Question: I am concerned with the recent rash of cyber theft and ransomware activity. What can a small business with limited resources do to protect themself?

Answer: The Benjamin Franklin axiom “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is as true today as it was then. The Federal Communications Commission offers the following nine key cybersecurity tips to protect your small business:

1. Establish basic security practices and policies for employees, such as requiring strong passwords and establish appropriate Internet use guidelines, that detail penalties for violating company cybersecurity policies.

2. Protect information, computers, and networks from cyber attacks. Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats. Set antivirus software to run a scan after each update. Install other key software updates as soon as they are available.

 3. Provide firewall security for your Internet connection. A firewall is a set of related programs that prevent outsiders from accessing data on a private network. Make sure the operating system’s firewall is enabled or install free firewall software available online. If employees work from home, ensure that their home system(s) are protected by a firewall.

4. Make backup copies of important business data and information. Backup data automatically if possible, or at least weekly and store the copies either offsite or in the cloud.

5. Control physical access to your computers and create user accounts for each employee. Laptops can be particularly easy targets for theft or can be lost, so lock them up when unattended. Make sure a separate user account is created for each employee and require strong passwords. Administrative privileges should only be given to trusted IT staff and key personnel.

6. Secure your Wi-Fi networks. If you have a Wi-Fi network for your workplace, make sure it is secure, encrypted, and hidden. To hide your Wi-Fi network, set up your wireless access point or router so it does not broadcast the network name, known as the Service Set Identifier.

7. Employ best practices on payment cards. Work with banks or processors to ensure the most trusted and validated tools and anti-fraud services are being used. You Isolate payment systems from other, less secure programs and don’t use the same computer to process payments and surf the Internet.

8. Limit employee access to data and information, and limit authority to install software. Do not provide any one employee with access to all data systems. Employees should only be given access to the specific data systems that they need for their jobs, and should not be able to install any software without permission.

9. Require employees to use unique passwords and change passwords every three months. Consider implementing multifactor authentication that requires additional information beyond a password to gain entry. Check with your vendors that handle sensitive data, especially financial institutions, to see if they offer multifactor authentication for your account.

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Gray Poehler is a volunteer with the Naples Chapter of SCORE. To learn more about management issues facing your small business, contact SCORE Naples. Counseling is provided FREE of charge to all U.S. citizens and legal aliens.  To register call 239-430-0081 or visit our web site  http://naples.score.org/mentors . A counselor will contact you within 48 hours.  Please include your name, email address and a contact phone number.