The Covid 19 pandemic has brought on several changes in the way SMBs do business. More and more, we’re seeing Canadian SMBs embracing digital tools and technologies to better serve their customers. In fact, a new study from PayPal Canada shows that 47% of Canadian small businesses started selling online in 2020. While digital transformation has been a benefit for some Canadian businesses, it has been challenging for others. During the pandemic, 1 in 5 small businesses have been affected by a cyber-attack or data breach. As a result, cybersecurity should be top-of-mind for small business owners. As alarming as these statistics may seem, there are some steps you can take to minimize your chances of being impacted by such attacks.

Someone working on cybersecurity

Access your vulnerabilities

Contrary to popular belief, small businesses face the same cybersecurity challenges as bigger companies and, in many cases, struggle to protect themselves with their limited budgets. As a first step, it’s important to access your vulnerabilities. Are your employees properly trained in cybersecurity? What kind of operating systems and software do you use? Do you compartmentalize important data to specific employees? Do you have a dedicated IT specialist on your team? For more resources and information, read Canada’s National Cyber Threat Assessment to determine in what areas of cybersecurity your business may need attention.

Have a plan

Now that you’ve determined where you need to beef up your cybersecurity, it’s time to establish a company-wide strategy. An important element of an effective cybersecurity strategy is having an information security policy, guidelines and protocols for your employees. These measures ensure that employees agree to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of your data and resources. Next, determine how much you’re willing to spend on your cybersecurity strategy. You may want to invest more than you think, as paying off damage from a potential cyberattack could deem costly.

Cybersecurity Practices

Next, let’s look at different long-term practices that you can put in place to protect your business from future cyber-attacks.

1. Have a Backup Strategy

SMBs tend to falsely assume that they don’t have any data worth stealing. In this data-driven age, they couldn’t be more wrong. In the eyes of cyber criminals, SMBs are valuable targets as they often lack the necessary resources to defend themselves. This is where a backup strategy comes in handy. A backup strategy should be designed with the intent of recovering your lost data as quickly as possible in the event of a cyber-attack. Best practices include having your data live on an external hard drive, a cloud backup service, or at a secondary location that’s not connected to your network. Depending on the type of business, these backups should be carried out regularly. With your data living in different places, you will minimize operational downtime after a cyber-attack.

2. Use Password Managers

Good password hygiene amongst employees is critical to keeping your business information safe. This includes updating passwords on a quarterly basis at the very least and making sure they’re unique. That said, you can avoid all this effort by having a password manager. This tool allows employees to store their passwords in an encrypted and secure vault that they can access from any device. A password manager will fill in the appropriate password when employees sign into their account. If you’re willing to invest a small budget in a password manager, we suggest using LastPass, 1Password or Keeper. As for free options, either go with Bitwarden or Google’s password manager.

3. Maintain Patch Management

Patch management is often overlooked by people but is an extremely important component to keeping your business safe from cyber-attacks. A patch consists of an update or fix that helps improve a program that’s already been installed on your system. Small business owners need to regularly update and patch their operating systems and the software they use so that things run smoothly and securely. It’s always a good idea to have a comprehensive inventory of everything that is running on your network so that you can manage it all from one place.

4. Hire an Expert

We understand – it can be costly to create and maintain a robust cybersecurity program. Even larger companies struggle to do this. You may want to consider hiring an expert or consultant to manage it all for you so that you can focus on running your business. Hundreds of companies exist to fulfill your cybersecurity needs, which is why we’re sharing a list of the top 100 cybersecurity companies in Canada. These consultants can provide and suggest affordable tools, and even help deploy products for you. They can also perform tests to evaluate your vulnerabilities and strengths.

The Bottom Line

As confusing as cybersecurity may seem, it should be high-priority for small business owners. The best time to get started is now. Don’t wait until something happens to your business before making the investment. With an efficient cybersecurity strategy, you should be able to ward off or minimize potential attacks moving forward.