From the Director’s Desk – SBA

By Mark S. Hayward

Hayward was appointed Rhode Island District Director of the U.S. Small Business Administration in March of 2000. Since that time he has served, on several occasions, as acting New England Regional Administrator as well as being appointed Senior Advisor to the 25th Administrator of the SBA, Linda McMahon.

As small business shifts to an ever more digital environment, it is important to understand how to protect yourself and your business. In our shops, stores and offices we have locks and security systems, but too often as we shift our services to an online platform we forget to ensure the same safeguards are met. This October will commemorate the 15th observance of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, a month where federal agencies and private businesses work together to ensure that American businesses have the resources they need to protect themselves in a digital world.

Below are ten cybersecurity tips to help keep your small business safe online.

1. Protect against viruses, spyware, and other malicious code Make sure each of your business’s computers are equipped with antivirus software and antispyware and update regularly. Such software is readily available online from a variety of vendors. All software vendors regularly provide patches and updates to their products to correct security problems and improve functionality. Configure all software to install updates automatically.

2. Secure your networks Safeguard your Internet connection by using a firewall and encrypting information. If you have a Wi-Fi network, make sure it is secure and hidden. To hide your Wi-Fi network, set up your wireless access point or router so it does not broadcast the network name, known as the Service Set Identifier (SSID). Password protect access to the router.

3. Establish security practices and policies to protect sensitive information Establish policies on how employees should handle and protect personally identifiable information and other sensitive data. Clearly outline the consequences of violating your business’s cybersecurity policies.

4. Educate employees about cyberthreats and hold them accountable Educate your employees about online threats and how to protect your business’s data, including safe use of social networking sites. Depending on the nature of your business, employees might be introducing competitors to sensitive details about your firm’s internal business. Employees should be informed about how to post online in a way that does not reveal any trade secrets to the public or competing businesses. Hold employees accountable to the business’s Internet security policies and procedures.

5. Require employees to use strong passwords and to change them often Consider implementing multifactor authentication that requires additional information beyond a password to gain entry. Check with your vendors that handle sensitive data, especially financial institutions, to see if they offer multifactor authentication for your account.

6. Employ best practices on payment cards Work with your banks or card processors to ensure the most trusted and validated tools and anti-fraud services are being used. You may also have additional security obligations related to agreements with your bank or processor. Isolate payment systems from other, less secure programs and do not use the same computer to process payments and surf the Internet. Are you ready for the shift from magnetic-strip payment cards to safer, more secure chip card technology, also known as “EMV”? October 1st is the deadline set by major U.S. credit card issuers to be in compliance. Visit SBA.gov/EMV for more information and resources.

7. Make backup copies of important business data and information Regularly backup the data on all computers. Critical data includes word processing documents, electronic spreadsheets, databases, financial files, human resources files, and accounts receivable/payable files. Backup data automatically if possible, or at least weekly, and store the copies either offsite or on the cloud.

8. Control physical access to computers and network components Prevent access or use of business computers by unauthorized individuals. Laptops can be particularly easy targets for theft or can be lost, so lock them up when unattended. Make sure a separate user account is created for each employee and require strong passwords. Administrative privileges should only be given to trusted IT staff and key personnel.

9. Create a mobile device action plan Mobile devices can create significant security and management challenges, especially if they hold confidential information or can access the corporate network.. Require users to password protect their devices, encrypt their data, and install security apps to prevent criminals from stealing information while the phone is on public networks. Be sure to set reporting procedures for lost or stolen equipment.

10. Protect all pages on your public-facing websites, not just the checkout and sign-up pages

Source: SBA.gov – Top Ten Security Tips, Federal Communications Commission – Cybersecurity Tips for Small Business, Department of Homeland Security – Small Business Tip Card.

For more information visit www.SBA.gov/RI.

 

 

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