In recent years, the internet has provided a platform for individuals to build thriving empires from the convenience of their laptops. The pandemic, in particular, fueled innovative ideas and encouraged people to stay home, further accelerating this trend. However, it’s crucial to acknowledge that the online world—despite its benefits—is far from risk-free.
Shockingly, 1 in 2 internet users in the United States had online accounts breached in 2021, with small businesses emerging as the primary target for hackers. We can attribute this unfortunate trend to two factors:
- Small business owners often struggle to find the time to secure every aspect of their online presence.
- A lack of understanding about cybersecurity leads them to assume they’re safe simply because nothing has happened thus far.
For an unprotected business, it's not a question of if but when an attack will occur. And the consequences extend far beyond compromised social media logins or email addresses. Hackers can infiltrate your business's financials, access your clients' confidential data, and expose your personal information, potentially leading to viruses, financial losses, and identity theft.
To safeguard your business in an ever-evolving tech landscape, there are a number of simple-yet-effective steps to create a safer environment for your team, clients, and yourself. Implementing these measures can bolster your defenses and protect your business against cybercriminals.
Prepare for an attack
Just as you approach events with various contingency plans, you’ll also want to manage risks within your business. Gather your team to identify your tangible and intangible assets, ranking them based on their value (low, medium, or high). The goal is not to create an exhaustive list but to start small and focus on the 5-10 items that are most significant for your business.
Utilize this list to assess potential threats that could impact the value or integrity of each asset. To develop an effective risk management plan, address the following questions:
- How likely is this threat to manifest?
- How can I detect the signs if this threat is approaching?
- What measures can I take to reduce the likelihood of this threat becoming a reality?
- What would be the cost or impact if this threat does materialize?
- How can I minimize or mitigate the impact?
By answering these questions, you'll see which areas need immediate attention. If a threat is likely to occur or result in significant costs, focus on implementing mitigation efforts for those concerns first. Adopting a proactive approach to risk management will help safeguard your business and ensure its long-term resilience.
Watch out for phishing scams
A single click on a suspicious attachment can invite a host of viruses into your computer, network, and domain. Phishers employ deceitful tactics, impersonating trusted sources (including people you know) to manipulate you into taking action. While you may already know better than to disclose sensitive information like credit card details or social security numbers, today's cybercriminals can wreak havoc on your business without needing that specific data.
Instead, remain vigilant for emails requesting you to update account details or reset passwords on websites you frequently use. These emails may look like they’re from trustworthy brands, including those you've already granted access to your inbox.
Before opening attachments or clicking links, carefully examine the sender's email address to verify its authenticity. Hackers have become adept at creating deceptive email addresses. Watch out for inconsistent branding, grammatical errors, unusual signatures, or anything else that raises suspicion.
Then, if any doubts arise, reach out to the sender through a separate email to confirm the message's legitimacy. If you remain uncertain, it's best to err on the side of caution and delete the email entirely. The potential risk isn't worth taking!
Update your password policy
Though convenient, it's time to break the old habit of relying on a single password for everything. Recalling your middle school password may be easy, but a single security breach could jeopardize your entire digital presence. Every day, websites fall victim to hacking incidents, placing entire password databases in the hands of cybercriminals. Therefore, it’s best to avoid reusing passwords or using easily guessable information.
Instead, leverage the power of random password generators such as 1Pass or LastPass. These tools allow you to generate new passwords without memorizing or storing them in insecure locations like Google Docs or your inbox. Furthermore, whenever possible, use multi-factor authentication to enhance your security measures. By enabling this feature, you'll receive a text message for every login attempt, providing an extra layer of protection and alerting you to potential password changes if necessary.
Invest in cybersecurity training
Human error is unavoidable, but it's worth investing in ongoing security training for your team to avoid further security breaches. Quarterly training sessions will equip your employees with the knowledge and skills needed to protect your business from hackers.
When seeking a training provider, look for a cybersecurity specialist who stays up-to-date with the latest threats. These experts can effectively identify red flags, teach your team to remain vigilant, and empower them to report unusual behavior. Regular security training will help you strengthen your defense against potential breaches and foster a culture of security awareness.
Remember: Safeguarding your event company's digital assets isn't just an option; it's a necessity. By prioritizing tech security tactics, you can minimize the risk of cyberattacks, protect sensitive information, and preserve the trust of your clients!
Elizabeth Sheils is the co-founder of Rock Paper Coin, the first software platform to bring together wedding planners, couples, and vendors into one system for managing and paying contracts and invoices. Elizabeth is also a lead wedding planner with award-winning firm Bridal Bliss, where she manages the Seattle team. In addition to recognition by Special Events in its Top 25 Event Pros to Watch series, she also earned a spot in The BizBash 500 for 2021.