work
Public Wi-Fi hotspots are convenient, but the present potential security issues. Anyone can read anything that’s sent over open Wi-Fi -- which may include sensitive data or login information if your business’ employees are using these hotspots.
To protect your New Hampshire business from the threats posed by public Wi-Fi, create an official policy that prohibits using open Wi-Fi connections for work. Follow this up by offering employees who sometimes need public Wi-Fi connections, such as employees whose jobs take them out of town, with 4G connections for their devices. Paying a monthly fee for a secure internet connection via a provider’s cell network might not be ideal, but it costs a lot less than recovering from a cyber attack could.
Use the Phone When Appropriate
Many companies guard against cyber attacks by employing two-factor verification, and this is an extremely effective technique that any small business in NH can use. In most cases, two-factor verification involves entering a password and then another piece of information (e.g. a PIN) before being granted access to a site. Businesses don’t have to use two online verification steps, though. Another great resource is the old-fashioned phone.
If you or an employee is ever suspicious about an email, request, or some other online interaction, pick up the phone and call the other party. Rather than using email to confirm details or information, talk over the phone with an actual person who can verify the suspect request or interaction. You’ll be using the phone as the second factor, and few methods are better at preventing cyber attacks than conversing on the phone.
Additionally, most people won’t mind a phone call when you explain that you’re simply trying to verify their request. In fact, many people will appreciate the extra effort your New Hampshire business puts forth.
Get Cyber Insurance
No matter how many safeguards you put in place to protect your New Hampshire business from a potential cyber attack, it’s still important to get cyber insurance. The possibility of a cyber attack can’t be completely eliminated. A cyber liability insurance policy may help protect your company if it ever is successfully targeted by a covered cyber attack.
With cyber insurance, your small business could be one of the 40 percent of businesses that survive an attack. An independent insurance agent, like HPM Insurance, can help find a cyber liability insurance for your New Hampshire business.