Don’t Let a Cyber Grinch Steal Your Christmas: Cybersecurity Tips for Small Businesses

By Robert Boyanovsky, AT&T Small Business VP/GM

A hacker attack happens every 32 seconds.

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3 billion phishing emails go out every day.

A ransomware attack hits every 11 seconds.

Don’t be a statistic. Cybercrime is big business. But the bad guys don’t just target big companies. I’ve even fallen prey to it. I bought a car through a legitimate website only to find out the lender I paid was fictitious, and the car wasn’t for sale. That was a costly experience, but not as costly as cybercrime can be for a small business. 60 percent of small businesses hit by a cyberattack shut down for good within 6 months.    

All businesses need to be on guard for cybercrime year-round. But threats skyrocketduring the holiday shopping season, putting small businesses at even greater risk. Cybercriminals love this time of year. There’s lots of online shopping (and some of it’s done on company computers). Lots of data to steal. And lots of opportunities to bring businesses to their knees.

With Small Business Saturday helping to kick off the holiday shopping season, we hope you’ll keep these cybersecurity tips top of mind. After all, there’s no greater gift than peace of mind.

Create a cybersecurity policy.

54% of small businesses don’t have a cybersecurity plan in place. Yet, small businesses are the #1 target for cybersecurity breaches. Every business needs to have security protocols in place to prevent cyberattacks. Work with a managed service provider or cybersecurity consultant to learn about the risks associated with your specific industry. Then, develop a comprehensive plan to prevent attacks. Once you’ve created your policy, train your employees about cyber threats. Employees and emails are a leading cause of data breaches for small businesses. And with the average cost of a cyberattack at $120,000, you can’t afford not to educate your employees on the risks.

Be aware of the most common cybersecurity threats.

AT&T created a website – AT&T Cyber Aware – just for this purpose. Phishing. Malware. Ransomware. Viruses. These are some of the most common types of cyberattacks carried out by fraudsters. In fact, phishing scams were among the top 3 cybercrimes in 2020Phishing is a method of identity theft. Scammers use fake emails and messages to “fish” for information. These fake messages look real, but link to fake websites that request personal information. When you’re not sure of an email, check for these warning signs. Some of these fake emails may also invade your computer with malware or a virus. For example, ransomware is a type of malware that locks up a computer system until you pay a ransom.

Secure your networks.

Safeguard your internet connection by using a firewall and encrypting information. If you have a Wi-Fi network, make sure the network is secure and hidden. To do this, set up the router so it doesn’t broadcast your network name. And be sure to password-protect access to the router. Network security services help protect and connect users, data, and apps on-site, remotely, or in the cloud.

Use antivirus software and keep it updated.

Make sure to equip all your business computers with antivirus software and antispyware. And annoying as the reminders to update your software may be, they are a critical part of your cybersecurity. These updates provide patches to software vulnerabilities that hackers will take advantage of. You can find antivirus and antispyware online from various vendors.

Enforce strong password policies and implement multifactor authentication.

One of the easiest ways to help improve your cybersecurity is to use strong, unique passwords. And be sure to use different passwords for your different accounts. Strong passwords include long phrases or passwords that contain a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. In addition to using strong passwords, consider requiring strong multifactor authentication. This requires additional information, such as a security code sent to your phone, to log in.

And for a stocking stuffer…

We’ve created  a free cybersecurity and protection playbook with small to mid-sized businesses in mind. This playbook will help you assess your risks and make a cost-effective plan.

Remember, it’s not the size of your business that determines your cybersecurity threat. It’s how well you’re prepared.