When many people think of corporate cyber attacks, they think of newsworthy data breaches at massive companies. The truth is that cyber attacks are rampant among small businesses as well. According to CNBC, 43% of all data breaches affect small and medium-sized businesses. The same survey reports that only 28% of small businesses have a cyber security plan in place at all. Cyber security awareness training for small a business is necessary in the digital era.
Physical security threats to a small business are easy to identify and protect against. Cyber threats can be even more damaging, but it can be difficult to visualize and understand them.
A cyber attack can leak confidential inside data and proprietary information to competitors or the general public. It can also leak customers’ confidential data, such as Social Security numbers or credit card numbers. This can decimate public trust in a small business.
No small business owner would leave a door at their physical location unlocked, but many neglect the threat of cyber attacks. Every computer connected to a company’s network is a potential entry point for a hacker. Widespread training for all employees is the digital equivalent of locking your business’s doors.
Here are four components you need to cover in any cyber security awareness training for a small business.
Most successful cyber attacks don’t rely on advanced technology. Instead, hackers use a technique called social engineering to manipulate employees into handing over passwords and other sensitive information. Like con artists, these hackers pretend to be trustworthy individuals. Many have believable stories explaining why they need sensitive information.
Employees require training and a solid plan from management to recognize and respond to social engineering threats. Hackers often use the real names of people related to the business along with proper spelling and grammar.
A good way to recognize social engineering scams is to identify if the message puts emotional pressure on the reader to act quickly. You can also give employees a rigid system of procedures they can use to vet incoming requests.
Phishing is similar to social engineering, but instead of impersonating an individual, a phishing scam impersonates an institution. Phishing attacks resemble a login screen for a government portal, bank or commonly used application. These fake portals gather passwords and other sensitive information, similar to a false card reader on an ATM.
Cyber security awareness training for a small business teaches employees how to distinguish between real institutions and phishing. Employees can call listed numbers for real institutions if they are unsure if a communication is genuine. Employees should also avoid sending passwords or sensitive information over email.
A business’s information is only as secure as its individual passwords. Most attacks use phishing and social engineering to obtain passwords, but computer programs can attempt to guess passwords as well. Some of these programs can input thousands of password guesses per minute.
Many older password security strategies — such as requiring a special character, uppercase letter or number — are limited in their effectiveness against modern hackers. Unconventional strategies, such as stringing together four common words instead of incorporating symbols, have drawbacks as well.
Left to their own devices, many employees choose the most obvious passwords the system allows. If employees write down more complex passwords to aid their memory, they open the business’s network to security risks. Cyber security awareness training for a small business can emphasize the importance of strong passwords, but there are other methods to improve password security.
Most experts recommend a central database that assigns strong passwords, rather than requiring employees to create their own. If your business opts for this method, the password for the central database itself must be unique and highly secure.
Cyber attacks are hard to visualize for many people. Clearly explaining the business consequences of cyber attacks is an essential module in an awareness training program.
Conduct a full cyber security risk assessment tailored to your business to improve this module. Identifying specific threats will tailor an awareness program to your field, making the program both more engaging and more effective for employees.
A few smart strategies can optimize cyber security awareness training for small a business.
Yearly training isn’t sufficient against rapidly changing cyber attack threats. Be sure to stay on top of new hacking strategies and mandate training throughout the year.
Modern cyber attack social engineering scams are difficult to detect, unlike older email scams. Employees will be more engaged if the training program takes a neutral tone when delivering information. A nonjudgmental tone also encourages employees to reach out for help with suspicious emails, reducing cyber attack risk.
Be sure to put training into practice by requiring drills as part of the program. Show employees what scams look like in practice and use examples to help them identify threats.
A user-friendly guidebook or reference document is an invaluable tool for cyber security. Create a database so that employees can check for cyber security threats on their own.
Cyber attacks target small businesses as well as large corporations. The best defense against these threats is preparation and planning. With cyber attacks on the rise, every business should have a dedicated training program for employees as well as plans to handle digital threats.
At Compyl, we help businesses of all sizes understand and address security threats. Cyber security awareness training for a small business is even more effective with guidance from business technology experts. Contact us for more information on designing a comprehensive cyber security strategy for your small business.