The Most Effective Ways To Protect Your Small Business From Cyber Attacks

Small businesses are even more prone to cyber threats becuase they're weaker on defense. Here's how to protect your small business against a cyber attack

Okay, I’m going to start with a question.

What would happen if a hacker decided to launch a cyber attack against your business? Would they be successful? Would they easily gain access to your company’s sensitive information? Or would their attempt fall flat?

Believe it or not, cyber security isn’t just a concern for large businesses. It’s something that small business owners need to pay attention to.

Consider these statistics about Small Business Security:

  • 43 percent of cyber attacks target small business.
  • Only 14 percent of small businesses rate their ability to mitigate cyber risks, vulnerabilities and attacks as highly effective.
  • 60 percent of small companies go out of business within six months of a cyber attack.
  • 48 percent of data security breaches are caused by acts of malicious intent. Human error or system failure account for the rest.

If you’re a small business owner, you can’t ignore these statistics. You don’t want your business to suffer because you didn’t take the appropriate steps to protect it.

You have worked way too hard to allow your company to be threatened by a hacker, right? In this post, you will learn why it’s important to focus on cyber security. You will also learn how you can protect your business.

Why Should Small Businesses Be Concerned With Cyber Security?

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that your business is so small, nobody would ever want to hack it.

It’s easy to think that a small business would never have to deal with cyber security issues. Makes sense, right? Usually when you hear about a company being hacked, it’s a major brand like Target or Sony.

But these aren’t the only targets.

It may sound hard to believe, but hackers target small businesses too. You just don’t hear about it because the media isn’t going to report on hacks involving small businesses. There are several reasons why a hacker might go after a small business…

Small Businesses Don’t Take Cyber Security Seriously

Let’s face it. Most small business owners don’t take cyber security seriously. They think that they’re too small to get a hacker’s attention.

However, this is one of the main reasons why a small business might get hacked. Hackers know that most small business owners don’t invest in cyber security.

Why? Because small business owners tend to think they have nothing worth stealing. This makes them an easy target.

Chances are, you do have something that hackers want: customer payment information. That brings me to my next point…

You Have Information That Hackers Want

Your business may not be as big as Target or Starbucks … but it doesn’t matter. You do take payment for your products and services, right? That means you have something that hackers want. You have your customers’ payment information. You have your employees’ information.

The Council of Better Business Bureaus found that 7.4 percent of small business owners have been defrauded. As a business owner, you have customer and employee information. This information is as valuable as gold to hackers. If your system isn’t secure, these hackers could have access to payment information and social security numbers. It’s your job to make sure that this information is protected.

How to Protect Your Small Business Against A Cyber Attack

Okay, so I’ve showed you that being a small business doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get hacked. But if you’re smart — and I know you are — you’re probably wondering how you can protect your company’s information. That’s what the next section of this post is about.

Get Cyber Security Insurance

Insurance! It’s not just for your car, house or medical bills. You can also get insurance for your business. As a matter of fact, every company should carry some type of business insurance.

But, there is also cyber security insurance. If you’re a small business, you need this.

Sure, we all hope that security breaches won’t happen. But hope isn’t good enough. You need to make sure your business is covered.

Cyber liability insurance is designed to protect your business from various cyber security threats. If there is a security breach, and your company is held liable, you may end up having to pay out tons of money in a lawsuit. This can cripple most small businesses.

If you have cyber liability insurance, you won’t have to worry about this. If you buy the right type of insurance, your legal costs will be covered.

Develop A Password Strategy

Many cyber security attacks happen because the passwords your employees use are way too simple. If your team isn’t educated, it’s possible that they’re using passwords that are way too easy to hack.

It happens all the time.

That’s why you need to implement an effective password strategy. You may not be able to stop every single attack, but you can certainly slow down a persistent hacker. If your system isn’t easy to hack, it could discourage the attacker. They will move on to another small business owner who isn’t as smart as you are!

Fortunately, this is pretty easy.

You should make sure that your team members are required to create passwords that include a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, along with numbers and symbols. Yes, I know this might be a pain, but the security your company will have is worth it. Also, you should require your employees to reset their passwords at least once a month.

Use Virtual Data Rooms (VDR)

Virtual data rooms are a great way to keep your company’s information secure. They make it easier for your employees to share sensitive data.

A virtual data room is an online repository where your company can store data. They’re usually used with financial transactions. It’s very hard for a hacker to get to information that is stored in a VDR.

There are many types of information that a company might store in a VDR:

  • Financial information
  • Legal documentation
  • Tax paperwork
  • Intellectual property information

VDR’s are a great way to ensure that your sensitive information is being kept safe.

Speak With An Expert

Yes, I know you don’t want to do it. But you should. Paying an IT security consultant might seem to be a little expensive. But it’s a great investment.

