How to keep out cyber hackers targeting your SME

Compromised customer data costs small businesses 31 per cent of customers so make sure to take steps that will help deter cyber hackers from the get go.

From Aussie Farmers Direct to David Jones, businesses are taking a hit from cyber hackers, causing entire operations to shut down.

What many fail to realise is that many of the businesses that are hit hardest are local small businesses. There’s no concrete data for Australia, but if the US is anything to go by, 90% of data breaches affect small businesses and cost an average of $36,000 per business, according to a report by research firm First Data.

Through data breaches, hackers access important customer information and hold company data encrypted until owners pay the ransom or risk losing information vital to operations. Sloppy network security puts these companies at the top of a hacker’s hit list.

This is particularly relevant for hospitality venues that regularly hand out the wi-fi password to customers. Just the other day, I was at a cafe for breakfast and accessed its wi-fi to do some work. As soon as I opened my file explorer, I saw three shared devices — all of the business’ point of sale terminals. I had full access.

If I was a hacker, it would have taken me about ten minutes to shut down the business. And this is the standard, not the exception. Vendors are excellent at running a business but don’t necessarily have the time to focus on protecting their systems.

There are simple steps that small business owners can take to deter hackers from the get go.

Secure your network before giving wi-fi passwords

Install a system safeguard that isolates your internal business systems from the wi-fi your customer’s access. This typically costs $100 a month — a small price to pay for guaranteed security.

Change your passwords regularly and have a unique one for each different system

Using the same password for multiple devices is a surefire way to give hackers front door access to your business.

Remember to BCC customers (not CC) in mass email send outs

As digital marketing easily facilitates the small business need to remain competitive, you may accidentally press the wrong button on your computer as you rush to send out the latest email campaign. This customer data is a goldmine for cybercriminals who can use it to take advantage of your customers.

Compromised customer data costs small businesses 31% of customers, according to First Data, as they regularly terminate their relationships with the business following these security scares.

By taking a few simple steps, you can hacker-proof your business. And with data breaches often just around the corner, it’s worth it for your peace of mind.

Michael Jankie is chief executive and co-founder of PoweredLocal, an end-to-end provider of Wi-Fi to small businesses.

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Originally published at on August 2, 2016.

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