SCORE

There’s lots of good news for small business owners these days. In a January survey by the National Small Business Association (NSBA), entrepreneurs reported more confidence than they have in years. But one thing could be hampering their confidence: Concerns about cybersecurity.

More than 90 percent of small business owners in the study cited cybersecurity as a concern. No wonder: half of them report they’ve already suffered a cyberattack, with 61 percent of those taking place in the last 12 months.

A service interruption was the number-one result of a cyberattack; the second most frequent result was the business’ website going down. In addition, 19 percent had their business credit cards or bank account hacked.

The cost to small business of cyberattacks is on the rise. The average cyberattack cost a small business $20,752 in 2014, a substantial increase from the average of $8,699 per attack in 2013.

What do you need to know to prevent a cyberattack?

First, know that small businesses are actually more likely than big ones to suffer an attack—and more likely to go out of business as a result. Taking data security seriously is the first step to success. Fortunately, once you accept the risk, it’s fairly easy to protect yourself. Follow these security basics:

  • Make sure your business computers and software are up-to-date, with the latest updates, security patches and bug fixes installed. You can set your software to update automatically for best results.
  • To protect your computer network, install a small business security suite and implement a strong encryption plan. Encryption scrambles data so it can’t be deciphered if intercepted by hackers.
  • Choose and use a secure backup system that allows you to save your business data off-site and restore it quickly and easily in the event of a cyberattack. For those of us without a big IT staff or loads of time to manage backup (that’s all of us, right?), cloud backup services offer a simple, affordable way to protect your business information from loss. Just make sure you know what you’re getting from a cloud backup service before you sign on—how is your information stored and protected? How fast can you get it back? How frequently can you back up?
  • Train your employees in cybersecurity. Unfortunately, people are still the weak link in cybersecurity. Make sure employees know not to click on links in emails, download anything from unfamiliar senders or send sensitive company or financial information on public wireless networks when they’re working out of the office. All it takes is one employee to let a hacker into your network, and your entire business could be at risk.
  • Do a security audit every month, looking for viruses, malware and anything suspicious such as unusual transactions.

When it comes to cybersecurity, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you’re not IT-savvy, it’s well worth hiring an IT consultant to get you set up properly.

Or consult SCORE mentors, who can show you what you need to do to protect your business and data. Visit www.score.org to get matched with a mentor today.