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9 ways to secure your small business inside and out

Posted July 1

Small businesses are four times as likely to be the target of a break-in as a home. Though small businesses are often viewed as the heart and soul of a community, external safety and security threats can cause irreparable damage to a new business just starting to grow.

Certain laws state that if a security breach occurs and data is stolen, the company is just as responsible as the hacker if proper safety precautions were not in place, according to Eric Montague, CEO of Executech, Utah’s largest IT outsourcing firm.

For a business owner, this could pose huge monetary problems. As a small business owner, it's important to know your weak spots and safeguard against them.

Update your security system

While having a security system is a great first step to securing your business, it’s important to make sure you have one that monitors the property 24/7. Some alarm systems merely make noise during an intrusion instead of alerting the police and capturing video footage of the intrusion. In case of a break-in, these types of systems will immediately alert you and the police. The faster you can notify the police of a break-in, the more likely you are to recover stolen property and minimize damages and losses.

Most security systems capture video footage that details the time of day the break-in occurred, who broke in and where they entered. Make sure to install security cameras, as these alone can deter burglars who like to go unseen. Most security systems can be controlled from a smartphone or laptop, and you can choose the type of security system that will work best for you and your company.

Create an emergency plan for cyberattacks

Ransomware is the biggest problem in security and IT. Malicious people will run a script on your computer to lock all your files and hold them for ransom until you pay them their fee.

Montague recommends putting an antivirus and firewall in place to protect your company’s data, as well as additional IT security measures to keep your business prepared for an emergency or cyberattack.

“Eighty-three percent of businesses that lose their data and aren’t able to get it back go out of business,” Montague said.

With this staggering percentage, it’s essential to protect your small business from spam and phishing attacks.

Secure your printer

Printers are the second-biggest safety concern for small businesses, according to Montague. Multifunction printers (MFPs) have a hard drive that stores every scan ever made. Businesses use printers and scanners daily, leaving private information on the hard drive that could be hacked. When businesses upgrade their printers, it is essential that they wipe the printer hard drive clean or take out the hard drive altogether.

“Hackers can review every scan and get a treasure trove of data,” Montague said.

Teach your employees about malware and scams

“Most security breaches happen from within, unintentionally,” Montague said.

Employees will inadvertently open a malicious link that executes malware or emails private information, like W-2s, to someone posing as the HR department. Teach your employees about these types of scams to protect the business from outside security threats.

Perform a quarterly external penetration test

When people think of internet hackers, they often envision “somebody out on the web somewhere hacking into their system,” Montague said. “That is not how it occurs. Sophisticated hacking corporations scan the businesses internet and IP addresses just to see if there are security holes. If and when they see a hole, they start trying to get in.”

To protect against this threat, perform an external penetration test. External penetration tests give a business owner an idea what their network would look like to a potential hacker. Savvy business owners should consider running this test every quarter or anytime IT performs a major network change.

Install an internal breach detection device

These are small devices that can be plugged into your network. They scan for suspicious activity and immediately alert the business owner and IT team if something looks amiss.

Business owners may also consider an intrusion prevention service (IPS). This is a built-in firewall product that will instantly block any malicious behavior from the malicious IP address it detects.

Block global regions with a spam filter

If your company only conducts business in the United States, you may consider installing a spam filter that will block all regions outside of your business network, essentially safeguarding your business from many external threats.

Perform routine internal safety checks

Unfortunately, 64 percent of small businesses fall victim to internal employee theft. While co-workers are often your office family, not everyone can be trusted.

It's important to conduct routine internal safety checks to prevent robbery. Keep and frequently update your inventory of office equipment, IT equipment, office furniture and products. Distribute the workload and financial responsibilities among a team as well, instead of leaving one employee responsible for all the company's finances.

Secure doors and safes

Take the time to secure all doors and lock all safes at the close of each business day. It's easy for thieves to kick down doors and pick locks — giving them easy access to files, merchandise and petty cash.

Most burglars are in and out of a location within 10 minutes, so they typically grab whatever they can access easily. Consider bolting your safe to the ground — as some burglars simply take the safe with them and crack it offsite.

Create an emergency and disaster plan

When the unexpected occurs, it is important to be prepared with an emergency action plan. Safeguard your small business by having a process in place. Practice routine fire, earthquake or storm drills with your employees.

Have employees keep snacks and water at their desks in case of an emergency or disaster and update your office first-aid kit. Make sure your important data is backed up regularly and that the backup is located remotely. Take inventory of all office items for insurance purposes. This will minimize losses and help secure your business.

Business owners need to consider what it would cost the company to recover from a safety or security breach. It’s vital that business owners take the necessary safety and security precautions to protect themselves, their finances and their company.

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