Businesses of every size need an online presence to reach their full potential. Whether you own a small business or work for a large organization, the online experience matters. That experience means more than just a pretty website, though—it also means feeling confident that the website you’re visiting is safe and secure. 

We trust businesses with our sensitive personal information all the time. We enter our credit card numbers to purchase products. We provide our addresses, phone numbers, and dates of birth. Sometimes, we even provide our social security numbers online. As a business owner, protecting that kind of information is absolutely critical. 

Even if your customer-facing website isn’t much more than a digital storefront and you have a brick-and-mortar location, you’re still probably storing some sensitive information about your business online. Protecting yourself from data breaches is critical for reducing the expense, loss of trust, and hassle that a data breach involves. Here’s how you can reduce the odds of getting hacked. 

Take the Threat Seriously 

Many small business owners assume that only large companies become targets for cybercriminals. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. In fact, small businesses have fewer resources for cybersecurity and are easier targets. Realizing this will help you pay attention to your security measures and take the threat seriously. 

It’s also a good idea to do some research on different types of cyberattacks. Keeping a list handy that you can reference will help you stay vigilant and prepared for anything that looks suspicious. 

Make a Plan 

Each organization needs its own cybersecurity plan, depending on the type of business and the information it needs to protect. Take stock of everything you wouldn’t want to fall into the wrong hands and work backward to determine how you’ll protect the information you store digitally. 

Since most business owners aren’t cybersecurity experts, it’s a good idea to check out online resources that are available while creating your plan. The FCC has a free, easy planning tool for small businesses that will allow you to easily generate a cybersecurity plan, using best practices. 

Train Your Employees 

When it comes to data breaches, people are typically the weakest link in a business’s defenses. Someone might click on a link they shouldn’t, or use weak passwords that make it all too easy for hackers to break into the network. Not only that but mobile devices can be lost or stolen, resulting in data theft. 

Most people don’t realize that their actions could lead to a data breach. It’s important to emphasize this point and instruct your employees not to open unusual attachments or links sent via email. They should also change their passwords frequently and make them challenging enough to thwart most cybercriminals. Remind your employees at set intervals to change their passwords so that this important step does not get overlooked. 

Make cybersecurity protocols part of your company policy and refresh your employee training as needed. Limiting access to the essentials for each employee can also help reduce opportunities for breaches to occur. 

Ensure Your Network Is Protected 

Password protection for your local wi-fi network, known as a network security key, is a simple way to encrypt your network and help prevent breaches. To improve the security of your network, you can use a two-factor authentication system, requiring that the user provide additional proof of their permission to access the network.

Use Antivirus Software and Firewalls

These tools are easy to install and should be on every computer that interacts with your network. They can provide an extra layer of protection and help prevent a human error that could lead to a breach. Make sure all software is up to date and working as it should. 

Back-Up Your Data 

If you don’t have copies of important data stored in a separate location, you could lose it if a data breach occurs. A cloud backup or physical backup stored in another location is important for all businesses. 

Take Inventory of Your Hardware and Software Frequently 

Business owners often overlook hardware and software within their businesses that could be vulnerable to a cyberattack. That’s why it’s so important to take inventory of all devices and software on a regular basis, including mobile devices, APIs, and cloud services you use. Keeping track of everything will help you ensure universal security. 

You also need to consider the risks within your supply chain. Do your partners take security seriously? Are their vulnerabilities within the supply chain? These risks need to be weighed and considered in your security protocols. 

Prepare for the Worst 

Do you know what to do if a data breach does occur? Unfortunately, even businesses with smart cybersecurity protocols in place can fall victim to a breach. While taking cybersecurity seriously can greatly reduce your chances of a breach, it’s not always possible to prevent one from occurring as cybercriminals refine their methods and find new vulnerabilities. 

This is why it’s so important to make sure you have a plan in place for dealing with a breach, should one occur. Who can help you regain control of your network? Who will you need to notify? 

Speaking with law enforcement is an important step, and you may need to seek legal counsel. Securing your systems should be your first priority, but it’s also important to preserve evidence that could be important to the case. Being prepared can make a huge difference and reduce the impact of a data breach on your business. 

Cybersecurity Is Not Optional 

Your customers spend a lot of time online, and they’re worried about their digital privacy. In today’s world, businesses have an obligation to do all they can to protect any data they are provided. The good news is that you don’t have to be trained in cybersecurity to protect your network and devices, thanks to advanced encryption tools and other resources that are available to business owners. 

Building and maintaining trust is critical for your business’s reputation. Take the time to make a security plan that will protect your company from the devastating impact of a data breach.