How to Protect Your Business Against Cyber Threats

Hackers are constantly evolving and improving their techniques, developing new viruses and more sophisticated methods. So, how can you protect your business against cyber threat?

“The cyber hackers are always a couple of steps ahead of many businesses,” says Sharri Logsdon, Regions Bank’s Senior Vice President and head of Consumer and Business Compliance.

But there are practical steps that any company can take to minimize threats. Begin by understanding your business’s risks and being vigilant in addressing them. Here are key steps to help you stay ahead of cyber risk in your business.

1. Monitor your vendors

It’s not enough to protect your own computers. Your third-party vendors, such as accounts payable service providers, need to be equally vigilant in protecting your customers’ data.

“Vigilance includes business continuity precautions,” Logsdon says. “If your vendor’s payroll or other computer system crashes, what’s their backup plan?”

The consequences of a data security breach can be far-reaching. “In addition to your business’s reputational risk, you could lose shareholder value and face lawsuits, fines, and penalties,” she notes.

2. Go beyond compliance

Don’t be satisfied with regulatory compliance. Stay aware and ahead of emerging risks. For instance, cryptocurrency brings on an entirely new realm of risks and oversight that business owners and managers need to monitor.

3. Delve into acquisitions’ liabilities

If your business is acquiring another firm, make sure it has strong cybersecurity controls and systems in place.

“Pay attention to legacy products or services that could create controls and systems issues in your organization,” Logsdon says. “Make sure you’re not exposing your organization to risks you haven’t considered.”

4. Hire smart people and tap local resources

With hackers a constant risk, don’t skimp on tech. Hire top-quality information technology staff, and invest in robust technology infrastructure or consider outsourcing your IT and cybersecurity functions. Trying to save money with a do-it-yourself approach could turn out to be costly in the long run.

Because small businesses don’t have deep pockets and can’t be expected to have a wealth of knowledge or expertise, it’s important that you to access local resources. “Leverage local business incubators like Birmingham’s Innovation Depot,” Logsdon says. “They might offer seminars on topical issues, or perhaps you could work with a graduate student from a local university.”

5. Make risk management everyone’s job

Employees are the weakest link in a business’s cybersecurity. Uninformed employees are more likely to fall for phishing scams, click on suspicious links and download malware, or to use their own electronic devices that could compromise security.

That makes it important to integrate risk management into your business’s culture. Make it something that everyone is aware of and helps take responsibility for.

“Spotting and reporting suspicious activity should be everybody’s job in an organization, and probably even more so in a small business,” Logsdon says. “If you’re not placing data privacy and cybersecurity at the top of your to-do list every day and making sure you have the best cybersecurity, firewalls, and technology, you’re likely to get hacked.”