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When Diana and I first started our business, we did it without the internet or computers. If we were to open a store today, it would be a completely different story. The internet has become an increasingly important tool for businesses of all sizes. Small businesses have a lot to gain from handling matters online. However, they also have a lot to lose. Hacking can be a serious problem that poses a significant risk to the well-being of businesses and their customers. As more of our business matters are handled online, the more at risk we are to cyberattacks.

Many large companies are equipped to handle potential cyberattacks. Small businesses might consider themselves too small to be vulnerable to cyber breaches, which can leave them susceptible to these types of attacks. Even a tiny shop with one computer has valuable information, like employee and customer data, bank account information, or access to business finances and intellectual property. According to UPS Capital, a financial services division within UPS, nearly two-thirds of cyber breach victims are small to mid-sized businesses. The U.S. National Cyber Security Alliance found that 60 percent of small companies that experience a cyberattack are out of business within six months. Despite this, nearly 90 percent of small and medium-sized businesses do not use data protection for company and customer information. The importance of cyber security cannot be overstated and small businesses should look critically at their security.

Fortunately, it does not take a computer specialist or a large budget to make some small changes that can help protect a business. The easiest step to protect a business from cyberattacks is to create strong passwords. A business owner should ensure that all their employees have complex passwords that contain capital and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. These passwords should also change often. Another easy step is to regularly make backup copies of important data that is then stored either on the cloud or offsite. Business owners should also make sure their Wi-Fi networks are password protected and hidden. Making sure unauthorized people do not have access to Wi-Fi networks is just as important as keeping them from using the business’s physical computers. All these steps are also applicable to mobile devices such as phones or tablets. Employees should be educated on ways to prevent data breaches, and these steps should become a company policy. Business owners should try to include antivirus software and antispyware in their budget, no matter how small the business is.

The U.S. Small Business Administration provides helpful tools and resources for small business owners. Take this month to look over your security protocols and make the necessary adjustments. Following a few simple steps can save your business from devastating harm.