So you just started a business. You might even have a few team members, and you’re thrilled — you’re finally following your dream in a very real way. You know from your last job that you need to protect your data; you need a security plan of some kind. But how does a small business network security plan differ from the plan of a big corporation? You can’t afford to hire a full-on IT team, but you know that network security for small businesses is still just as essential — 43% of cyber attacks target small businesses, after all. You might not be Facebook or Google, but your clients still care about their privacy — and you certainly couldn’t afford the $3.92 million average cost of a hack. It could drown you — in fact, over half of small businesses that experience a data breach shut down within six months.
So how do you even begin?
Ultimately, the more security measures you can put in place, the better. But when you’re just starting out, the plethora of options and advice can seem daunting. We all have to start somewhere, and some steps can make more of a difference than others. That’s why it’s essential to make sure you’re strategic. It’s time to make a plan — and you can start with these four powerful steps.
Your Small Business Network Security Plan
- Use a Private Network. This is perhaps the simplest and most essential step for any business of any size. If you’re working with sensitive data, you need a private network. Not only does the public network open you up to attacks and hacks, but without a private network that you manage, you won’t be able to monitor your data, manage granular access for your team and contractors, or securely share files. A private network makes all of this simple and accessible, and most importantly, makes it much more difficult for hackers to access any of your information.
- Use 2FA. Once you’ve got a private network, your team will need to access it. That’s where 2FA comes in: two-factor authentication. This means that if a hacker gains access to someone’s login information, they won’t be able to simply slide into your network. Two-factor authentication requires (you guessed it) TWO factors to approve all logins. This usually means a certification on a specific device, or a unique code sent at the time of login, or even biometric data. Whichever 2FA you choose, that extra layer of security means hackers won’t be able to simply guess their way into your network — and your data will be that much more secure. Passwords these days are some of the most vulnerable and dangerous security tools; don’t rely on them to keep your network secure.
- Educate yourself and your team. Education is one of the most underutilized network security strategies, especially in small teams. When the sentiment towards security is lax because ‘we’re too small to hack,’ you’re not only wrong — you’re providing opportunities for malicious actors to take advantage of your ignorance. Does your team know how to spot a phishing attack? Do they know how to use a personal VPN? Do they know who can see their IP address, or how their online habits could put your company at risk? The more you know, the more personally invested and capable you and your team will be — and the safer your data will remain.
- Don’t Store Data You Don’t Need. This seems simple enough, but it’s a grossly neglected strategy in companies large and small. If there’s no system to regularly erase data you don’t need, it builds up — mailing lists, financial data and even old company plans are all stored somewhere online. When you face your first attack, that data is exposed — so the less data there is to expose, the better. Make sure you perform regular information audits to delete any data you don’t need, both for your customer’s protection and your own.
As you grow, you’ll need to make sure your network security plan grows with you — someday, you’ll need to actually hire a CISO. But when you first start out, if your resources are limited you can focus on these four steps to get your small business network security plan started. Keep building, and keep creating — just make sure you keep it secure.