Security threats ranging from cyberattacks to phishing scams are real, and if you don’t plan properly, they could bring down everything you’ve worked so hard for. In fact, after a data breach or cyberattack 60% of small businesses end up shutting down within 6 months.
Start with a plan for the unexpected
The only way to ensure your business is completely secure is to expect the unexpected and have a plan in place for everything. That’s why, as you’re building your organization, you want to perform a risk analysis for everything from hackers to natural disasters to terrorist attacks. Yes, it’s likely your business might not be affected by such things, but is that a risk worth taking if a major catastrophe occurs or if the unthinkable does happen?
Your risk assessment should be done in steps by first identifying all potential risks and how these issues could negatively impact your business. Then, decide if your company is ready to handle those negative issues or if you need additional safeguards in place. Once you’ve figured this out, make sure that all necessary employees are aware of how to reduce these risks and how to take action if they do occur.
One of the worst catastrophes that can happen to a company is a data breach that releases private information about your customers, so to minimize risk you need to ensure that your servers and backup systems are in tip-top shape. Safeguarding your servers includes having impactful firewalls and using a private network if your business needs call for it. Most importantly, as your business starts, a routine must be put in place to check the servers regularly for vulnerabilities and hardware errors.
Cybersecurity is a must
Computer hackers are always coming up with new ways to infiltrate company records, and a data breach could result in leakage of personal customer information or financial documents that could not only lead to a loss of customers but also major lawsuits. The first step is to be aware of how you can limit the possibility of hackers and train all employees on proper practices.
It all starts with smart passwords. Put a protocol in place that all information not available to the public is secured and password protected. Passwords should be changed regularly and need to include a combination of numbers, letters, and special characters. Everyone should also be aware of phishing scams, where external emails will mimic authentic correspondence but can have a link or attachment that when clicked or opened, could bring a virus into your organization.
Finally, you need standard safeguards, including virus software that’s updated regularly and a network firewall to keep out unwanted threats. Also, have your IT specialists instruct employees on how to encrypt their data with two-way authentication, so even if their initial password is guessed, your data remains secure. Consider putting limitations on what websites your employees can visit. Some workers might feel these restrictions are because they’re not trusted by management, but remind employees that they’re to protect the business.
Additional guidelines for your specific business
While general business security is highly recommended, in some instances, your specific industry might require certain safeguards to avoid legal issues. For instance, if you’re a medical organization, you have to conform to the guidelines required by the HIPAA privacy and security rule which requires you to take the proper precautions to protect patient data. If your health organization falls out of compliance, then you could be faced with major fines.
In the retail industry, customer payment information is highly confidential, and in the past, high-profile companies such as Target and Uber have fallen victim to data breaches which have cost them millions of dollars. To avoid these risks, retail companies must follow the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, which requires secure networks that must be carefully monitored. Compliance reports are necessary on a regular basis to prove adherence. Get all of this set up at the start, so you don’t have to worry about it later.
If you work with a lot of confidential paper documents, then it’s a good idea to have a shredding procedure in place from day one. When they’re no longer used, everything from operations manuals and accounting statements to pre-approved credit card applications need to be discarded. However, you can’t just throw this information away. Instead, you should hire a professional shredding company which will ensure that the shreds are properly disposed of so they can’t be used for nefarious purposes.
Yes, the prospect of getting that business off the ground is an exciting one, but if you don’t put major thought into business security from the start, then one bad mistake could bring it all down. Instead, consider these steps and keep your business going for the long haul.