Cyber criminals love a good holiday spree! In the midst of 2013’s holiday shopping season, they stole the personal data of more than 70 million Target customers. Around the same time, a data breach at Neiman Marcus compromised the credit and debit card information of more than 1 million customers.
These particular crimes involved large retailers and a website that reportedly earns more than $14 million in profits each year, but if you think your company is too small to be an attractive target, you’re wrong. A 2012 investigative study into data breaches found that 71 percent occur in businesses with 100 or fewer employees. And according to cyber security company McAfee, almost 90 percent of small and medium-sized U.S. businesses don’t use any form of data protection.
Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to prevent the theft of your small business data—and much of it won’t cost you a dime. Consider the following suggestions:
- Protect every computer with appropriate software – Install an antivirus and antispyware program on every computer connected to the Internet or your internal network. This includes any laptops you allow to connect wirelessly.
- Install software updates promptly – When software vendors discover vulnerabilities in their products, they release updates with fixes that prevent cyber criminals from exploiting them. Configure each computer to download and install such updates automatically.
- Secure your Wi-Fi network – Require a password for Wi-Fi access. For even more protection, hide your Wi-Fi network by configuring the wireless access point or router to prevent broadcasting of the network name.
- Secure computers and network components – Require passwords for login on all office computers, and change those passwords regularly. Keep your network server in a locked location, and lock up any laptop computers when not in use.
- Establish cyber security rules – Teach your employees what they need to do to protect your small business data. Create and document clear guidelines for computer, network, database, email and Internet usage as well as penalties for violating those guidelines.
According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, cybercrime costs our nation $100 billion each year. Implement the suggestions above and minimize your chances of contributing to that statistic. For additional financial protection, talk to your insurance professional about a comprehensive coverage package that includes cybercrime.