There is hardly a business that hasn’t included some form of technology into their daily operations. The earliest inclusions of technology were primitive calculators or computers, but innovations have led to robotic production lines or artificial intelligence piloting management software. Companies that want to remain competitive have turned to technology as a way to gain an edge over standard industry practice, but without advance planning and continual monitoring, heavy reliance on technology does pose a risk. Digitally-driven business strategies streamline work operations and free up valuable time, and these benefits often overshadow the potential tech threats that lurk among cyber activities. Now, let’s talk about tech threats to small businesses.
Major Tech Threats to Small Businesses
Defending Against Cyber Attacks
Though security has always been a concern for any business, cyberattacks have been named of the top 10 tech threats plaguing both global and national business ventures. The dark web is host to hackers and individuals that pirate and profit from the personal information of others. Gaining access to company assets and information presents a wealth of opportunity for wreaking havoc on unsuspecting consumers, partners, or employees. Hackers will often attack a company system in order to disrupt work operations, but anyone that gains access to personal data, financial information, or intellectual property can turn and sell the information to less-than-reputable individuals. Because of the far-reaching effects of a cyberattack, tech professionals like Hari Ravichandran cautions businesses against lax or frugal security protocols. It doesn’t matter the size of the business, though many would like to use a lack of resources as the excuse for not implementing a strong security protection program. The recommendations for protection include:
- Ensuring all systems have been updated with the latest security plan installed.
- Restricting user access to all sensitive data; limiting access to a need-to-know basis.
- Shutting down systems and removing any portable storage devices after use.
- Encrypting data against hackers.
- Requesting two-factor identification for users.
Disposing of Hardware Correctly
Most companies maintain detailed records including the customer, supplier, and company information, and these files are often stored among several different drives. Since storage has become more affordable, companies often end up storing too much data. This makes it harder to organize and protect data, especially when a lot of the data is redundant or several years old. Auditing and purging your company’s old data can help reduce the threat of an attack, but failing to dispose of the information properly increases your risk. One study found that approximately 78% of all the hard drives disposed of during 2016 still had either confidential or personal information still contained on them. Prior to disposing of any hard drives or systems, rigorously wipe the data off of them. The U.S. government has endorsed the NIST 800-88 data sanitization standard, and it provides three ways to conduct a thorough data wipe.
Maintaining Data Compliance
It used to be that companies could decide for themselves how to best protect their information and that of the consumer, but with data breaches and advanced malware and spyware attacks becoming more commonplace, regulations have been put in place to protect the security and privacy of consumer and company alike. Not only that, but the legal liabilities and lawsuit from theft, fraud, or a breach have given rise to security requirements established by insurance providers. These systems have been established to minimize the risk and exposure of wrongful data transactions, and any area of non-compliance could find your company facing steep fines, legal fees, and a lost reputation. By establishing a compliance division and program at your company, you can have a team of individuals dedicated to assessing, evaluating, auditing, and implementing the protocols needed to remain in compliance. Make sure your administrative team has at least one member with experience in compliance and legal ramifications, but you also need to have the same vigilance with your vendors. You may do everything right on your end, but those you work with could compromise your data security.
With so many areas of a business relying on a strong network and full-functioning technology, and unforeseen outages can force operations to stop unexpectedly and create data loss. Natural disasters are common occurrences for some locations across the country, but software updates or system maintenance can also create downtime for certain areas of operation. Internet connectivity can lag or a cyberattack could completely block any activities. The best way to address these concerns is through a well-thought-out disaster plan. It needs to start with a complete inventory of all data, software, and hardware, and back-ups all of software or information stored at an off-site location. You should also practice your data shutdown and recovery procedure to assess its effectiveness.
Protecting your company against theft means paying attention to both the obvious and obscure threats. Don’t assume that your company is too small to be the target of a cyberattack or data breach. Any relaxed approach to technology and data safety poses a large threat to your company’s operations.