How Mom-and-Pop Businesses Can Improve Their Cybersecurity

Frankie Wallace

Cyber-crime is more prevalent than ever. Often, cyber-crime is associated with bigger players in the market. However, any small business or mom-and-pop shop could one day be the target of a cyber-attack.

In fact, small businesses make up a majority of cyber-crime and data breach victims. For example, a Verizon Report from 2016 states that small businesses made up of 61 percent of all data breaches in that year. These breaches have cost mom-and-pop businesses between $84,000 and $148,000, resulting in about 60 percent of small businesses going out of business a few months after a cyberattack. Since then, the numbers have only risen.

Mom-and-pop businesses tend to overlook cybercrime when considering threats to their security. Unfortunately, the lack of skilled IT professionals, only makes security preparedness all the more difficult. Today, even the U.S. government is unable to fill 300,000 positions for cybersecurity professionals. This IT skills gap is a serious problem for everyone. However it can be especially problematic for the little guys.

There are many reasons why mom-and-pop shops and small businesses have become hackers’ preferred targets:

  • Small businesses store a lot of valuable data — from people’s financial information to personal details — that can be easily used for fraud.
  • Additionally, Mom-and-pop businesses can serve as a gateway, providing hackers with access to larger enterprises since they often source goods and services from smaller businesses. Consider the Target breach a few years ago. This was, in fact, the result of exploited access that Target had provided to a smaller HVAC contractor.
  • Small businesses often lack adequate cybersecurity, making them very easy and unsuspecting targets for hackers.

With all this in mind, you need to take appropriate steps to protect your business from cyber-threats. And what better time to upgrade your cybersecurity than in time for National Mom-and-pop Business Owners Day?

On March 29, small business owners and loyal customers across the country celebrate local businesses with pride. As stated by Amsterdam Printing, “National Mom-and-Pop Business Owners Day is all about honoring you — your hard, work, your dedication, and your vital contributions to the economy.”

Improving your business by upgrading vital cybersecurity protocols is the perfect way to celebrate and take your business to the next level. Here are some things you can do to improve your cybersecurity:

Use Antivirus Software

Antivirus programs play an extremely important role in protecting your devices. The best part is, antivirus programs are often free. While free plans will offer you a basic level of protection, an advanced or premium subscription will protect your devices even more, with features such as protection against spyware or malware, email virus scanning, and more. Therefore, if your budget allows it, consider investing in a premium protection plan. In the long run, a thorough antivirus program can actually end up saving you money.

Encrypt Everything

A basic knowledge of encryption can go a long way when it comes to protecting your mom-and-pop shop from theft. Encryption ensures that hackers can’t get into your files without a specific decryption key. Consider this analogy: you’re leaving your house for a holiday. Would you leave your front door unlocked? Obviously not — you would ensure that your door was securely locked so that no one could enter your home. Encryption is the equivalent of the lock, which can only be opened with a special key.

There are many free resources to learn encryption online. This includes everything from encryption emails to learning how to properly password-protect files. This year, take the initiative to learn some basic encryption so as to effectively protect your data.

Secure Mobile Devices

Mobile devices are easy targets for hackers, especially because most people overlook securing their mobile devices against cybercrime. Due to their small size, mobile devices can also be easily stolen. Therefore, if your business workflow involves communication or data storage via mobile device, you need to secure your system. Additionally, if employees are allowed to bring and use their devices at work, it is crucial to secure these devices from threats.

While it is a little more difficult to secure an employee’s personal device, enacting BYOD policies will help keep your business more secure. For instance, you could insist that employees only store work-related information on their devices until the task is complete. Additionally, you should encourage employees to store work-related information on the cloud. Using the cloud to complete tasks is much safer than allowing employees to download data onto their devices for offline use. Consider using two-factor authentication for an added layer of security and protection. 

Don’t Forget Your Backup

Mom-and-pop shops still have large amounts of data to keep track of. Frequent backups can ensure the longevity of your business information. In the unfortunate event of a cyber-attack, it’s possible for all your data to be wiped clean. However, if you had a recent backup of your data, you are safe from the risk of losing your data forever.

This can shutter your day-to-day operations, particularly when it comes to inventory management.

Lost or incomplete data can lead to a host of common inventory problems, including:

  • An inability to track old stock, making it difficult to prioritize sales due to near expiration dates or otherwise imminently obsolete goods.
  • Discrepancies in numbers when quantifying stock, leading to potential shortages or overages
  • A lack of data for both suppliers and workers, leading to frustration and a loss of morale from business partners and employees.

Regularly conducting data backups will allow you to reclaim your data if you ever need to and prevent major losses by ensuring that you don’t have to start from the very beginning all over again.

As a mom-and-pop business owner, cybersecurity should be on the top of your priority list. With Mom-and-Pop Business Owners Day right around the corner, there is no better time than now to safeguard your business from the rising threat of cyber-attacks. The digital landscape is constantly evolving, so it is integral to keep up with the latest cybersecurity trends to ensure the safety of your business. That being said, acting on these basic cybersecurity tips is a good starting point — doing so can greatly minimize the risks of cyber-threats.

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