6 Biggest Security Risks Facing Small Businesses

by / ⠀Startup Advice / April 18, 2021

It’s easy for small businesses to think they don’t face as much online security risk as large enterprises. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Small businesses are targeted by hackers almost as much as large enterprises – smaller companies often have more to lose.

Cybercriminals know small businesses can’t afford state-of-the-art cybersecurity or a whole team of full-time security experts. Fortunately, you don’t need those things to keep your business safe. You only need some common-sense security practices and a few basic tools.

Read on for a look at the biggest security risks facing small businesses – and how to mitigate them.

1. User Error

Mistakes made by uneducated users very often lead to cyber breaches. By some accounts, human error is the leading cause of breaches by a large margin. If users don’t know what to watch out for, they could easily do unsafe things like download an attachment from a malicious email, click an unsafe link, or share confidential information outside the organization.

The best way to mitigate the risk of human error is to educate users on cybersecurity best practices. Regular trainings may sound like a drag, but they’re vitally important. It only takes a few minutes to teach employees what a phishing email looks like, while it can take a massive amount of time and resources to recover from a data breach.

2. Unpatched Apps

App developers come out with updates on what feels like a constant basis. Multiply that by the number of apps your business uses, and patching may start to seem overwhelming. But patching is one of the simplest and most important things you can do to keep your business safe from security risks.

This is because hackers are constantly looking for vulnerabilities in common business software. Software developers, too, are constantly on the lookout for vulnerabilities, and they usually issue a patch as soon as a vulnerability is found. Failing to patch your software as soon as updates are released leaves known vulnerabilities in your network.

3. Insecure WiFi

Your WiFi can be a major security risk factor if it’s not properly secured. Insecure WiFi can be joined by anyone in range of its signal. Once a malicious actor is connected to the network, they can intercept sensitive data or sabotage your business’s operations.

WiFi controls are imperative. Password use should be a given. Hackers can often crack passwords, though, so you may want additional controls on your WiFi network. Setting up guest networks allows non-employees to use WiFi in your office without getting access to sensitive data. It’s also important that you have device control and multi-level security settings.

4. Lack of Network Monitoring

Network monitoring is an incredibly important part of modern cybersecurity, and one that many small businesses don’t have in place. The term refers to a set of solutions that allow IT teams to monitor the traffic on their network and receive alerts when anything unusual happens. The best network monitoring solutions use AI to detect threats that otherwise couldn’t have been detected.

In the past, small businesses considered AI-powered network monitoring beyond their budgets or capabilities. But as AI becomes more advanced and accessible, innovative network monitoring solutions are becoming more attainable. For example, business intelligence platform Plume WorkPass offers AI-enabled security and adaptive Wi-Fi so users always have the strongest, most secure connection. Moreover, you can use an app to control and monitor your network. This provides robust and convenient network monitoring without forcing small businesses to buy separate software.

5. Weak Passwords

Passwords seem like such low tech, it’s hard to believe hackers can truly be thwarted by them. But good password management can go a long way toward keeping your business secure.

Effective password management means using strong, lengthy passwords. But much more importantly, it means using unique passwords for every single application or site your users log into. You should provide users with a password manager so they won’t have to struggle to remember their passwords, and to make it easier to avoid reusing passwords.

For especially sensitive apps, consider using two-factor authentication. This is a system where in addition to a password, users have to implement a one-time PIN they receive through a separate application. Many users have apps with two-factor authentication enabled in their settings. Also, users can use the free Google Authenticator app provides them with their PINs.

6. Unsecured Personal Devices

Now that users are working remotely more often, they’re also more likely to use their personal laptops or phones to do work. Unfortunately, you can’t know for certain whether those personal devices are properly secured.

There are a number of ways to protect your data on employee devices, and the strategies you use will ultimately depend on the workflows that make the most sense for your employees. If they work in cloud apps, encryption and strict authentication may be enough. For other types of apps, you may want to require that employees use a VPN.

Whatever you do, it’s important that you have a clear, enforced policy on personal device use. Make sure you let employees know that they cannot save sensitive data on their devices or exchanged over unsecured WiFi. Additionally, do your best to enforce these rules.

Cybersecurity is a major concern for businesses of all sizes, and small businesses are certainly not exempt. Fortunately, businesses can prevent the majority of data breaches with some simple, common-sense strategies like better password management and user education. For everything else, there are solutions available that can bring enterprise-grade security to small businesses.  

About The Author

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Editor in Chief of Under30CEO. I have a passion for helping educate the next generation of leaders.

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