21 February

Cyber Security: small business guide

           Cyber Security: a small business guide

This advice has been produced to help small businesses protect themselves from the most common cyber-attacks. The 5 topics covered are easy to understand and cost little to implement.

Backing up your data

Take regular backups of your important data, and test they can be restored. This will reduce the inconvenience of any data loss from theft, fire, other physical damage, or ransomware.

Identify what needs to be backed up. Normally this will comprise documents, photos, emails, contacts, and calendars, kept in a few common folders. Make backing up part of your everyday business.

Ensure the device containing your backup is not permanently connected to the device holding the original copy, neither physically nor over a local network.

Consider backing up to the cloud. This means _your data is stored in a separate location (away from your offices/devices}, and you'll also be able to access it quickly, from anywhere.

Using passwords to protect your data

Passwords - when implemented correctly - are a free, easy, and effective way to prevent unauthorized people from accessing your devices and data.

Make sure all laptops, Macs, and PCs use encryption products that require a password to boot. Switch on password/ PIN protection or fingerprint recognition for mobile devices.

Use two-factor authentication (2FA) for important websites like banking and email, if you're given the option.

Avoid using predictable passwords (such as family and pet names). Avoid the most common passwords that criminals can guess (like a password).

Do not enforce regular password changes; they only need to be changed when you suspect a compromise.

Change the manufacturers'· default passwords that devices are issued before they are distributed to staff.

Provide secure storage so staff can write down passwords and keep them safe (but not with the device). Ensure staff can reset their own passwords, easily.

Consider using a password manager. If you do use one, make sure that the master

Preventing malware damage

You can protect your organization from the damage caused by 'malware' (malicious software, including viruses) by adopting some simple and low-cost techniques.

Use antivirus software on all computers and laptops. Only install approved software on tablets and smartphones, and prevent users from downloading third-party apps from unknown sources.

Patch all software and firmware by promptly applying the latest software updates provided by manufacturers and vendors. Use the 'automatically update' option where available.

Control access to removable media such as SD cards and USB sticks. Consider disabling ports or limiting access to sanctioned media. Encourage staff to transfer files via email or cloud storage instead.

Switch on your firewall (included with most operating systems) to create a buffer zone between your network and the Internet.

Keeping your smartphones (and tablets) safe

Smartphones and tablets (which are used outside the safety of the office and home) need even more protection than 'desktop' equipment.

Switch on PIN/password protection/fingerprint recognition for mobile devices.

Configure devices so that when lost or stolen they can be tracked, remotely wiped, or remotely locked.

Keep your devices (and all installed apps) up to date, using the 'automatically update' option if available.

When sending sensitive data, don't connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots - use 3G or 4G connections (including tethering and wireless dongles) or use VPNs.

Replace devices that are no longer supported by manufacturers with up-to-date alternatives.

Avoiding phishing attacks

In phishing attacks, scammers send fake emails asking for sensitive information (such as bank details) or containing links to bad websites.

Ensure staff doesn't browse the web or check emails from an account with Administrator privileges. This will reduce the impact of successful phishing attacks.

Scan for malware and change passwords as soon as possible if you suspect a successful attack has occurred. Don't punish staff if they get caught out (it discourages people from reporting in the future).

Check for obvious signs of phishing, like poor spelling and grammar, or low-quality versions of recognizable logos. Does the sender's email address look legitimate, or is it trying to mimic someone you know?

To find out more from the National Cyber Security Centre at www.ncsc.aov.uk/small business

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