If your house sprung a leak and water was building up in your kitchen, would you try to fix it yourself? Probably not. You would probably call a plumber, right?

Why? Because if you’re like most of us, you don’t know the first thing about plumbing. The same principle applies to IT security.

If you’re concerned about cyber security, you should consider speaking with an IT security expert. An IT security consultant can take a look at your business and determine the best course of action when it comes to protecting it from cyber attacks.

An IT security consultant can identify areas where your company is vulnerable to cyber attacks. They can make recommendations that will help you keep your business safe. When it comes to cyber security, you can never be too careful. If it’s in your budget, hire an expert. You’ll be glad you did.

Beware Of Internal Threats

This may be a surprise, but most of the cyber security issues that happen are the result of someone inside the company. It’s not something most business owners want to think about, but it’s totally true.

Here’s a hard truth: 55 percent of all cyber attacks come from inside the organization. 31.5 percent are done by malicious employees. 23.5 percent are done by company insiders who mistakenly leave the company vulnerable to an attack.

Protecting your company means looking within the organization. It’s easy to assume that a cyber attack is going to come from an outside force. But it’s not true. You have to focus on the people inside your company just as much as people outside your company.

Make sure that you are keeping an eye on your authorization requirements. Be careful when you’re deciding which employees should have access to sensitive data. This will help you prevent “internal hacks.”

Don’t feel guilty for watching your employees’ activities; as the owner of your business, it’s your duty to ensure that you and your team are being protected. I get it. You don’t want to micromanage. The key is to find the balance between being safe and being big brother. It’s different for every company, but if you work at it, you will find that balance.

Summing It All Up

If you’re a small business owner, you need to take your cyber security seriously. Don’t assume that your company isn’t a target just because you’re not a big business.

You owe it to yourself, your employees and your customers to make sure that your business is secure. Preventing cyber attacks should be one of your top priorities. If you take the right steps, you won’t have to worry about endangering your business.

Hacker Photo via Shutterstock

[“source-ndtv”]

10 Ways to Market Your Business in a Changing World

The way businesses market to their customers is constantly changing, from use of new tools like Twitter and Foursquare to the need to cope with shorter customer attention spans.

So, businesses need to constantly update their tactics in order to stay relevant.

This week, members of the small business community shared some tips for continuing to adapt to changes in your industry.

Read the full list of tips in this week’s community news and information roundup below.

Skyrocket Your Twitter Marketing

(TechWyse)

If you use Twitter as part of your online marketing strategy, you might not be doing all that you can to leverage the platform. Sherman Standberry shares a few steps in this post aimed at helping businesses make the most of their Twitter marketing strategies.

Market to Customers’ Short Attention Spans

(DIY Marketers)

Consumers these days don’t spend a lot of time learning about different businesses and their offerings. If you can’t catch their attention in the first few seconds, they’re likely to just move on. Here, Ivana Taylor talks about how to get and keep customers’ attention in the short amount of time you have. BizSugar members then discuss the post further.

Take Geo Local Marketing Seriously

(SmallBizDaily)

Twitter and Foursquare recently announced a partnership that could impact the way local businesses market to nearby customers. Though many have already dismissed platforms like Foursquare in terms of marketing value, it might be time for small businesses to take another look. Nicole Laurrari discusses the potential of geo local marketing.

Write the Ultimate Blog Post

(Blogging Wizard)

There’s so much that goes into creating a great blog post, from catchy headlines to SEO, and of course great content. Your goal should be to make every single post you write as great as it can be. And this blogging cheat sheet from Elna Cain might be able to help. You can see more input on the post in the BizSugar community.

Focus on Solving Problems with Business Apps

(Buzinga)

Wanting your app to make a lot of money won’t magically make it so. In fact, creating an app just to bring in some extra cash is unlikely to lead to success. As Jason Coutsodimitropoulos points out here, successful apps are those that actually solve a problem or provide a useful service for people.

Make the Most of Your Social Media Schedule

(Social Media Slant)

Running a successful social media campaign doesn’t have to be time consuming. In this post, Cendrine Marrouat explains how you can effectively run your social media campaigns in just an hour a day. The BizSugar community also shares some thoughts on the post.

Get Your Customer Service in Gear

(Yodle Insights)

Providing good customer service can make a huge difference in your company’s bottom line. Those who have been in business for a long time can provide some valuable tips for newer businesses looking to improve service. This post by Angelica Diamond provides some of those tips.

Consider Including a “Start Here” Page on Your Site

(The SITS Girls)

When a new reader gets to your blog for the first time, there’s a possibility that they could be confused or overwhelmed enough to simply click away. But if you have a “start here” page specifically designed for new readers, you could at least partially eliminate that problem. Laura Gelnett discusses the power of these pages along with some things you might include on them.

