Keeping Your Small Business’ Computers Secure

On the list of daily challenges that land in the inbox of startup business owners, identity theft and corporate espionage might not make the “short list” of priorities to straighten out. Not prioritizing the threat of “hackers,” however, might have a high price.

In 2010, the U.S. Secret Service, along with Verizon’s forensic analysis unit, found 761 business data breaches, up from 141 in 2009. Surprisingly, at least to entrepreneurs, 63% of those breaches occurred at a business with less than 100 people.

Worse, data from the study shows that most small businesses have done a poor job of protecting their valuable company data, often housing their information in virtually defenseless, single-source, non-secure storage databases.

The Cost of Being Hacked

An update from Verizon, released in March 2012, shows that it’s getting easier and easier to break into critical data.

“In 2011, 79 percent of attacks represented in the report were opportunistic,” says Verizon in its 2012 Data Breach Investigations Report. “Of all attacks, 96 percent were not highly difficult, meaning they did not require advanced skills or extensive resources. Additionally, 97 percent of the attacks were avoidable, without the need for organizations to resort to difficult or expensive countermeasures.”

Another report, from Symantec Corp., reveals the true cost of getting hit hard by a cyber hacker. The study says that small business owners pay about $215 out-of-pocket to “rescue” each compromised record. For a small medical insurance processing firm, or an average investment advisory or law practice, even a loss of 10,000 records can cost well over $200,000.

How to Avoid an Attack

Don’t let that happen to your business. Symantec has a list of tips every startup business owner should take to avoid a cyber-hacker attack — and the sooner you put these tips into place, the better:

  • Assess risks by identifying and classifying confidential information
  • Educate employees on information-protection policies and procedures, then hold them accountable
  • Deploy data-loss prevention technologies which enable policy compliance and enforcement
  • Proactively encrypt laptops to minimize consequences of a lost device
  • Integrate information protection practices into businesses processes

Don’t get caught unprepared for a cyber attack. A lack of preparation, especially against desperate hackers who firmly believe they’ll get away with the crime, can be fatal to your small business.

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Brian O’Connell is a freelance small business journalist writing for Vistaprint, the leading online provider of custom business cards and other marketing products to small and micro businesses around the globe. Brian has covered business news and trends for the Wall Street Journal, TIME, and dozens of other renowned publications.

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