Protecting Your Small Business Against Digital Exposures

Digital exposure is inevitable for any size of business nowadays. If you collect data from employees, clients, vendors, or even have some form of digital presence, you could be exposed to cybercrime and must take every necessary precaution to defend your business against virtual threats.

One form of small business liability insurance, i.e. cyber liability insurance, is specifically designed to protect businesses against any legal repercussions they could face as a result of being involved in a cybercrime event. Data breaches and ransomware can seriously cost your business’ reputation – and you may even find yourself with a hefty lawsuit at the end of it. That being said, insurance isn’t a catch-all, and you shouldn’t use it as your fallback. You need to take adequate security measures in order to protect your small business insurance and all the information that has been delegated to you.

Here’s how to protect your small business against digital exposures.

Know how data breaches can occur.

As technology expands and we grow increasingly dependent upon it for our daily business ventures – even smaller businesses! – we need to become aware of how data breaches can occur and, consequently, how they can impact our day-to-day business. Data breaches, one of the most common causes of cybercrime, is when an unauthorized individual or party hacks into in order to access and steal confidential, personal, or sensitive information. Cybercrime shot up in frequency over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, as many employees were suddenly working from home and accessing sensitive data through insecure networks. Data breaches can happen in numerous ways.

  • They can happen via human error. Human error, or accidental exposure, is when an employee uploads a document containing private information onto a cloud service and doesn’t include a secure password. It happens when a human employee clicks a malicious link.
  • Malware or ransomware is another means of data breaches. A hacker who enters into an organization’s network (via a phishing email, let’s say) might infect that network with malware, which permits them instant access.
  • Don’t underestimate the potential of disgruntled employees. A malicious insider could be working with a hacker to provide network information that they can then steal for their own use. With smaller businesses, this is less common but not impossible.
  • Network or software vulnerabilities are a potential, wherein hackers exploit outdated software and use hidden backdoors in your system to access data.
  • Finally, data breaches can occur through physical theft. A hacker or cybercriminal can steal a mobile device used for work at a public place, or hack into your work system via a business laptop that was left on your passenger seat overnight.

How to protect yourself against potential exposures

While insurance is a safety net, it’s not a fallback we should rely on. We need to take strategic measures to prevent digital exposures in order to protect our businesses before the bad things happen. Here are some tips on how to protect your small business against accidental exposures.

  • Consider your provincial or even federal regulations when determining your data retention needs. Some vendors and clients might need different schedules for destruction versus employee data. Destroy any data that is no longer needed. Any remaining data is subject to a breach, so long as it’s there and available.
  • Educate your employees. Human error is the no. 1 cause of data breaches, and they tend to occur because of clicked links on emails or accessing business data through insecure networks. Consider implementing a mandatory cybersecurity training program for all employees to take.
  • Invest in antivirus and firewall software and commit to keeping these on all devices – updated and patched with the latest security protocol.
  • Be sure to have backups stored off-site (especially in the event of a fire) that you can regularly verify for accuracy in the event you need to recover following a cyberattack.
  • Use a password manager for all employees and implement strict rules for two-factor authentication and biometrics. Make sure all employees are using complex passphrases, not easy-to-guess passwords.
  • Do a forensic security audit. Conduct an inventory of all your existing confidential data and security practices to see where changes may need to be made. Assume a zero-trust policy for all devices that are connected to your business’ network.

Part of keeping your small business safe is addressing the digital side of things. Be vigilant and proactive; yes, it takes some time, and you may need to invest some money into it, but safety should always come first. It’s your business, and your hard work. Don’t let it go to waste.