In today’s age of digital information nothing is more important than keeping your data secure. However, we see stories in the news all the time about large corporations and governments having information stolen.

But, those large corporations aren’t the only ones at risk. The fact is that more than 70 percent of security breaches are targeted at small businesses. In fact, if you are a small business owner, there is a 50-50 chance your company will be the victim of a cyber attack.

You might be thinking if large corporations can’t seem to avoid cyber crime, there’s little you can do to prevent the same thing from happening to your business. But there are several things you can do to safeguard your online data.

In many cases, especially with today’s sophisticated hacking schemes, there aren’t as many telltale signs of being hacked as you might imagine. However, you should always be alert for:

  • Slow or lagging computer response time;
  • Pop-up windows that you can’t close
  • Your contacts reporting questionable or strange emails from your account that you did not send;
  • Strange programs or websites asking for your credentials.

If you do discover malware or a virus in your system, you’ll first want to see if any data was compromised. Recovering that information is usually impossible, but your priority is to piece together what happened, how bad it was and which customers might have been impacted.

Preventing breaches

Many businesses discover the weaknesses in their online security protocols only after they suffer a data breach. It’s often only after getting the situation under control that steps are taken to tighten security to prevent another incident from happening. But experiencing a breach should not be a prerequisite to taking the basic steps to prevent one.

To best minimize the risk of an attack, you should do the following simple things:

  1. Back up your data daily. While you should back up data to an external drive, it’s important to back up regularly, and to secure backups in a different location from your computer.

The most reliable way to safeguard files is to back up to a cloud server with multiple security and failure-protection protocols.

  1. Have a good firewall. A firewall is designed to prevent unauthorized access to or from a private network. Firewalls can be implemented in both hardware and software, or a combination of both.

If you have more than one computer connected in a small office network, you should have a hardware firewall to protect your network.

  1. Install antivirus software on all computers. Antivirus and anti-malware software is used to prevent, detect and remove malicious software.
  2. Use an anti-spam system. “Spam” is most often defined as electronic junk mail or junk newsgroup postings. More than just annoying, spam can also eat up network bandwidth and might carry attachments with viruses or spyware.
  3. Multiple backups. Again, the single most important thing is to make sure you regularly back up your computers and servers, but go a step farther and ensure you have multiple backups or multiple versions of the backup. Above all, understand that your business needs to stay vigilant and informed from the risks a cyber-attack could have on your company, your reputation and your future.

Keith Fletcher is the Chief Operations Officer at Speros, a technology solutions company. kfletcher@speros.com