Target Your Ideal Buyer

(Riverbed Marketing)

If your marketing efforts aren’t specifically tailored to your ideal customers, they’re not reaching their full potential. In order to tailor your marketing, you need to first determine who your ideal buyers are and how to reach them. Todd Mumford shares some tips for doing so.

Make the Most of Your Business Travel

(The Marketing Eggspert Blog)

Traveling for business is often necessary if not always convenient. But you can use that travel as an opportunity to grow your business, as April Lisonbee discusses here. You can read more input about business travel in the BizSugar community.

Market your business  photo via Shutterstock

[“source-smallbiztrends”]

3 Unexpected Ways Apps Are Changing Our Lives: What’s Next?

Remember the “dark days” of 2006?

A decade ago, we were still busy scrolling through email on our Blackberry phones. It was hard to imagine using our phones to summon on-demand rides, virtually deposit checks, stream music for free, or even find instant turn-by-turn directions to our destinations. A decade later, Apple’s mantra “there’s an app for that” has become a way of life.

Whether we’re reading, playing, shopping, learning, writing, emailing, running, traveling or sleeping, apps put the world at our fingertips.

The app-driven life kicked the mobile phone revolution into high gear. Globally, we’ve adopted smartphones and tablets 10 times faster than personal computers in the 1980s and twice as fast as the Internet boom of the 1990s, according to app-tracking firm Flurry. Young adults spend an estimated one-third of their waking lives on smartphones, reports Huffington Post, with most of us checking our phones twice as often as we think we do. We’re using phones an estimated five hours a day thanks in part to habitual automatic behaviors. Waiting in the grocery line or for your morning coffee? Time to check Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. More than half of our smartphone usage comes in short bursts of less than 30 seconds of activity, which is one reason we often underestimate our usage.

Here are three key ways apps are changing our lives — and how your small business can leverage these changes for success:

1. Digital payments. Last month, popular mobile payment app Venmo processed more than $1 billion in mobile payments. Google Wallet and Apple Pay have both launched contactless payment options, allowing users to pay simply by using a thumb to verify identity on their mobile phones. Industry analysts predict mobile payments are on the edge of going mainstream: soon, paying with our phones will seem as natural as swiping a credit card. Cash will be a thing of the past, reports Due.com. And while Bitcoin may never catch on as a new digital currency, the blockchain technology that it’s based on is taking off with unexpected applications. Innovation opportunities: The digital currency marketplace is wide open for innovation. There are a number of innovative companies experimenting with blockchain technology to make transactions cheaper, easier and safer. For example, BitWage uses blockchain technology to make international payroll cheaper, faster and more reliable. Voatz is working to eliminate voting fraud and make elections cheaper and more transparent.

2. Healthcare at our fingertips. Forget heart rate monitoring during a workout; today’s healthcare apps are truly transforming the patient-provider relationship. Last September, Apple demonstrated how the new Air Strip app can change how doctors and patients interact; doctors can monitor a patient’s heart rate and other acute health statistics via the app. This would allow doctors to better monitor patients with chronic health conditions like heart disease and diabetes without ever having to make the trip to the hospital, reports Popular Science. Innovation opportunities: A number of health care apps are hitting the app marketplace, all aimed at simplifying symptom monitoring and management. The HIPAA-compliant app CaptureProof lets patients virtually “show and tell” their symptoms; patients snap a photo of symptoms and send it to their doctor to monitor progress, reducing unnecessary follow-up appointments. For busy parents, Fever Scout provides continuous temperature monitoring during the night, gently waking parents when a child’s temperature exceeds a pre-determined level.

3. Virtual house hunting. A decade ago, searching for your dream home required a big stack of MLS listings and a lot of in-person home visits on the weekends. Now, apps like Trulia, Zillow and Redfin have made the house hunt virtual. “Apps put real estate listings directly at a house hunter’s fingertips,” says Ocala real estate agent Fred Franks. “They let house hunters hone in on a specific community or a handful of property listings, streamlining the search process. These apps are especially helpful for homeowners who are relocating from other cities or states and aren’t able to drop by every open house on the weekend since they’re not living in town yet.” Innovation opportunities: The house hunt is about more than just finding the perfect listing; would-be homeowners need great credit and mortgage pre-approval, as well as a clear understanding of the neighborhood. Zillow’s mortgage app gives users a better idea of what their homes will actually cost when they factor in property taxes, interest, home insurance and other expenses. And apps aren’t just for house hunters; Homesnap Pro is an app built specifically for agents that gives realtors access to real-time agent-only MLS data.

Bottom Line

From how we search for our dream homes to how we split the cost of brunch with friends, new apps are changing virtually every aspect of our daily lives. Understanding these patterns of usage, including evolving consumer preferences for when and how we interact with our phones, is essential for successful mobile marketing.

