Digital security - 7 ways your small business is at risk

Digital security should be one of the top priorities facing businesses of every size – and yet small firms are failing to give it the attention it deserves.

In an increasingly connected world, the impact of a digital security breach could be dramatic. Many small businesses never recover from incidents caused by relatively minor weaknesses. Here are seven of the ways your small business could be at risk.

1. You're not keeping track of your employees' devices

It is increasingly common for employees to bring their own devices to work. Tablets, laptops, and smartphones have made our lives easier – but they also pose a significant security risk. They open businesses up to viruses, data loss, and fraud. Think about whether or not the benefit derived from allowing your employees to bring in their own hardware is outweighed or offset by the resultant risks.

2. You're not updating your software

Those never-ending warning messages telling you to update your software are an annoyance, yes, but they are also an important security feature. It is vital that your software is kept up to date. Hackers and other nefarious characters exploit weaknesses in old versions of software. Make sure that all of your installations are updated regularly. Automate this process where possible, in order to minimise the chances of forgetting.

3. Your passwords aren't strong enough…

We are all becoming familiar with the hassle of remembering ever more complex passwords. But restrictions designed to make passwords more robust are, in fact, hugely beneficial. Make sure that you avoid using the same password for every login, and that the passwords you choose include numbers, letters, and special characters. If your employees also set their own passwords, consider instituting restrictions to ensure that they are strong enough. Read more about password strength on the Microsoft site.

4. …and neither is your firewall

A good firewall should, like good anti-virus software, be a prerequisite for any business – and yet many continue to rely on the standard-issue software that comes with their computers or, worse still, don’t bother with one at all. Spend some time investigating enterprise strength firewalls, and speak to your hosting company to find out what server-side precautions they have in place.

5. Your staff aren't properly trained

Well-trained staff are your first line of defence in the fight against security breaches – but a poorly or untrained workforce can put you at significant risk. Make sure that your employees are properly informed about your security procedures, and that they understand their responsibilities.

6. You don't have contingencies in place

No matter how hard you try, the risk of a security breach of some sort remains significant. It is important that you develop contingencies to help you deal with such a breach if it were to arise. This should include plans to help ensure that you can still operate, and a strategy for damage limitation. Remember that this might well include a PR element.

Finally, all of the six preceding vulnerabilities, and many more, should be addressed in a comprehensive security policy drawn up as part of your risk assessment. This policy should identify the key digital risks facing your business, and should identify ways to eliminate them. Where elimination is not possible, you should consider ways in which you can mitigate those risks. The security policy should be circulated, and all employees should be made aware of its provisions. There is a range of companies that can help you draw up your own security policy if you don't feel comfortable doing it yourself.