How Small Business Owners Can Teach Their Employees About Cybersecurity_Young Man holding cell phone with coworkers in background

How Small Business Owners Can Teach Their Employees About Cybersecurity

Cybercrime has the potential to disrupt small and midsize businesses, destroy their reputations and put their future at risk. A 2018 McAfee report revealed that worldwide cybercrime costs organizations approximately $600 billion per year. Companies that ignore this crucial issue are exposed to significant financial danger. It’s time to teach employees about cybersecurity.

Everyone is responsible for cybersecurity, from the CEO to the ground-level employees. When all are vigilant, cybercriminals will have a much harder time accessing sensitive data.

Small businesses are vulnerable to cyber threats

When a large company experiences a data breach or cyberattack, it makes the news, but intrusions against small businesses often go unnoticed by the national press. As a result, it can seem as if cybercriminals only target major organizations. However, Small Business Trends reported that 43% of all cyberattacks are launched against small businesses.

It’s important to understand that although 48% of data security breaches are caused by malicious actors, the remainder is due to human error. When small business employees do not possess the knowledge and skills to practice good cybersecurity habits, they open their employers up to financial and regulatory compliance risks. In fact, the average cost per compromised record is $148.

Here’s what small business leaders can do to educate their employees on cybersecurity best practices:

Provide training on cybersecurity best practices

Cybersecurity training should be a part of the employee onboarding process. Though the majority of today’s workers are familiar with consumer-grade technology, they may not fully understand the risks associated with business network infrastructure.

As recommended by the Federal Communications Commission, company policies should establish appropriate internet use guidelines and explain the penalties for violating those rules. Training should also cover best practices on how to handle and store customer data.

Teach employees about cybersecurity_How Small Business Owners Can Teach Their Employees About Cybersecurity_Young Man holding laptop teaching coworkers

Give employees ownership over security

Often, employees don’t give much thought to cybersecurity because they believe it is the responsibility of the IT department. This assumption can lead to disastrous consequences, especially as many small businesses have limited IT resources or need to implement work from home cybersecurity measures.

To overcome this challenge, you can deputize employees to protect company data. Giving employees ownership over this crucial function will empower them to take action when necessary. Plus, they’ll be better equipped to collaborate with IT stakeholders when implementing new security protections.

Maintain up-to-date antivirus software

There’s little difference between out-of-date antivirus protection and expired security software. Malicious exploits are constantly updated to thwart increasingly sophisticated security software. Failure to update these programs can open companies up to serious threats, such as ransomware.

Company policies should not only encourage workers to maintain up-to-date software on their work devices but also their personal computers. IT stakeholders should consider scheduling updates on a regular basis so this process becomes formalized and routine.

Develop policies to reduce shadow IT

Any technology not managed by the IT department is known as shadow IT. Examples range from software installed on company computers to personal devices connected to the company Wi-Fi network. For instance, if an employee were to install unauthorized file management software on a computer, it could serve as a potential gateway for hackers.

Because shadow IT is unknown to the IT department, stakeholders can’t take steps to secure them. Leadership should explain to employees what shadow IT is and how it puts the company at risk. There should be a policy in place for what to do if shadow IT is uncovered, especially if it has the ability to access the network.

Address BYOD risks

Small businesses typically have limited technology resources, and many utilize informal Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies to fill in tech gaps. Many small business employees use personal smartphones, laptops, and tablets to perform professional work.

A Syntonic study found that 87% of companies rely on their employees using personal devices to access and use business applications. However, only 44% of small businesses have a formal BYOD policy in place.

Implementing a formal policy that outlines how and when employees can use their personal devices can reduce the liability of malicious actors gaining a “backdoor” to the organization through an unprotected personal device.

Teach employees about cybersecurity_How Small Business Owners Can Teach Their Employees About Cybersecurity_diverse team feeling accomplished

Limit employee access to company and customer data

One of the best ways to reduce cybersecurity risks is to limit the number of people who have direct access to company and customer data. If employees don’t have access to sensitive information, there will be fewer opportunities for mistakes. A good rule of thumb? If an employee does not need access to data in order to perform their job functions, they should not have access.

Limiting or removing access to business data via IT-managed apps is an essential step for reducing security gaps. Likewise, data backups should be secure and only accessible by authorized personnel.

Have a reporting process

Keeping track of all cybersecurity incidents is essential to future success. IT leaders should capture, record and report any and all threats. This information will give leadership better insight into how to protect against future attacks. Plus, this data can be used to benchmark security policies and training effectiveness.

When small business employees know how to identify cybersecurity vulnerabilities, they can reduce financial and legal risks to their employer. For more information on how to protect your personal and professional assets, check out our security resource center today.

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