Mobile Apps Photo via Shutterstock

[“source-smallbiztrends”]

3 Ways to Market Your Local Business Online

According to research from Verisign, 91 percent of consumers use the Internet to look for local goods and services.¹ If your local business is not online, you may be missing out on a significant number of potential customers.

Getting online and establishing a presence for your business doesn’t need to take much time or money. Here are three ways to get started today:

1. Add your business to online directories.

If you are still relying on that thick, dusty yellow book to find new customers, you may be missing a lot of opportunities. Today, many consumers turn to online directories first to find information about local businesses, and your business needs to show up in those searches. Here are a few types of directories to consider:

  • Search engine directories: List basic information about your business, like phone number, address and business hours, on places like Google My Business, Bing Places for Business or Yahoo! Local.
  • Local directories: Claim your business on some of the sites that specialize in listings by city or region, including YP.com, Citysearch and Local.com.
  • Review-centric directories: If you rely on customer reviews to drive business, consider sites known for consumer ratings and reviews. Registration is also free at many popular sites like Yelp, Angie’s List and Merchant Circle.
  • Industry-specific directories: If your business is in a specialized industry, an easy way to find relevant, high-traffic directories for your area of expertise is to do a quick online search of your profession (e.g., “attorney”) or your profession + “directory” (e.g., “attorney directory”). The search results should include links to directories that you may want to focus on.

With so many directory choices, don’t feel overwhelmed at the possibilities. Just choose one or two that you think your customers use the most. Also, your business may already have a listing on these directories as search engines can automatically build one for you. In that case, all you’ll need to do is claim it and make sure the information listed is correct.

2. Set up a social media page for your business

Nearly two-thirds of American adults use social networking sites², so it makes sense to harness the power of social media to help promote your business. But what social media platform is right for you?

Social media channels have unique features and services, so knowing your goals can help you determine which social networking site will help you reach your target customers. Think about where your customers may spend their time online. Don’t assume it’s a popular platform like Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter because that could limit your reach. For example, if you sell to consumers, LinkedIn may not be the most appropriate site.

Select one platform to serve as your primary social media presence. This will prevent you from becoming overwhelmed and help you to learn to use the site effectively for your marketing efforts. When you’re ready, consider advertising through social media. You can target your ads to people in a specific region and by demographic.

3. Start email marketing.

Email marketing helps boost customer loyalty with your brand, drive business to on- and offline channels, integrate multiple marketing channels and fuel the growth of social networks. Before you start, think about:

  • Your list of subscribers: Do you have a customer list? Make sure everyone on your list has opted-in to receive marketing emails. Also, how will you get new subscribers? Some ideas to consider are collecting email addresses at events and/or in your social media efforts.
  • Creating content to send to subscribers: You could promote your products and services, inform customers of special offers or even start a newsletter. Remember to create engaging content that your customers will find valuable and want to read.
  • Selecting an email service provider: Consider a solution that will help you grow, is low cost and doesn’t lock you into a lengthy contract. Make sure you have an idea of how many subscribers you have and how often you plan to email them. Most email service providers base their pricing on these factors.

The key to successful email marketing is to test your efforts. Plan to send out a few test emails to get an idea of the types of subject lines and content that your subscribers engage with the most. You may also want to test sending emails on different days and at different times to see if there is an optimal time to send your emails for the highest engagement.

Tie It All Together With a Domain Name

The three options to market your business online discussed above are important first steps to creating an online presence for your business. But, how do you tie it all together with your brand? Easy. Register a domain name, or Web address, to serve as the hub for your online brand.

Do you want your customers to go to an online directory page or your social media page? Whatever you choose, use your domain name to redirect to that site. Called domain forwarding, this option is usually easy to set up when you register your domain name and often takes as little as five minutes. In essence, you create a rule that automatically redirects anyone who visits your domain name to any page you designate.

You can also use your domain name in your email marketing campaigns by making it your custom email address for your business. Company-branded email shows your customers that your company is established and professional. Sixty-five percent of U.S. consumers believe a company-branded email is more credible than a business using a free email account.³

Having your own domain name makes it easy to tell people where to find you online. And, if you want to create a website in the future, you already have a great Web address that your customers know.

Now that you’ve made the decision to take advantage of the benefits of online marketing, read the First 5 Things to Do After Getting Your Business Online.

¹Five Reasons Every Small Business Needs a Website. January 2016. http://www.slideshare.net/VerisignInc/5-reasons-every-small-business-needs-a-website

²Social Media Usage: 2005-2015. Accessed April 6, 2016. http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/10/08/social-networking-usage-2005-2015/

³Five Reasons Every Small Business Needs a Website. January 2016. https://www.verisign.com/assets/ebook-5ReasonsSMBWebsite-Jan2016.pdf

Market Image via Shutterstock

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