Small businesses are especially vulnerable to hacking, according to Steve Giordano, the GM/owner of computer and IT services company TeamLogic IT. Small businesses are often thought of by hackers as being easy targets because the businesses tend to have the least amount of cyber defense in place.
“Hackers release the virus into the wild and they hope that the virus finds its way into the network,” he said during a recent COSE WebEd Series webinar titled “Security Tips for Small Businesses: How to Keep the Bad Guys Out of Your Network.”
More often than not, it’s the employees themselves who unwittingly let the virus in, he said. This is often done via emails that mimic the look of official emails from companies such as AT&T or Twitter. Employees are told they have to click to look at an unopened message on the social network or that they have an unpaid bill to look at, but clicking the link in the email actually activates the virus that can cause a business to come grinding to a halt.
Even a small company with just 20 employees could potentially face hundreds of thousands of emails every year, Giordano said. That represents a lot of ways inside the business. And viruses can cause a lot of unwanted damage, from pilfering sensitive financial information, to encrypting crucial files a company needs while the hacker asks for a ransom to be paid to unlock the files.
So what can small businesses do to make sure they’re protected? First, educate employees, Giordano said. Make sure employees are aware of how they might be targeted and also put policies in place, such as a password policy, to help keep things secure.
Also, businesses shouldn’t rely on free antivirus software as free versions of the software often lack critical systems that the paid, business versions of antivirus have. “There’s a reason why it’s free,” he said.
The cost of vulnerability can be high, Giordano said. Prevention, and backing up data daily, is the key to minimizing any potential hack-related losses.
You’re going to look at downtime,” he said. “You have to put a value on that amount of downtime. You could lose data. I’ve seen situations where if companies lose all of their data, they go out of business in six to nine months. It can be that traumatic.”
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This article originally appeared in the September 7, 2015, edition of Small Business Matters.