FCC's Ten Cyber Security Tips for Small Businesses

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

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Small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) are more often becoming the target for criminal elements seeking to pilfer sensitive data.

Attackers are well aware of the fact that SMBs tend to have limited resources and personnel dedicated to information system security as compared to their larger enterprise counterparts.

According to a report published by Symantec last year, the average cost of an information security event for an SMB is on average $188,242, and unauthorized access to sensitive data was rated the single greatest threat to sustained viability.

As reported in DarkReading: "The respondents ranked data loss and cyberattacks as their top business risks, ahead of traditional criminal activity, natural disasters, and terrorism, according to the report."

The FCC is among several government agencies which offer guidance for SMBs regarding information security best practices, and the following "Ten Cybersecurity Tips for Small Businesses", published earlier this year, provide a good baseline for securing sensitive data and systems.

1. Train employees in security principles

Establish basic security practices to protect sensitive business information and communicate them to all employees on a regular basis. Establish rules of behavior describing how to handle and protect customer information and other vital data. Clearly detail the penalties for violating business cybersecurity policies.

2. Protect information, computers and networks from viruses, spyware and other malicious code

Install, use and regularly update antivirus and antispyware software on every computer used in your business. Such software is readily available online from a variety of vendors. Most software packages now offer subscriptions to "security service" applications, which provide additional layers of protection. Set the antivirus software to automatically check for updates at a scheduled time of low computer usage, such as at night (midnight, for example), and then set the software to do a scan after the software update.

3. Provide firewall security for your Internet connection

A firewall is set of related programs that prevent outsiders from accessing data on a private network. Install and maintain firewalls between your internal network and the Internet. If employees work from home, ensure that their home systems are protected by firewalls. Install firewalls on all computers – including laptops – used in conducting your business.

4. Download and install software updates for your operating systems and applications as they become available

All operating system vendors regularly provide patches and updates to their products to correct security problems and improve functionality. Configure all software to install such updates automatically.

5. Make backup copies of important business data and information.

Regularly backup the data on every computer used in your business. Critical data includes word processing documents, electronic spreadsheets, databases, financial files, human resources files and accounts receivable/payable files. Backup data automatically if possible, or at least weekly.

6. Control physical access to your computers and network components

Prevent access or use of business computers by unauthorized individuals. Laptops can be particularly easy targets for theft, so make sure they are stored and locked up when unattended.

7. Secure your Wi-Fi networks

If you have a Wi-Fi network for your workplace make sure it is secure 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 (SSID). In addition, make sure to turn on the encryption so that passwords are required for access. Lastly, it is critical to change the administrative password that was on the device when it was first purchased.

8. Require individual user accounts for each employee

Setup a separate account for each individual and require that strong passwords be used for each account. Administrative privileges should only be given to trusted IT staff and key personnel.

9. 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.

10. Regularly change passwords

Passwords that stay the same, will, over time, be shared and become common knowledge to coworkers and can be easily hacked. Passwords should be changed at least every three months. The FCC’s Cybersecurity Hub at www.fcc.gov/cyberforsmallbiz has more information, including links to free and low-cost security tools.

"Broadband and information technology are powerful factors in small businesses reaching new markets and increasing productivity and efficiency. However, businesses need cybersecurity tools and tactics to protect themselves, their customers, and their data from growing cyber threats," the FCC advises.

Source:  http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-306595A1.pdf

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