Cybercrime is booming and it's not just big businesses that are targeted by hackers.
In 2012, three hackers were convicted of hacking 53 businesses over a period of two years, leading to more than $3 million in damages. The victims of those crimes reported that the experience was unlike any problems they'd ever experienced—at the first sign of trouble, funds had already disappeared from their bank accounts. And by then it was too late.
High Stakes for Businesses
The Internet Crime Complaint Center reports that there were more than 262,000 complaints related to cyber crime registered in 2013 alone, and businesses are more at risk than banks. Statistics show that attacks against businesses account for 35.1 percent of cyber crimes as opposed to only 5.3 percent for banks. Statistics over the years have shown that as high as 66 percent of small- or medium-sized businesses attacked end up going out of business within six months.
Businesses tend to be an easier target as most are unprepared for a cyber-attack by a determined criminal. Criminals are willing to work hard to steal—sometimes taking risks such as breaking in and planting keystroke monitors, or stealing company computers to help get the information they need.
Luckily, defending yourself is easier and less expensive than many business owners might think. In its 2011 study of actual incidents where data was breached, Verizon found that less than 20 percent of clients had made serious attempts to protect their data. Most victims had not even set up Wi-Fi passwords.
While small business owners may be unfamiliar with many of the types of cyber security, it is actually a growing industry with many options available to business owners, and there is a lot you can do to protect your business without breaking the bank.
Protecting Your Business
Here is what you can do today to help protect yourself and your business:
1. Data Encryption: Sensitive information such as bank account details and social security numbers are what the criminals will target. Wherever this information is stored, it must be encrypted in order to be protected. You probably have some sort of encryption software that comes with your operating system—in Windows, look for BitLocker, and in Macs look for FileVault. These can easily be switched on and will not interfere with the computer's day-to-day performance. This encryption is, however, only in force when the user is logged off. Set your computers to log off automatically after 15 minutes of inactivity.
2. Secure Your Premises: In the Seattle cases mentioned above, at least 40 of the victims reported that their offices were broken into and electronic items were stolen. Lock your laptop or PC to your desk to make these items less vulnerable to thieves. Keep inter-leading doors locked and make use of encryption and security keys so that, if the computers are stolen, the data on them cannot be accessed.
3. Network Locking: This one is extremely important. Wi-Fi networks have made it a lot easier for criminals to gain access to your systems. The only way to be completely secure is to forego the wireless network altogether. A wired network may seem more old-fashioned, but you can only access it by physically plugging your computer in or through the modem. On a Wi-Fi network, disabling the SSID broadcasting feature will mean that your network connection is not broadcast, and the users will have to get the network name exactly right in order to log in. Those in the area will not be able to see that there is a Wi-Fi connection. Make sure that your encryption software is as up to date as possible and make your password tough to crack. Use something completely random—no names and birthdays! Opt for at least one upper and lower case letter, one special character and at least one number. For example, &J4m5*gr!f would make a strong password; using your cat’s name would not.
4. Malware and Virus Defense: Have anti-virus and anti-malware software installed, and make sure it is kept up to date. Verizon found that malware was used in eight out of 10 breaches in 2010. It can be physically planted by a hacker, sent through emails, or be present on suspect websites and applications. Set your computer to run virus scans daily and make sure that your software is always up-to-date (this includes browsers as well).
Make it as difficult as possible for the criminal to access your information, and be vigilant. Vigilance is the best defense when it comes to cyber criminals.