Common Cybersecurity Mistakes Small Businesses Make

common cybersecurity mistakes

Most small business owners are not cybersecurity experts, and they shouldn’t have to be. But running a business in our technology reliant world requires some working knowledge when it comes to data security. That’s why we’ve put together the following list to help you avoid the most common cybersecurity mistakes small businesses make.

  1. Underestimating cyber threat
  2. Putting off training staff
  3. Poor password protocol
  4. Forgetting to update software
  5. Failing to back up data
  6. Relying on free or basic security software
  7. Working without a recovery plan

We’ll also share EXACTLY how to sidestep these common cybersecurity mistakes. Use our practical tips and tricks to help you ensure the safety of your company’s sensitive data. 

Avoid These Common Cybersecurity Mistakes

1. Don’t Underestimate the Threat of Cyber Crime

IT Governance, an authority in the cybersecurity blog space, discovered 1,243 security incidents in 2021. That represents an 11% increase in security incidents compared to 2020.

Forbes Business wrote in March 2022 that small businesses are three times more likely to face a cyber attack. Cybercriminals know that small businesses are less likely to comprehensively protect their data, so they go for those easy targets. 

IBM Security reports that a typical data breach costs roughly $4.24 million. Not to mention the intangible costs to your company’s reputation.

It really isn’t a matter of IF your business will face a cyber attack. It’s a matter of WHEN. Understanding threats, vulnerabilities, and cyber risk can help you avoid this common cybersecurity mistake and shore up your defenses.

A threat is something that has the potential to damage, steal, or destroy data, or disrupt your business. Threats can come from either inside or outside your organization. 

A vulnerability is a weak spot in your infrastructure, networks, hardware, software, or processes. It’s an opening through which an attacker can gain access to your data. 

Cyber risk is the calculation of the potential for loss, damage, destruction, disruption, or harm to your business if your vulnerabilities are exploited by threats. 

Cross-referencing threats in your industry with the vulnerabilities you’re aware of can help you prioritize which defenses to strengthen first. Do you want to learn more about calculating cyber risk? Read our blog post all about it.

2. Don’t Put Off Training Your Staff

Cybersecurity is greatly enhanced by well-maintained and updated defensive software. However, that is only the beginning of comprehensive protection of your company. 

You can have the most robust and expensive security software on the market. If your employees aren’t educated about the ways cyber criminals manipulate people to get information, it won’t matter. 

This step is one of the most crucial common cybersecurity mistakes. Security can’t just be the responsibility of your IT department.

Most cyber attacks begin with some form of phishing. Phishing occurs when cybercriminals contact you or your employees and trick you into giving up sensitive information. They then use that information to gain access to your systems or network. 

Phishing attacks can come in many forms. Your staff might receive emails from people impersonating IT or HR asking for login info. They could be friend-requested by someone impersonating the CEO who then asks for financial details. This practice is known as social engineering.

These attacks rely on employees who are new or naive and a sense of urgency that confuses the victim. Knowing what these attacks look like and how to prevent hackers from gaining any useful information is key.

The manipulation tactics cyber criminals use become incredibly obvious with just a little bit of training. Make it personal and fun for your staff. Reward them for spotting phishing or social engineering tests you put out every few months. 

When you can get everyone invested in protecting all of your data, you’ll have a much more secure network.

3. Don’t Fail to Enforce Password Protocols

In the same vein, your VPNs, firewalls, and antivirus software will do you no good if the passwords you use are weak. 

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If administrator passwords are easily guessable, you’ve fallen for a common cybersecurity mistake.

It may be tempting to make a commonly used password Welcome123! to satisfy length and character requirements while keeping it easy to remember, but don’t take the easy route.

Cyber criminals can write bots that test commonly used passwords like the above in a matter of milliseconds. No amount of time saved at logins can justify the losses that come with a data breach.

Social engineering doesn’t end with messages designed to pry information from your employees. It often includes extensive surveillance of social media profiles of anyone linked with your company. Names of pets or children, date of birth, or anything that is shared is vulnerable.

If you’re looking for the secret to secure, easy to remember passwords, check out our guide here.

Don’t write your passwords on sheets of paper or store them in obvious places on your computer or network. If your devices have a secure keychain or password storage, that’s okay. 

Make sure everyone in your company changes their passwords every 90 days. A secure password has an expiration date. 

4. Make Sure to Update Software Regularly

This tip applies to both security software and your everyday software you use to get work done. The software we use can sometimes contain vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can exploit in order to get to your sensitive data. 

Even if you purchase what is advertised as cutting edge, the landscape of cyber threat is always changing.

Failing to update or patch your software regularly is like buying a state of the art security system for your home but leaving half your doors and windows unlocked and disarmed. 

Software can be modified to be more secure and arm all your metaphorical doors and windows. But those updates have to be installed to be effective. Keep things up to date to avoid making this common cybersecurity mistake.

5. Remember to Back Up Data Often

The fact that backing up your data frequently and comprehensively doesn’t occur to most business owners as a cybersecurity concern is exactly why it’s on this list. 

In the event of a data breach where corruption, damage, or loss of data is incurred, the most recent backup you have will be your safety net. 

If you have a recent backup, getting back online is simple. Clean up your systems, install your necessary software, and restore data from your backup and voila! You’re back in business.

If you don’t have a recent backup to work from, it’s not so easy. You may have to spend a lot of time remaking important files, records, and processes. A key part of cybersecurity is a recovery plan which gets you up and running as quickly as possible.

6. Don’t Rely on Free Security Software

Free antivirus software is tempting, but it’s important to remember that these companies have to make money somehow. If it’s not through charging for their software, there are a number of ways they may be turning a profit.

The number one way most free software companies make their money is through selling customer data. So you might be protecting one kind of sensitive data while actively giving away another.

If it’s not selling data, you’re looking at ads and bloatware. These both slow down your devices and make it harder to be productive. Time is money, so there’s still a significant cost to free antivirus software.

Generally speaking, free antivirus software also has lower average detection rates. This means your business’ files could be ransacked by a virus and you’d have no idea because it slipped through your cheap defenses.

Your data and business are worth it. Shell out the cash for your antivirus software.

7. Please, Please, Please Develop a Recovery Plan

Your business is going to experience a cyberattack at some point. This is a given, not a maybe, in today’s digital landscape. 

According to the National Cyber Security Alliance, 60% of companies go out of business within six months after falling victim to a data breach.

Taking every precaution you can to prevent a breach is important. However, there’s a key factor to cyber resilience that isn’t preventative: developing a recovery plan. This plan could be the difference between a hard few months and having to shut down your business for good.

A thorough recovery plan includes:

  • Provisions for identifying the way your business was breached and removing that vulnerability
  • Appoint individuals to take lead on different recovery efforts like security, data recovery, public relations, and client notification
  • A list of applications that need to get back online and their priority
  • Outline tentative time objectives to ensure speedy recovery

There may be more that you need to cover based on compliance regulations within your industry, etc., but this is a great place to start. Knowing what to do in the event of a breach helps you get back on your feet quickly, which can very well make the difference between keeping your doors open or not.

The More You Know About Common Cybersecurity Mistakes…

And the more you plan, the more secure your business’ digital presence will be. Cyber criminals are a very real and sobering threat to small businesses. 

Thankfully, with education, preparation, and the right tools, a data breach doesn’t have to be a catastrophe. You can weather one and live to transact another day if you follow the tips in this guide.

If you have any lingering questions or would like to set up penetration testing, contact us. The security experts at CloudNexus are here to help. Your security is our priority.

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