By Scott Nelson
U.S. corporations have experienced a slew of cyber-security breaches in recent years. Home Depot Inc., Target Corp., Sony Corp. and more have had company and personal data thrown into the open by computer hackers. The costs in every case have been substantial. Fortune 500 companies and other large enterprises, however, are not the only organizations susceptible to vicious cyber-attacks. Small businesses, too, must invest the necessary time and resources to protect their organizational data and retain their customers' trust.
Here are three things every small business can do to avoid cyber-security breaches.
Even in 2015, it is not uncommon for small businesses and their employees to use passwords that are easy to remember, or that are replicated for numerous accounts, to protect sensitive organizational and customer data. However, business owners must consider the security ramifications this can have for their businesses. Skilled hackers have a much better chance of accessing vital information through a password that is very easy to remember and replicated across multiple channels or accounts.
Instead, businesses should develop strong, secure passwords using character combinations that are unique to each site, file or account that you log into. Lisa Kahn Grossman, Associate Principal in the Entrepreneurial Services department at Kaufman Rossin P.A., recommended in a Nov. 20, 2014, article published by The Business Journals that your passwords "contain at least one letter, including one capital letter and one lowercase letter, at least one number and at least one symbol and punctuation mark" to be sufficiently secure.
One essential thing small businesses can do to prevent cyber-security breaches is to effectively train their employees. Company executives must work with senior management to grant employees access to data on an "as needed" basis to ensure secure, sensitive data doesn't fall into incompetent hands. Additionally, companies should keep records of who has access to what information. Finally, management should teach employees how to use strong passwords, as well as deter and report spam.
To ensure that security breaches are sufficiently avoided, small business owners and executives should endeavor to keep up to date on cyber-security threats and prevention tactics. Reading regularly about security software updates, new ways hackers are exploiting computing networks and how best to implement company-wide trainings will be incredibly beneficial to your organization. Staying up to date on security best practices will ensure that your company continues to operate smoothly – and that you earn your customers' trust by protecting them as they deserve.
Scott Nelson has more than 29 years of professional product marketing and executive management experience in the high-tech industry. For the past six years, he has worked for ProPay Inc., a TSYS company, helping small businesses grow through online payment acceptance. Scott earned dual bachelor's degrees from Brigham Young University in marketing and finance. He also earned an MBA degree from Colorado State University. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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