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How Self-Employed Business Owners can Protect Themselves from Data Breaches

With all the challenges that small business owners face when trying to get their business off the ground, cybersecurity is often far from the top priority. Many small business owners and entrepreneurs think that small businesses are not a lucrative target for cybercriminals, but this is not the case. Modern cybercriminals are not so selective as to who and what they target, and small businesses very often fall victim to cyber-attacks. This begs the interesting question: how can self-employed business owners protect themselves from data breaches?

Increased Instances of Cyberattacks against Small Businesses
Globally, the number of cyberattacks has grown in frequency and severity from 2019 to 2020. This trend is set to continue, and research shows that up to 45% of these attacks involved small businesses of various natures. Successful cyber-attacks can cost a small business up to $200,000.00 per incident, and it is unlikely that a self-employed business owner would be able to absorb such a loss without it seriously affecting their business.

Small Businesses Lack Cybersecurity
Although self-employed small business owners are a clear and soft target for hackers, many are lightly protected against cyber threats. It is thought that this stems from the misconception that cybercriminals prefer to target larger organizations from whom they can extort more money. However, with the advent of ransomware, every business has become a viable target for hackers.

Research conducted in 2015 showed that up to 82% of small businesses are not adequately protected against the threats posed by malware. This may point to a bigger problem: it seems that small business owners are not recognizing exactly how serious a data breach can affect them and their company.

What can Small Business Owners do to Protect Themselves against Data Breaches?

There are several strategies that small business owners can implement to protect their digital assets against unauthorized access and use:

1. Antivirus and Antimalware
These two vital tools are relatively inexpensive and offer a first line of defense against any potential cyber threat. Considering that up to 95% of malware is introduced to small businesses via malware disguised as invoices or similar business documents, it is relatively easy to unintentionally open an infected item. Having a good antimalware solution in place minimizes this risk.

2. Add a Firewall
The importance of network security, and specifically a firewall, cannot be understated. Simply having a firewall in place is already a deterrent to a potential hacker. Since hackers prefer to spend as little time and effort as possible to hack a system, they would much rather opt to attack a business network without a firewall than one which is protected.

This is more important now than ever before, due to the rise in remote working. Small businesses form a large part of the economy of every nation and accordingly employ many people. Some of these employees will be working remotely and require access to company data. This is a weak link that is often exploited by hackers and a firewall is non-negotiable in this scenario.

3. Educate Yourself and your Employees
Knowledge is power. Many small business owners won’t find the time to learn and practice safe computing, which makes them an easy target for hackers. Keeping yourself updated on the latest best practices is a simple way to reduce the risk of becoming a cyber-crime statistic. There are several resources available for small business owners who want to wise up on safe computing and other key self-employed business best practices, invest some time in this and you will thank yourself for it later.

4. Handle Data with Care
Treating all data as if it is sensitive is a good way to protect your small business from hackers. It is important to remember that data should be handled and used correctly throughout its lifecycle. Even data that is no longer in use can be lucrative for a hacker, and improper data disposal could result in a crippling data breach.

Conclusion
Cybersecurity has become an important topic for every business, irrespective of its size or scope of activity. Stringent data protection laws and regulations are geared to cause financial ruin for businesses that do not follow best practices when it comes to data privacy, without consideration for the size of the business. When it comes to cybersecurity, prevention is better than cure so make sure that your small business is protected.

Author Bio: This article was written by Eloise Tobler of Wisetek. Eloise specializes in advising businesses in avoiding Data Breaches through effective Data Destruction Services.

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Courtesy of NASE.org
https://www.nase.org/business-help/get-help/it-web-social-media/it-web-development-social-media-news/2021/08/13/how-self-employed-business-owners-can-protect-themselves-from-data-breaches