Cyber Security Tips for Small Business

5 Cybersecurity Tips for Small Business

Cybersecurity tips to protect your small business in the digital economy.

5 Cybersecurity tips to protect your business from online disaster, either intentional or accidental. Follow these basic tips and you’ll be light years ahead of most small businesses in terms of cybersecurity.

  1. Record critical user names and passwords. Create a spreadsheet or word document containing the following information and store a digital copy in a safe location (encrypted on disk) and a paper copy (safe or bank box). You MUST have control of all of the above. Do NOT trust your web guy/gal/designer etc. to own this. If you part ways you will need to have this information and the ability to change or update as required. NO EXCEPTIONS.
    • Domain name registrar (e.g. godaddy.com, namecheap.com, etc.) ______________________
      • Web address url: _____________________________________________________________________
      • Login username ____________________ and password ______________________________________
    • DNS management provider name (this could be your domain registrar, your website hosting company or another third party (e.g. Cloudflare.com))______________________
      • Web address url: _____________________________________________________________________
      • Login username ____________________ and password ______________________________________
    • Server management url (e.g. cPanel and/or WHM dashboard)______________________
      • Web address url: _____________________________________________________________________
      • Login username ____________________ and password ______________________________________
    • Website host name and url (e.g. godaddy.com, siteground, com, etc.)______________________
      • Web address url: _____________________________________________________________________
      • Login username ____________________ and password ______________________________________
    • Website login url (e.g. your WordPress admin dashboard)______________________
      • Web address url: _____________________________________________________________________
      • Login username ____________________ and password ______________________________________
    • Email admin url (if different than your server)______________________
      • Web address url: _____________________________________________________________________
      • Login username ____________________ and password ______________________________________
    • Note: Domain name registrar and DNS management provider may be the same but often are not. Example: Domain name registrar name (e.g. godaddy.com, siteground, com, etc.) but DNS management is provided by your Website host or a third party proxy service like Cloundflare.com. Also, some Domain Name registrars may also be your Website host (e.g. Namecheap.com). If you use a content management system like WordPress, your Website login will be to your admin dashboard, typically https://<yourdomain>.com/wp-admin. Your Email login could be via your Server management (e.g. cPanel and/or WHM) or a third party such as gmail.com or yahoo.com. This is why you must discover answers to the above and record them.
  2. Use a unique and difficult to hack password for each of the above. NEVER use the same password to access multiple different logins. This will limit the damage possible should your password for any one login become compromised (hacked). When creating your passwords keep these points in mind:
    • Longer is better. The longer the password, the longer it will take for a brute force password attack to be successful. Here’s a graphic to better understand how length matters and is more important than complexity: https://xkcd.com/936/
    • Rather than trying to remember a long combination of random characters, numbers and symbols, think in phrases. A phrase is much more memorable. Here’s an example: a horse of a different color. Easy to remember the phrase but now just switch it up to create this password phrase: a different colored horse.
    • But what if you have dozens of passwords for different things? Time for a password manager. A password manager will create and store multiple passwords, auto-fill logins and forms and automatically create not only very long passwords but also very complex passwords. You will only need one Master Password to access all your stored passwords. Use the phrase method to create your master password. Make sure the phrase is at least 12 characters long, preferably longer. Here’s an example: the cow jumped over the moon the dish ran away with the spoon. Switch it up to create this password phrase: spoon away the dish moon the cow
    • Again NEVER use the same password for more than one email, one website, one anything.
  3. Enable two-factor authentication for all of the above if possible. Two-factor authentication is an extra layer of security used to verify the identity of anyone attempting to gain access to any of the above. This ensures that should your username and password become compromised, the intruder will still have to verify the second security layer in order to gain access. Check with your service provider to see if and what types of two-factor authentication is available. There a several types of two-factor authentication but the two most common are
    • a time-limited code is sent via phone or SMS text message. You enter the code given to verify your identity and gain access. Since this code must be transmitted over the third party network, it’s considered less secure than the next method.
    •  a push notification is sent to an app on your web connected device. You then approve or deny with a single touch. Since this requires that your device be connected to the web, it’s best to have phone or SMS verification as a fall back.
  4. Determine what data is critical to your business operation and protect it by:
    • Limiting access to this data. Don’t give access to critical data unless that person cannot perform their job function without access. Instruct all your employees to not click on links in emails or download attachments from email or websites unless they are expecting the attachment and trust the sender. They can always contact the sender FIRST to verify if in fact they sent the message/link/attachment.
    • All devices used to connect to the internet MUST have UP TO DATE anti-virus and/or malware protection. Schedule a weekly or monthly group timeout to make sure all security software is active and up to date. This includes all mobile devices as well as computers.
  5. BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP! Make sure that any critical information, whether it’s stored locally or online, is backed up on a consistent schedule. The most secure backup policies store backups both locally and online. If your business employs an onsite server, critical information should be stored on the server NOT individual devices. The most critical data can then be copied to an attached storage device and stored in a DIFFERENT secure location, Ideally, this should be in addition to any online backup storage. Remember, if physical disaster (think fire, flood, hurricane, tornado, etc.) strikes your facility or area you may lose your onsite server and you may or may not have online access to download your backups. Even with online access, large data backups could take hours, days or even longer to access. Think redundancy.

BONUS: Download this article for offline reference.

BONUS TIP: Include the cybersecurity tips above as part of a complete disaster recovery plan.

BONUS Resources:

Disaster Preparedness and Recovery Plan from SBA

The Best Free Antivirus Protection of 2018

Free Online Storage

The best Windows backup software

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