All you wanted to do was open a small business on Main Street, or one that operates from home, selling your goods or services.
That seems simple enough. Like the whispered phrase in Kevin Costner’s Field ofDreams, “build it and they will come.” You do all the right things – set up the legal structure, get a Federal Tax ID Number, receive the Texas Comptroller’s sales tax permit, build a website and social media presence on the internet, market the business – all the right things. You even contract with a security company to monitor access to your business. You protected all the gateways to your business assets – except one. The small electronic “box” where you manage your business, keep important records and let the world know about your business. You spared your budget the expense of a monthly fee to protect your business from the Internet.
Did you know that in 2020 cybercrimes on small businesses and the U.S. economy hit the $2.7 billion mark? That’s for just the year 2020. Did you also know that 88% of small business owners recognize the danger that exists for their business in the form of a cyber-attack but felt they could not afford professional services or did not know where to look for help?
Cybersecurity, unfortunately, tends to be one of those necessary services where small businesses will too often take the Las Vegas approach, meaning “let’s toss the dice and see what comes up!” That kind of gambling can be expensive. Cybersecurity, like other professional services, is a service that operates under the expression “pay me now or pay me later.”
So, where do you start in protecting your business from cyber-attacks? At a minimum, it begins with the business owner and workers. You know those crazy password rules like not using actual words or passwords that look like words? Or numbers that have meaning like birthdates, phone numbers, or other important dates like anniversaries? Follow the rules and don’t use those! And, change them frequently! I would bet that more unauthorized access to data is human error! Be careful of where you go on the internet and don’t open emails from sources you don’t recognize!
You should learn to recognize the common cyber threats: malware, viruses, ransomware, and phishing. It is beneficial to locate a reputable IT (information technology) professional. You can usually negotiate some kind of protection that is affordable. It doesn’t have to be a 24/7 monitored service with armed guards if that isn’t what is needed. It could be assistance in setting up firewalls, and installing appropriate software along with someone educating you and your employees on good cyber practices. Keep in mind, some of the cyber-attacks can hijack your computers (and therefore your business) until you pay them a ransom! Which comes back to that phrase, pay the IT professional to protect your business and customers, or pay them later to try and get your business back!
October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month as well as Fire Protection month. Just like you should go around this month and change all the batteries in your smoke alarms, do a check of your computer systems to update their protection!
Some of the information above came from the Small Business Administration article “Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats.”
“Business Tips” was written by James Leavelle, Senior Certified Business Advisor of Angelo State University’s Small Business Development Center. For more information on the topic of this article or the services of the ASU · SBDC, contact him at James.Leavelle@angelo.edu.