Cybersecurity for Startups: What You Need to Know

Far too many modern businesses function under the false pretense that cyber hackers only target large-scale established companies. Due to this pretense, a large percentage of startups neglect to keep their data safe online. This ultimately results in their suffering the consequences of a breach. Because of the common lack of assets, new startups often have the least secure sites, records and system frameworks. This lack of security makes attacks relatively simple to hackers across the web. In order to keep your startup safe, consider implementing these “hacks” to help your company avoid being hacked:

Information Breaches

Startup owners should make themselves aware of as many basic cyber attack trends and methods as possible. One of these methods includes information breaches. Information breaches occur when cybercriminals aim to steal your organization’s information by accessing your databases illegally without your knowledge. Many organizations, such as Yahoo and Equifax, have suffered the consequences of large-scale data breaches in recent years. While these large attacks may seem far-off from happening to your startup due to the difference in size, smaller attacks happen just as frequently and can be just as detrimental. For startups, these smaller attacks can be disastrous to the success of a company because of the lack of resources. These resources would help contain and clean up an attack after it occurs. Because of this, having the proper tools to handle breaches can make or break the prosperity of a startup.

Establish Access Control

The first thing you’ll want to do is inform your employees what threats look like online. This will help them detect and avoid falling victim to spam or phishing emails. Spam emails are unsolicited junk emails that come from unknown sites. Phishing emails are meant to impersonate someone you trust to trick you into forfeiting personal information. To further protect yourself against these types of emails, establish access control to all accounts by creating strong passwords, delegating administration and non-admin accesses to employees with different responsibilities and setting up non-disclosure conditions for internal staff members. Strong passwords include a mix of lowercase and uppercase letters, special characters (!, @, #, % or * for example), and should be void of personal qualifiers that could be easy to guess, such as names or addresses.

Keep Systems up to Date

Along with updating passwords comes the need to update software and security programs such as antivirus, firewall and antispam. These tools help secure your devices from outside intruders, malware, and viruses by scanning folders for disruptions in your systems. If your devices were to become infected with malware, hackers would have access to all sensitive company information. They would also have the ability to steal that information or lock up files while asking for ransom. Running antivirus programs will allow you to stay ahead of cyber thieves by detecting security holes you may not know exist in your devices and reporting on suspicious behavior in real time.

Once these programs have been implemented, keep your internet browsers protected by updating the software as soon as possible. From there, keep past, present, and future company information safe by developing a backup plan for data on company hardware. Implement an automatic backup system to save your data immediately, or dedicate one employee to manually backup data daily. This way, you’ll reduce the risk of losing sensitive documents by having a second copy stored in an external drive, cloud or disk.

Use Safe Tools

Because most of your business transactions happen online nowadays, there’s an increased need to upgrade your communication tools to ensure they are secure. Whether your employees spend the majority of their time making phone calls, sending emails or interacting via virtual meetings, they likely use multiple different devices every day. To avoid purchasing brand new company devices, consider implementing cloud capabilities to your pre-existing devices. This provides you with the same effect, but with a more affordable price tag. Do your due diligence in research and be sure to choose a cloud that offers secure communication tools. This will ensure your business stays protected throughout all communication efforts. Hosting your classified information in the cloud makes it easy for authorized personnel to work from any physical location, which grants them the flexibility to conduct everyday business from home or to generally stay connected to the office while on the go.

Lock Down Personal Devices

The number of workers that use their own personal mobile devices for business-related activity has risen significantly in the small business world in the past few years. Unfortunately, along with the benefits of using your own devices comes various risks as well. In order to help your company minimize these risks, first, formalize a ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) policy. Having a specific plan set in stone will provide your employees the knowledge of how to act appropriately, along with a secondary safety net to combat potential legal repercussions as well. Draft up a comprehensive, clear, and customized policy. This policy should include parameters around data deletion, physical location tracking, and internet monitoring.  

Once you have established this policy, be sure to analyze the results to learn from your findings. A lot of small businesses adopt BYOD policies for ease and increased productivity due to the competence and comfort employees have with their devices. Unfortunately, not all of those companies take the time to analyze the necessary costs associated as well. Double-check that your BYOD policy is helping your company, rather than hurting it. Monitor employee usage and make the necessary changes based on your initial analysis.

Following these tips will set your small business venture up for success by locking down sensitive information that needs to be kept confidential. Whether you focus on establishing access control or focus on using safe tools, all of these tips are financially feasible for startups to implement right away. Help your company combat the risks of cyber attackers and ensure your business will run smoothly for years to come.

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