As a certified financial planner with my own business, I am frequently asked about how secure my client’s data is and if it is safe to conduct business in a virtual manner.
Given that almost half (43%) of cyber attacks worldwide in 2015 were against small businesses with less than 250 employees, according to Symantec, it is certainly a valid concern to have. Here I will touch on cyber attacks and then more specifically on what I have done in my business to protect my clients' data from them.
The World Economic Forum has listed cybercrimes as a top global risk and warns larger and more sophisticated attacks are on the rise. The Department of Justice’s Internet Crime Complaint Center recorded 288,012 cyber-related complaints in 2015, with a total of 3,463,620 complaints since its inception in 2000. There has been an upward trend since 2013.
Small Business Owners Are Prime Cybercrime Targets
It is obvious that cybercrime is real and needs to be taken seriously by small business owners. The damage potential for a small business owner is massive. Not only can it greatly cripple, if not end, a business, the exponential reach of these cyber attacks is downright scary. A cyber attack may start with a small business, but the hackers could simply be using them as a gateway to cause havoc on a much larger scale, like accessing government systems. (For related reading, see: 3 Ways Cybercrime Impacts Business.)
Fortunately, there are a variety of safeguards we can use to protect ourselves, our businesses and our clients' data. The FCC gives us a nice guide on things we can do to protect our businesses and data, as well a list of cybersecurity and government resources.
Ways to Protect Your Business and Clients from Cyber Attacks
The primary technologies (tools) I use in my business are my computer, smartphone, email, eMoney Advisor and eFile Cabinet to run my business and communicate with my clients. Here is what I have done to ensure a secure environment for my business and clients:
- Computer: Full encryption of hard disks and constant anti-virus protection. I actually tested this once when I brought my computer to Best Buy for some service. They had their top tech guy look at it, and he said my hard drive had nothing on it. I told him it was encrypted and he commented on how strong it was and that he had not seen anything like it before.
- Smartphone: Full encryption like my computer. If the encryption seems to not be working correctly then my phone automatically blocks certain features, like email, until the phone has been restored.
- Email: Enterprise-level security with constant, 24/7 monitoring. Everything I send is sent via a secure server.
- eMoney Adviser: In addition to the protections I already have in place, eMoney adds some additional layers of protection including 256-bit secure socket layer, secure data centers, and routine security testing. They also allow me and my clients to conduct virtual meetings that are secure and password-protected. (For related reading, see: Cybersecurity Snapshot: What's Ahead in 2017.)
- eFile Cabinet: For maximum security, data is encrypted while being transmitted to and from all data centers, eliminating the concern of information being intercepted during transmission. Data cannot be accessed or tampered with by any unauthorized party. This is because eFile Cabinet utilizes secure socket layer (SSL) and transport layer security (TLS) protocols. Don’t ask me what this means, but I can tell you I have never had a problem with them and their security.
Being Aware Is the First Step in Protection
Whether you are looking to better protect your small business data from a cyber attack or are looking to work with a professional adviseo, there are a lot of things you can do to manage the risk of a cyber attack, but it starts with being aware of the problem and then taking action to solve it. (For related reading, see: Symantec's CEO on Cybercrime: New Theater of War.)
More and more business is being conducted online and virtually, thus it is vitally important for small businesses, individuals, professionals, corporations and governments to be proactive with how they conduct business, specifically what they are doing to ensure their business can thrive and being there for clients while protecting their sensitive data.
Technology has definitely advanced how we conduct business, which for the most part I would argue is a good thing, but it has also allowed for hackers to take advantage of those who are not prepared. Hopefully you have learned something about cybersecurity in this post and will at least review your current protection, and that of your business partners and professional advisors, to make sure you are doing all you can to protect what you are working so hard for.
(For more from this author, see: Work at a Startup? Here's How to Plan Your Finances.)