Today's hackers are extremely skilled and incredibly clever with complex attack methods that are getting harder and harder to defend against. The truth is, cyber criminals are very good at finding ways into your business—they study your business closely, learn about your employees, and use it to their advantage.

Once a cyber criminal gets past your defenses, they know exactly how to wreak havoc on your systems, steal your customer data to profit on the Dark Web, and completely jeopardize your future as a business.

As a result, small and mid-size businesses without big security budgets and dedicated security resources must find a way to protect themselves from the dangers of cyber attacks.

In this article, we will discuss 10 ways to protect your business from hackers that can be used as a foundation for building your security program.

1. Start talking about cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is a constant topic in the media these days and for good reason. There's always a catchy headline about the big name brand that exposed millions of custom records. But, what do your employees actually know about cybersecurity? You can't expect to protect your business from hackers if your employees don't understand the basics of cybersecurity or know how to spot a phishing attack. Starting the conversation about cybersecurity will not only increase your company's awareness of the latest cyber threats, it will also help prevent a high-profile breach where you become the headline. Regardless of your company's size, industry, products, or services—you have risk and you need to start talking about cybersecurity.

2. Use a password manager

Using a password manager is one of the simplest things you can do to improve your cybersecurity strategy. You most likely have a variety of passwords you use for different accounts—email, website, banking apps, social media—but let's face it, they aren't strong or complex passwords. Password managers create unique passwords for every account and then store them all in an encrypted vault that you can access with a single master password. As if long, complex passwords weren't enough trouble to remember when logging in each day. Imagine having to come up with 10 totally different and unique passwords for 10 different accounts. Password managers can save you time (and hassle) while improving security.

3. Change your passwords often

Sticking with the theme of passwords; changing your password regularly is essential to your cybersecurity strategy. Not only will it help you reduce risk by stopping hackers from accumulating passwords for those various accounts mentioned above, but you will also limit the damage done if one of your accounts does happen to get breached. We recommend having your employees change their passwords every 90 days. You'd be surprised how effective changing your passwords regularly can be at protecting your business from hackers.

4. Standardize using two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication is a no-brainer for businesses these days. The idea is simple: If someone tries to log into your account from an unknown device, you won't be able to access that account unless you have a secondary source of authentication. This means that even if someone were to guess your password, they wouldn't be able to get into your accounts unless they had your device as well. With the adoption of two-factor authentication, hackers have to work even harder to get into business accounts and steal customer data. We highly recommend using an app like Authy or Google Authenticator if you want the best protection possible. With so many cyber attacks happening on a daily basis, it's important that you protect all of your online accounts with two-factor authentication.

5. Test your company's security again and again

Hackers are constantly updating their techniques and tools, developing new methods of attack. Since these threats are ever-changing, it's important for businesses to continually evaluate their security. Quarterly or semi-annual penetration testing and risk assessments can help a business identify new vulnerabilities in its IT systems, prioritize them, and take the necessary actions to fix or mitigate them. Your network is a living, breathing thing and needs to be treated accordingly—there's no set it and forget it security strategy.

6. Stay hyper-vigilant on social media

Hackers routinely look for employees who may be careless about what they post online. Additionally, hackers will look for "inside information" on social media such as the location of a new corporate office or even details about who you're hiring. This information can be used against your company for fraudulent purposes like phishing scams. Always be mindful of what you're putting out there on social media and always use discretion when sharing.

7. Restrict employee access to sensitive data

The more access employees have to sensitive information, the higher the risk that your business will be hacked. Think about it, 95% of breaches are caused by human error and it's usually your own employees who pose the biggest threat. In most cases, restrictions can be put into place that will prevent over-access without inconveniencing the employee. Limiting access to a select few employees can help ensure that hackers have a tougher time gaining access to your company's sensitive data. In addition, this type of separation will reduce the risk of your employees accidentally sharing sensitive information with the wrong people.

8. Never miss a security update or patch

In order to protect your business from the ever-evolving threat of hackers, you need to be proactive. This means that you have to update your software and operating systems regularly in order for them to remain secure. Many companies neglect this step because it can seem tedious to have employees constantly updating their devices. However, staying up to date with the latest security patches and updates is an important part of protecting your business from cyber attacks. We recommend using an automated patch management tool to ensure that your business stays secure.

9. Test employee awareness of cyber threats

Security awareness training is extremely important for protecting your company from hackers. Building a cybersecurity culture can go a long way in helping you minimize your risk of a cyber attack. However, you also need to test your employees' knowledge of cybersecurity threats because it's not enough that employees know what they're supposed to do; they actually have to do it in order for their actions to be effective. Simulated phishing attacks are a great way to not only test employees on what they've learned, but also get them some much-needed practice in identifying and shutting down phishing attacks.

10. Create a company cybersecurity policy

Finally, make sure that everyone who works for your company knows what is expected of them when it comes to cybersecurity. A good way to go about this is by creating a written cybersecurity policy and communicating it throughout the organization. This is an important step in helping protect your business from hackers because it sets procedures and expectations for everyone who works for your company. A cybersecurity policy will keep the entire team on the same page, working together to prevent a costly breach.

BONUS: Back up your data daily

In the event that your business does fall victim to a cyber attack, it's important that you have a reliable backup in place, otherwise you run the risk of losing all your data. Backing up your data daily—preferably by automating the backup process—will help ensure that you can recover lost data and get back up and running as soon as possible. With ransomware attacks on the rise, this step could actually save your business.

Closing thoughts

Small and midsize businesses are a popular target for cyber criminals because they know there is a good chance they'll succeed. Due to the lack of cybersecurity resources many SMBs have compared to bigger organizations, they typically are more vulnerable. Staying up to date on the latest threats and following best practices can help reduce the likelihood you are a hacker's next target.

But there are many things you can do to protect your business from hackers who want to disrupt your business and steal your data. The recommendations on this page should serve as a good starting point but may not be enough to completely protect your business. If you need help with cybersecurity, ask for it! There are many resources available to help small and midsize businesses with cybersecurity.

Be proactive about protecting your company, because time is not on your side when it comes to cybersecurity.

Topic: How to Protect Your Business from Ransomware