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How can your small business stay protected from cybersecurity threats?

October marks National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, which is put on by the Department of Homeland Security. The organization’s end goal is to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity and to ensure all Americans have the resources they need to be safer and more secure online.

It’s timely, too. Cybersecurity has ascended to become one of the top issues for companies all over the world. A PricewaterhouseCoopers study in 2018 showed about 62% of global CEOs worry that cyber threats will affect their company’s growth prospects. Cybercriminals will steal an estimated 33 billion records in 2023, according to a 2018 study from Juniper Research. That compares to 12 billion records in 2018.

That same study found another staggering statistic: more than half of all data breaches globally will occur in the United States in 2023.

You don’t want to be one of those numbers. In honor of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, here are a few tips small business owners should know to keep their data safe.

Install antivirus software

This point may seem obvious, but perhaps that’s why it’s one of the most overlooked preventative measures. All of your business’s computers should be fitted with some type of antivirus or antispyware software and updated regularly.

There are plenty of vendors to choose from, and some of the larger providers, like Norton and McAfee, have cost-effective plans. You can ensure your programs are updated regularly by setting them to automatic updates.

While antivirus can’t prevent all cyberthreats, it will certainly help. And the software can alert you when your device has been affected.

Employee knowledge

Believe it or not, but your employees are actually one of the biggest threats to your systems. And an overwhelming majority of the time, their actions aren’t intentional — it’s naivety. All of your employees should be aware of common cybersecurity threats, like phishing, malware and more, so they can learn how to spot them and alert leadership.

The WannaCry ransomware bug that affected thousands of businesses worldwide a few years ago entered systems through a human factor. There are businesses dedicated to training employees about cyberthreats. Your company should also create technology-use guidelines to help employees understand what’s off limits on your business’ devices. 

Continuously update systems

There are thousands of potential bugs or exploits in your computer system that you likely have no idea about. But the companies who produce these devices do. Trust them, and don’t ignore those annoying update reminders that pop up every so often.

Yes, that pop up might come at a terrible time, but set it to remind you in an hour. These updates are crucial to keep your business and devices protected.

Back up your data

Backing up all of your devices is a great way to pre-empt any type of attack that might come your way. Ransomware attacks hold your data hostage until you pay a fee, and even then, they still might not return what you lost. If you have your data backed up somewhere, you don’t have to give into demands and will have an easier time getting back on track.  

You can purchase space through online cloud-based platforms or purchase large hard drives to hold your files. There are also a number of local companies that provide server or cloud-based data services.

Passwords and authentication

Strong passwords can go a long way to keep you protected. Make sure to use a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters with special characters, like !, #, $ or %. Having these types of passwords can be a pain to remember, but have a post-it note handy in a secure place to remind you in a time of need.

You can also set up your systems to change passwords every few months. That way your employees will have no choice but to update them frequently.

NAWBO Member Q&A: Loraine Hardin

Loraine Hardin is the founder of Hardin & Associates, a leadership development and training company that implements the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS). The EOS uses simple, practical tools to help companies accomplish what it calls vision, traction and healthy.

Hardin is a dedicated community member who serves on boards for the Young Women's Resource Center, NAWBO Iowa and CultureALL.

Can you take me through your personal background?

I grew up in an entrepreneurial family on a farm until I was 6. When my dad passed away, we moved to Webster City, Iowa. He passed away at an early age leaving my mom to raise two girls on her own without a high school education. She was amazing in that she showed me the value of hard work and taught me to believe anything is possible. I attended Iowa Central Community College for two years and then transferred to the University of Iowa, where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, finance. I spent about 23 years at Principal Financial in various leadership roles and business lines. I also worked at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage and Freedom Mortgage. All of these roles provided the background and experiences that allow me to serve my clients well today.  

What is your profession/business

In 2018, I decided to go back to my entrepreneurial roots and started my business, Hardin & Associates. I am an Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) Professional Implementer. I work with companies that have anywhere from 10 to 250 employees and where the leadership team is more afraid of the status quo than they are of change. I help teams get what they want from their businesses by:

  • Getting everyone 100% on the same page with where the company is going and how it will get there.
  • Helping leaders become more disciplined and accountable, improving execution.
  • Helping leaders become a healthy, functional, cohesive leadership team. As goes the leadership team, so will go the rest of the organization. 

 

What is the favorite part of what you do?

Seeing leaders grow and be successful.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?

The best piece of advice I have received was from my mom. She would always say, "Everything happens for a reason.”  What she was telling me was, "Have faith and be strong.”

Who do you consider a mentor and why? 

One of my lifelong friends is a mentor to me. I think of her as a mentor because she knows me so well that she is always completely open and honest with me. It is hard to find that honesty. If we don't know the truth, we are unable to positively change.