As a small Business owner loss of products or services is one of main problems. You just don’t need parts of your business walking out the door. In this age of technology a new worry has came about: losing your data.
You might be say, “Listen Jed, no problems here. All my business data is on that Computer and the computer stays right there.” There a problem with this thinking, your data is elections 1s and 0s that maybe copy, deleted, or worse share with the world. The next bad reply is, “Well, it doesn’t matter! We such a small business no one wants are data. Hacker and attackers only go after big business like Ebay and Esty.” This too is false! Most hackers and attackers go after easy targets that they believe will bring them the most money without a lot of work. Lets take some time and look at how your data can be stolen from your small business and ways to stop it!
Like most business your data contains information like: customers, products, product on hand, employee records, contracts, and more. Each part of this data is valuable to your business but depending on the hacker or the attacker, their focus may only be one part. For example, let say your sell toy cars. Now normal one would think, “What could a business that sells toy cars have that a hacker might want? Their in computer stuff, right!” Wrong, even know your main product is toy cars, a hacker would like your customer list. This list would contain valuable information like customers full name, phone, address, maybe even credit card information that a hacker could sell. In case how could a small business protect their data? Simple by following these steps:
- Update all firewalls and anti-virus programs. These programs are normal your first line of defense for keeping your data safe.
- Watch for weird actions from the computer programs your use in your business. If a computer has been hacked or was a virus on it, will start acting weird. Red flags included: taking long to load a program, weird message boxes popping up, and desktops changing without warning.
- Watch for files being added with weird names. When a hacker attacks a computer system normal uses viruses, trojan horses, etc to gain access to the system. This programs normally add files with weird names. For example, @ttack.me might be one to look for on your computers.
- Run a full scan of your computer at lest once a week. This will insure that anti-virus program can catch and remove any viruses before they can make problems.
- Anti-virus scan all email attachment to insure that you are not downing any virus to your computer. Many times hackers will send you an email that has a virus attachment to it with the hope of you opening and poof it on your computer. A good anti-virus program will deleted before it can hurt your computer.
- Learn how to use CheckSum and Hashcheck when your download programs off the Internet. Hackers will add viruses into free and sometimes paid programs to gain control of your computer. Learn how to use this programs can be come valuable.
Over the Internet is not the only way a small business or start-up can loses their data. It’s also common for the data to be lost because of an inside job. Even if you follow every anti-virus Program update and download all needed packets to protect your data, the sneaker-net can still hack your system. I would guess your thinking: “What the hell is the sneaker-net? I never read or hear about!” sneaker-net is when a person uses disk, USB drive, or some other format to copy files from one computer to another. The reason it call sneaker-net is because you use sneakers to move computer files. Sneaker-net attacks more common than Internet attacks and most of the time do more damage. For example, thinking about the toy car business, you have an employee, Sue, that decides that they to would like to open their own toy car store. She see how much money you make, your customer list, your vendors, etc and think all I need is right here. Sue starts thinking, “If I would go into business for myself I would make more money than what I get here! I am getting cheated!” She decides she will “borrow” your data because well to make up for what you did not pay her. That night she stops by a computer store and buy a USB drive and next day when your at lunch she uses the sneaker-net to copy your data.
A month or two goes by and you start losing customers and your vendors are acting weird. Sue informs your that she is quitting and that she has found a better job. A week later, a friend and one of your oldest customers starts telling about “Sue’s Discount Toy Cars.” They go into detail about how they see the same customers and vendors you had at your store. At this point it too late, your business is ruined. You hire a computer tech to look your computer. He tell you that the computer hard disk has been total copy but there no way to tell who or what copy it.
In this case, the employee only stole the data to steal customers. Not all sneaker-net attacks are done to steal customers, may times it’s to ruin a business, blackmail an owner, or just to get even because who knows why. With sneaker-net like this a small business or start-up needs a way to protect themselves. Here some tips to stop sneaker-net attacks.:
- Make computers with important data only accessible to people who need the data. For example, if you hire someone to sort mail there is no reason that they need access to the customer list.
- Keep your valuable data on one computer that is not in the main work area. For example, your valuable computer sits in your office. Your office is locked when your not there. In some case, small business or start-up has not move to space that have offices. Then place the computer in someplace that can be a lock down when your not there.
- Disable all USB ports for non-important users. Like in the case of Sue, she just plugs in her USB drive and download your data.
- Password protect your data files. Most programs will allow you to require password to open and edit file. These will insure the only people who need the data can open.
The last way that a small business can lose their data is by natural disasters. Things like fires, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes can ruin a small business data faster than than the other two examples. Most of the time natural disasters can come up fast, leave the business owner wonder what should be done. To make fine example of this, think of the toy car business, a 100 year flood came through the town and ruin the build plus everything in it. Thankful it was a Sunday, so no one was at work but all the computers were ruin by water. You current orders, future orders, who owes you money, inventory, and payroll is gone.
Even if the insurance company replace your computers, they can not replace the data that was in those computers. To prevent you losing the data, you must be proactive in saving it. Having copies before losing the main copy can save you hours of work. The better way is to have a backup plan for your data. Keep in mind that your goal is to save as much data before a disasters. Sit down and write out how you plan backup your business data. But never put human or animal life at risk to save data. If a disaster happens leave to a safe place, nothing worth your life. When you write your backup plan include these points:
- How plan backing up your data? You can back it up simple by using a USB drive to copy the files to take with you. Other others might be cloud storage or email files to a home computer.
- How often do you plan on backing it up? Depend on how often your data changes should tell you how often it needs to be back up. For example, your business only does three business deals a week. These three deals would include, adding new a customer, place an order, and up inventory. You should only need to back it up once a week. On the other hand, lets say your business does about six business deals a day. At this point update your backup once a day is make most sense.
- Decide what data you can lose. You sometimes can’t save it all, so what can you lose. For example, do know all your customers first hand? If you do losing your customers list will not as big of a problem.
- Dry run of a disaster and losing your data. Decide when good time for you to lose your data and practice recover your data from your back-ups. This will teach you two things. First, if a disaster happens you know you what you can restore of your business data. Second, if there is needed changes to your back-up plan, you can make them.
After reading this, my hope is that you can protect your business’s data. The ideas to get you started, the goal is to make you think how to protect your data. Not every business is the same and you the business owner is the first line to protecting the business data!