Over the last few years, small businesses have become a prime target for hackers and fraudsters. This is because most hackers consider them easy-pickings. It is also a matter of the bad guys picking the low hanging fruit, exploiting small businesses that don’t take data security seriously. Many owners, managers and employees imagine that they are safe, they mistakenly think that hackers, cyber thieves and other notorious individuals are just after big companies.

Such complacency makes small businesses susceptible to attacks. Many have found this out the hard way. To avoid becoming the next victim, it is essential to put in place measures to secure your computers and data. Here are 5 things you can start doing right now to improve your computer and data security.

1. Move Sensitive Data To Offline Computers

It is amazing how small business often place their sensitive data onto computers which are connected to the internet. They don’t know that this unnecessarily exposes that data to hackers. As a result, their data ends up getting stolen, destroyed or the computers themselves suffer from ransomware attacks.

The easiest way to secure sensitive data is to move it to computers which are permanently offline. This way, even if your network is breached, your sensitive data remains safe. So, designate a specific computer (or computers) as the store for your sensitive data. Keep your confidential data on there, and never connect it to the internet.

2. Create A VPN

The simple fact is that you can’t keep all sensitive files offline all the time. Sometimes, you have to share sensitive data with other people over a network. In such scenarios, you need a way to share that data securely. The best way to ensure this is through a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

For starters, a VPN provides a secure way for your staff to access data remotely. For instance, if your staff need to access web-based or office files from home or a public location (like Starbucks or a hotel), a VPN enables them to do this securely.

This is because a VPN encrypts your information before sending. As such, even if an intruder manages to hijack the data during transit, they will not be able to understand it. This basically guarantees maximum security for your data between source and user.

A VPN also increases your online privacy by masking your identity. It enables your computers to access the internet anonymously. This protects you against cyber thieves who specifically target specific businesses. Increasingly we are seeing directed attacks at businesses where miscreants attempt to defraud a single organization. With a VPN, such hackers can have a hard time locating you.

3. Set Up A Next-Gen Firewall

For most small businesses, firewalls are their first line of defense against attackers. Now, having a firewall is great, unfortunately, hackers are well-versed with the internal workings of many consumer-grade firewalls. As such they have created malware which is capable of circumventing these devices.

For maximum protection, you need a next generation firewall (NGFW). A NGFW combines features of traditional firewalls with more advanced features. These include deep packet scanning, intrusion detection, intrusion prevention, URL scanning & filtering, application control and malware blocking. This ensures maximum security for your computers and network.

A NGFW can be a hardware or a software suite. Whatever option it is, it provides maximum protection to your network and computers against intrusion. Therefore, if you want to enhance the security of your network, get a NGFW.

4. Back Up All Data

One of biggest threats facing small businesses is ransomware. This is where fraudsters, normally using social engineering (see point 5 below) attacks against your staff, place malware on your computers, encrypting your data and demanding a payment. If you don’t pay up, your data is destroyed.

The best way to protect yourself against such blackmail is by backing up your data. Besides ransomware, backing up can protect you against computer malfunctions and other disasters. Therefore, to enhance your security, establish a protocol for periodically backing up your data.

5. Create A Computer Security Training Program

For most small businesses, the weakest link in their security are the employees. In fact, the most common technique used by hackers is called “social engineering”. This is a strategy hackers use to trick people into giving them privileged information.

For instance, a hacker can trick an employee into clicking a link to a malware. As soon as the employee clicks the link, the malware is downloaded onto your system and takes over your network.

The best way to avoid such scenarios is to train your employees on basic computer security. Give them tips on how to avoid falling prey to phishing attacks. Also, bring them up-to-date with the latest threats. Let them know the basics of computer security.

In a nutshell, those are 5 things a small business can do to enhance their computer and data protection. Therefore, if you are a small business owner, CEO or manager, you need to take the above steps to improve your security. In case it all seems difficult, then get a computer security expert to help you. If your business is in or around the Lexington area, you can contact such an expert right now. Call Hartland Computer on 859 667 8999.