How Do Small Businesses Prevent Security Breaches?

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The National Cyber Security Center in Colorado Springs (a new non-profit) helps organizations recover from network security breaches. In a very recent story published in The Gazette, they reported that two small and mid-sized businesses had suffered, respectively, a serious phishing attack and an intrusion launched from a business partner's hacked network. The companies in question were delighted to receive help after the fact, but with network insecurity such as it is, why wait until a disaster strikes before hardening your own network against cyber criminals? With IT partner services and tools available, no organization should remain an easy target for cyber crime.

Part of the problem small businesses face is lack of understanding in how many parts of their network are vulnerable or what the solutions could be. An IT provider can help. Without coming onboard as an expensive in-house technology department, a provider will help with the following security gaps to keep a company's systems and data secure.

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Log-in Authentication

A simple password system will no longer do. To foil password guessing and brute-force password cracking, log-in requirements should include two- or three-factor validation. For instance, every user would have a strong password with capitals, numbers and symbols, a user ID separate from their user names and possibly a security question to answer. Multi-stage authentication processes are extremely tough to crack - even for seasoned criminals. 

Educate Staff on Security Hygiene

A trained IT provider can also teach the staff how to identify and avoid email and website phishing scams. As in the case in Colorado Springs, an employee had opened an email asking for sensitive information. The email closely resembled the same structure used by a certain government agency. Because the employee trusted the message, the phisher succeeded in collecting important information with which to enter the network at will. By educating users on phishing scams and common behaviors that can compromise your network, quite a bit of damage can be thwarted from the outset.

Limiting Surfing Options

Since a large part of small business administration occurs on computers connected to the internet, employees will eventually engage in some break time surfing. With insufficient security in place, these diversionary jaunts can invite criminals to follow the employee home to your network. While you might insist that no personal surfing occur from your computers, for the sake of morale, you could simply let your IT provider's software block access to suspect websites.

End-to-End Encryption

As other business mentioned in The Gazette article learned, when your network interacts with those of your partners in the supply chain, if you aren't protected, your network can be breached from an insecure portal. However, keeping your data encrypted as you exchange information outside your own walls shuts the door on cyber villains. 

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Firewalls and Anti-Malware Software

Erecting strong firewalls along with installing highly-effective security software is a lot like having intrusion sentries posted at your physical doors. They detect and shut down cyber criminals at the gates. Your cyber protection team will keep your software updated and patched and your network scanned regularly. 

Data Backup

While a professional IT service provider will be well worth its fee, sometimes human error can still leave a chink in your security armor and an organization can still lose data. Your provider will perform regular data backup procedures so if the unthinkable should occur, your data can be restored quickly and you can return to normal operations with almost no downtime.

Monitoring

One of the best elements of an outsourced IT partnership is that much of what they do can happen offsite. With secure portals, your provider can monitor your enterprise's network in real time and head off security threats without disrupting your workflow.

Small and mid-sized businesses may think cyber security is too expensive or believe their consumer anti-virus program will keep them out of harm's way. However, cyber criminals pursue smaller businesses because they are frequently easy targets due to lax security protocols. With an IT team dedicated to educating your staff and setting up a proactive strategy while offering steady, hands-on security attention, you gain both safety and peace of mind that can fit easily into your budget.

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