Cybersecurity threats are an ever-growing problem for businesses both big and small. Corporations as large as eBay, Anthem, Equifax and Target have reported massive data breaches in recent years. That doesn’t mean that small businesses are out of hackers’ sights, however. In fact, small businesses are particularly vulnerable to data breaches.

The Ponemon Institute reports that in 2017, 61 percent of small businesses reported a cyber attack, and 54 percent reported a data breach. Surprisingly, negligent employees were the root cause of 54 percent of those breaches. According to the study, careless or erroneous employee behavior creates an opening for the web-based attacks.

Moreover, the costs of these attacks are devastating. Small businesses spent an average of nearly $879,582 because of data theft, with an additional $955,429 lost through the disruption of normal operations.

Protecting your own business from cyberthreats requires vigilance and a smart approach to security. Here’s where to start.

1. Assess your data

Take a look at the systems — physical or cloud-based — where you store and process data. Identify potential weaknesses or trouble spots by asking these questions:

  • Where do you store your data and customers’ data?
  • Where do you back it up, if at all?
  • How sensitive is the information you store?
  • Which third-party vendors have access to information, and what does their access entitle them to?

2. Create a recovery plan

In the event that your systems are held hostage by ransomware, or simply fail for less malevolent reasons, having a full backup of your information that you can restore relatively quickly will be crucial to your continued success as a business. Consider these questions:

  • How will you restore your systems and normal business operations?
  • How will you ensure a seamless customer experience during a system failure?

3. Educate your employees

While some malicious workers do exist, most employees wouldn’t dream of sabotaging their employers. That said, even the most well-meaning employees can make mistakes that lead to data breaches. These errors can include:

  • Improper handling and disposal of sensitive information
  • Accessing company systems on unsecured networks
  • Clicking on or downloading malware
  • Unwittingly providing information to phishing scams

As you take stock of your cybersecurity measures and recovery plan, training your employees on proper compliance is paramount. If each team member knows what the risks are and understands how his or her handling of data can affect the business as a whole, he or she will proceed with greater caution.

4. Outsource your payroll

Your employees trust you to keep their personal information safe. Payroll data can include social security numbers, addresses, demographic information and bank account numbers — everything a hacker needs to wreak a lot of havoc.

Minimize this risk by outsourcing your payroll. Doing so removes sensitive data from your systems, and entrusts it with a payroll provider that can take more advanced security precautions than your business may be able to. Get peace of mind by knowing:

  • Payroll will be completed correctly and on time
  • The best possible security precautions have been taken
  • You don’t have to worry about maintaining accurate bank records for your employees, or ensuring direct deposit goes through
  • You’ll be in full compliance with all relevant tax and governmental regulations

Data breaches can keep all of us awake at night. While you should always consult with a security expert about the specific needs and vulnerabilities of your business, following these four steps will put you on the path to greater safety.

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