Start-up businesses are an easy target for cyber criminals, as many will not consider it a priority when they have so many other concerns on their mind. With almost every business being connected to the web in some way or using computers to store important information, there are a lot of potential victims. Consequently, it is important to not be complacent when first setting up a new enterprise to avoid falling foul of hackers’ illegal practice.
One of the most important tasks to carry out is to encrypt data to make it much more difficult to access. While the best hackers may be able to get through encryption mechanisms, it certainly makes their job a lot more difficult and serves as a very important deterrent.
All kinds of data should be encrypted, whether it’s account details, personal information of employees, customer orders or just business ideas. Greater attention should, however, be given to the more sensitive data that could do more damage if leaked. This may be information that could lead to money theft or harmful reputation damage.
"Anytime you're storing important data, when the data is at rest - which means it isn't being transmitted over the internet somehow - you want it encrypted," Steve Cullen, senior vice president of worldwide marketing for small and medium-sized businesses and cloud at Symantec, told Entrepreneur.
Remember too that encrypting data on devices taken out of the office is vitally important. It does not require a cyber genius to pick up a laptop or USB drive they find on a train or at a bus stop and cause great damage with the information they find. There have been numerous cases of companies being fined by the Information Commissioner’s Office for losing sensitive information in this way, which often involves being publicly named and shamed.
Set up software protection
All businesses, as a standard, should have anti-malware, anti-virus and firewall software installed on their network. This works to prevent outside access as much as possible and if an infection does occur thanks to an employee opening a dodgy email attachment, the chance of limiting the damage is much greater.
Ensuring these are always activated is also imperative, while checks should be run regularly to flag up anything that may have got through the protective barriers.
When start-up businesses begin to take on their first employees, they must educate them on the principles of security. They must understand their responsibilities and the risks.
“You shouldn’t be the only one vigilant about protecting your and your customers’ information,” Mr Cullen said to Entrepreneur.
“Your employees should all be on the lookout, and you as a small business owner should be there to give them some guidelines.”
A company internet usage policy would be sensible, as well as establishing what are appropriate and inappropriate online activities. Employees should also be encouraged to have smart, strong passwords to boost the security of their own accounts. The harder it is to guess, the more secure the account will be. This means including numbers, letters and symbols, as well as both upper and lower-case characters.