Too often, when small businesses are asked about their network and data security they typically answer:
- “My laptop came with some kind of security software, I think.”
- “My business is too small and doesn’t own enough data to be a target for hackers.”
- “I don’t have the time or money to deal with computer security.”
- “Network security? What’s that? Why is network security important?”
The bottom line is that small business network security isn’t the priority it should be.
It’s clear that many small businesses are especially vulnerable to a wide range of cyberattacks. Consider these statistics:
- In 2019, ransomware attackers demanded an average of almost $13,000 to release encrypted files.
- Cyberattacks of all types cost small businesses an average of over $53,000.
- 1 out of every 99 emails is a phishing attack–which means that even small businesses are inundated with dozens of phishing emails each day–and a shocking and 30% of phishing emails are opened.
- Identity theft is no longer just victimizing individuals–small businesses are increasingly seeing their credit ruined by business identity theft as well, according to findings from the IRS.
To help small businesses understand the value of having a strong system security, let’s review what network security is, the importance of network security, and the possible consequences that may come when security is treated as an afterthought.
The Importance of Business Network Security
Network security encompasses all of the components that are on your business network and includes the measures that a company takes to protect its digital, physical and human assets from cyberattacks. “Digital assets” include data, programs, computers, servers, and network equipment and let’s not forget the human assets – employees. A strong network security is comprised of several components:
- Hardware Security: Devices such as network firewalls are used to block malicious network traffic.
- Application security: The securing applications that hold business data.
- Software Security: Security-related software includes antivirus software, email filtering, and virtual private networks (VPNs), among others.
- Endpoint security: protection to laptops, workstations, smartphones, tablets
- User security: as users are a common weak link, education, training, testing is critical to your protection.
- Network security policy: Security policies outline the roles, responsibilities, and acceptable behavior of everyone at the company with regard to protecting digital assets.
- Network security procedures: These are the standard operating procedures that govern everything from setting password policies, network device setup, and security monitoring to the actions you should take in the event of a data breach.
Why is network security so important to small businesses? In general, smaller businesses have enough work on their plates between business growth, staff management, and finding new leads.
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Types of Network Security Threats
Cybercriminals are clever, industrious, and persistent. Because small businesses are easier targets than governments and large corporations, hackers are willing to settle for less-lucrative payouts in exchange for easier targets. With this in mind, the importance of network security for small businesses can’t be emphasized enough.
Here are the common network attacks and security threats:
- Phishing: These attacks use social engineering in email, text messages, or other communications to lure people into providing network credentials or other details that hackers can exploit. Often it’s an email that appears to be from your internet service provider, your bank, or a trusted partner, asking you to “log in” to a bogus website.
- Ransomware: Ransomware is a type of malware that takes control of your computer, encrypting the files and data and locking you out until you pay a ransom. Because small businesses often lack system backups and other solutions to recover from ransomware attacks, they often have no solution but to try paying the ransom and hope for the best. According to research, 1 in 5 small businesses that are hit by ransomware go out of business.
- Network attacks: These attacks probe company networks for known vulnerabilities that have not been patched, or they attempt to log in to servers and network devices using common, default, or weak passwords.
- Spyware and adware: Visiting unsafe websites and opening email attachments from unknown entities can result in the installation of malicious software on your computers. Smaller businesses may lack the resources required to protect against threats like this, even when the threats are known. In a 2015 survey, it was noted that although 81% of business owners agreed that cybersecurity was a concern for their business, only 42% had invested additional resources into cybersecurity protection that year.
- Identity theft: After stealing credentials or downloading sensitive data from your network, hackers can then steal the identities of you or your customers, which means they can open credit accounts in the victims’ names and ruin them financially.
The price of having network and data security is small when compared to the costs of security failures. Companies such as Target and Home Depot (who suffered high-profile data breaches in recent years) have the resources to recover, but most small businesses simply cannot survive the loss of trust, revenue, and the costs to recover their systems from a security breach.
According to a report from Cisco and the National Center for the Middle Market, a whopping 60% of small firms victimized by cyberattacks go out of business.
Protect Your Digital Assets
Protecting your small business’ network security is critical, but it requires proper action. Here are some steps you can take to improve network security right now:
- Understand your network security requirements: Know what sensitive data you have, where it’s stored, and who needs access to it. A growing body of laws, regulations, and industry standards govern how you handle credit card information and other sensitive customer data.
- Keep your systems patched: Make sure your operating systems, software, and network devices have the latest security patches.
- Use solid endpoint protection: One of the most important actions you can take is to deploy anti-malware software on all your devices and keep it up to date.
- Implement security policies: Keep your employees informed of what is and is not acceptable use of the company’s digital assets and enforce the policy.
As previously mentioned, small businesses have important assets to protect – and they need to feel confident that their network security environment offers comprehensive protection on all fronts.
A network security evaluation by a qualified security consultant such as New England Network Solutions (NENS) will help you be better equipped to safeguard your network. The consultant will evaluate all aspects of your data security and recommend robust, cost-effective solutions. When it comes to network security, you can’t cut corners. The survival of your business depends on it.