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Cybersecurity Essentials for Businesses

Over the last twenty years, the Internet has completely transformed our business models by allowing companies of all sizes to reach their ideal target markets anywhere around the world. However, this fairly new digitally-based business era doesn't come without its' challenges. Whether a company is considering the implementation of cloud computing technology in the workplace or only uses a business email account and maintains a standard website, cybersecurity should be a part of the business plan. In fact, digital information theft has become the most commonly reported instance of fraud, even surpassing physical theft. This technology shift requires that every business takes the necessary precautions to protect itself and its' consumers confidential information by creating a company culture of enhanced security.

To start, establish basic security policies and procedures for the workplace, such as setting strong passwords, and require that employees are trained on the appropriate Internet usage guidelines, which should also highlight potential penalties for violating the company cybersecurity policy. It's also invaluable for businesses to implement strict rules for employees, which describe how to protect customer information and other sensitive company data. Secure computers and networks from cyber-attacks by updating to the latest security software, web browser, and operating system, which act as the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other potential threats online. Employees should also run an antivirus scan after completing each of these updates to check for any hidden threats. Provide firewall security (which is a set of related programs that prevent those that are outside of the company from accessing data on a private network) for your Internet connection at the office, and be sure that the operating systems' firewall is enabled at all times. If employees are able to work from home, it's advised that you require their home system(s) to be protected by a strong firewall as well.

For those that access company information or email through a mobile device, creating a mobile security action plan is of the upmost importance. Because mobile devices can cause significant security and management challenges, especially if they contain confidential information, it's highly recommended to require devices to be password-protected, all data should be encrypted, and security apps must be installed to prevent others from stealing information while the phone is on public networks. There should also be a clear reporting procedure for any lost or stolen equipment, so that any potential issues can be resolved quickly. Backing up important information and critical data like word processing documents, electronic spreadsheets, databases, financial files, human resources files, and accounts receivable/payable files regularly and, if possible, automatically is extremely important to prevent any major losses. Business security measures should also include securing your WiFi with an encrypted and hidden network. To hide a Wi-Fi network, the wireless access point or router should be set up so that it does not broadcast the network name, or Service Set Identifier (SSID). Access to the router should also be password protected. Avoid giving any one employee access to all data systems, and limit ability to install software without their supervisor's permission. The best practice in this situation is to only allow employees access to the data systems required for them to complete their jobs. Employees should also use a unique password and change it every three months, with additional multi-factor authentication to log in.

While many small businesses may not consider themselves to be the direct targets of cyber attacks, smaller business owners should understand that they have a lot of highly valuable information at their disposal, including employee and customer data, confidential financial or bank account information, and access to the business's finances and intellectual property. This is all precious information that cyber criminals are constantly seeking out. And given the fact that smaller businesses typically have access to fewer tools and resources to secure their information, systems, and networks, when compared to their larger counterparts, these employers are often a lot easier to target, as well. The kinds of cyber threats businesses are experiencing are also changing rapidly every year, with hackers agendas including various sophisticated motives such as espionage, disinformation, market manipulation, disruption of infrastructure, extortion, vandalism, and data theft. Although cyber security has become much more complicated than a minor technology risk for the IT department to handle, following these guidelines can help businesses to protect their customer or clients' confidential information, as well as their own business information, and reduce the risks of becoming a victim of cyber attacks.

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