fraud-protection

Unfortunately, small businesses are some of our most vulnerable businesses. They have significant assets — enough to make them an attractive target — but they don’t have billion-dollar corporations’ budgets to invest in the right forms of protection. Accordingly, thieves, hackers, and other opportunists frequently attack small businesses to take advantage of them. Fortunately, there are a variety of tactics you can use to protect your small business.

These strategies include different approaches to protect your small business. There are forms of physical protection, which can keep your physical business location safe from natural disasters and theft, insurance protection, which can protect less tangible elements of your business, and cyber protection, which can keep you safe from data breaches and other hacks.

Physical Protection

Let’s start by looking at how to protect your small business on a physical level. If you operate a brick-and-mortar store or an office location, you’ll need to pay attention to these strategies:

Choose the right location.

One of the best things you can do is choose the right location from the outset. Before deciding to buy or lease a given space, do some research to learn the crime rates in the area; steer clear of areas that tend to be high in violent crime or robberies.

It would help if you also looked at the layout and location of the building. Generally, the more visible a building is, the less susceptible it is to burglaries and other crimes. Don’t make it easy for thieves and other criminals to target you.

Purchase a safe.

If you’re collecting payments regularly, including cash payments, or if you’re holding important documents, it’s a good idea to invest in a safe. Make sure that only a few people know the combination, and consider changing the combination on a somewhat regular basis. That way, you minimize the risk of someone internally opening and robbing the safe.

Invest in a fire alarm (and a sprinkler system).

No matter how careful you are with fire prevention methods, there’s still a chance that a fire could break out in your business.

Be proactive and invest in a fire alarm to signal when a fire occurs; this will give everyone in the business ample time to get out. If you want to protect your physical assets, consider investing in a sprinkler system to douse the fire preemptively.

Establish emergency exits.

It’s also a good idea (and in some cases legally mandatory) to establish emergency exits and a clear escape route for the people in your business at the time of an emergency event.

Purchase a firearm.

Depending on your small business’s level of risk and your level of personal comfort with the idea, you may invest in a firearm to protect your business. There are many options to choose from, including handguns, easy to store and carry, and shotguns, which have an impressive intimidation factor. Keeping a gun behind the counter, just in case you encounter a dangerous situation, can make you and your employees feel safer.

Lock and protect all entrances after hours.

This should go without saying, but have a plan in place to lock and protect all your entrances after hours. Your windows and doors should be fully shut and locked. Depending on your business area, you may consider investing in additional protective measures, like bars over the windows or a cage that prevents your doors and windows from being broken.

Create and practice responses to physical threats.

Consider coming up with formally documented plans for handling multiple physical threats, including crimes and natural disasters alike. What should your employees do if they encounter one of these situations? Rehearse these plans, so they become ingrained and easy for your employees to follow if they ever occur.

Pay for security cameras, monitoring, and alarms.

If you want to take the next step and enhance your business’s physical security further, consider investing in security cameras and ongoing monitoring. You can also set up an alarm system that notifies a security company if your store is being broken into

Change up your routine.

Finally, make sure you change up your routine from time to time. Clever criminals often monitor businesses for days or even weeks in advance of their attempted crime; they strike when you’re most vulnerable and least populated. By changing your routine even slightly regularly, you can throw them off and force them to move onto another target.

Insurance

Even with the most robust forms of protection in place, there’s still a chance your small business will be the victim of an attack (or some other form of damage). Insurance policies can ensure no such incident can bankrupt you, providing payouts and/or reimbursement when you need them most.

  •         Property insurance. If you own your building or the equipment therein, get a property insurance or renter’s insurance policy to protect it.
  •         Disaster insurance. Not all forms of property insurance protect against all-natural disasters. You may need an additional policy, like flood insurance or earthquake insurance, for full protection.
  •         Vehicle insurance. You’ll only need a vehicle insurance policy if you own a company vehicle, but be warned—your personal vehicle insurance won’t apply to a vehicle used for business purposes.
  •         Workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ comp insurance is a requirement in most states, but it’s good to have no matter what, in case an employee is injured on the job.
  •         General liability insurance. General liability insurance will protect your business and employees in case you’re held legally responsible for damages.
  •         Product liability insurance. Product liability insurance is a more specific form of liability coverage that’s a practical necessity if you’re manufacturing and selling a specific product line.
  •         Business interruption insurance. Business interruption insurance can make sure you’re able to generate income even during temporary interruptions, like a closure to recover from a natural disaster.
  •         Cybersecurity insurance. Cybersecurity insurance, or cyber insurance, can protect your business from a potential hack or data breach. This is especially important if you’re working with large volumes of sensitive customer data.
  •         Umbrella liability insurance. An umbrella liability insurance policy will grant you extended coverage beyond the limitations of your other insurance policies, giving you additional peace of mind.

Cybersecurity

Finally, you’ll need to think about your small business’s cybersecurity, preventing the possibility of a data breach and keeping your digital assets safe.

Invest in the right tools.

First, make sure you’re investing in the right cybersecurity tools. Depending on your organization, these could include antivirus software, attack monitoring tools, and even basic password managers.

Choose strong, unique passwords.

Too many small businesses are victims of a “hack” just because an employee chose a terrible, easy-to-guess password for an important account.

Make sure your passwords are strong, with a long string of characters, including lowercase letters, uppercase letters, numbers, and special symbols. Additionally, never use the same password more than once; every account should have a different password.

Keep software up-to-date.

Software developers issue updates regularly to patch bugs and vulnerabilities that could otherwise be exploited. Make sure you’re updating your software routinely, utilizing automatic updates whenever you can, to ensure you’re protected against the latest and most prominent threats.

Never click on suspicious links or attachments.

This should be an obvious tip, but many small businesses still fall victim to elementary attacks. Never click on suspicious links, or attempt to download a suspicious attachment. Only click on links and attachments that you trust.

Never use a foreign disc or drive.

Similarly, you should never use an unknown disc or drive in your computer. If any malicious software is installed on that disc or drive, it could infect your computer (and then your entire network) almost immediately.

Secure your networks.

Your Wi-Fi network needs to be secured with a strong password. Additionally, consider using a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt and secure all your remote connections.

Establish a BYOD policy.

These days, many companies allow employees to use their personal devices for work purposes or connect to a work network with a personal device. If you do this, make sure you have a strong bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy in place to set guidelines and limitations.

Limit access.

One of the easiest ways to protect your data is to limit the access of your employees. Don’t allow employees to access data unless they truly need it — and segment your users into a hierarchy based on need. When you limit your employees’ access, if any one individual account is compromised, most of your data will still be safe.

Train your employees.

All your employees need to be familiar with all these best practices and take them seriously. Accordingly, one of the most important steps you can take for your organization’s cybersecurity is training your employees and keeping them up-to-date on the latest best practices.

Remain educated.

Best practices in the cybersecurity world change from time to time and new threats are constantly emerging. Make sure you read the news and remain educated, so you continue to follow best practices consistently.

Not Invulnerable

Don’t make the mistake of believing your small business is invulnerable, or that it’s unlikely you will be targeted.

Most of the strategies on this list are inexpensive and easy to implement, so there’s no excuse not to follow them.

Even a small investment in your security and protection can ward off the majority of active threats—and give you a backup plan in case you end up becoming a victim.

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Peter Daisyme is the co-founder of Palo Alto, California-based Hostt, specializing in helping businesses with hosting their website for free, for life. Previously he was the co-founder of Pixloo, a company that helped people sell their homes online, that was acquired in 2012.

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