With desktop computers and Android mobile devices still big targets for hacks and cyber criminals, and Apple posting the highest number of reported vulnerabilities for its devices, IT security should be a prime concern at businesses large and small. All it takes is one security breach to shut down an entire network and compromise your business's sensitive client data.
"Unlike the 'hacker' of the past, today's cybercriminals are after your most important information -- your financial records, customer data, user accounts and intellectual property," says Brian Burch, vice president of marketing communications at Mountain View, Calif.-based information security company Symantec. "And the bad guys know that small business has fewer defenses than the average large company. They also know that your small company might be the "backdoor" to your biggest client."
Here, Symantec offers seven tips for how owners can beef up security at their businesses:
1. Know what you need to protect.
Look at where your information is being stored and used, and protect those areas accordingly. Lost and unprotected mobile devices can be a big problem. Companies often have at least some devices that, if lost, have no password protection and can't be remotely wiped of data, according to a recent Symantec study.
2. Enforce strong password policies.
Creating passwords with eight characters or more and using a combination of letters, numbers and symbols (e.g., # $ % ! ?) can help make your passwords more difficult to crack.
Related: Five Ways You Can Avoid IP Theft
"I take a long word that means something to me personally and capitalize some letters and, most importantly, change other letters for symbols that resemble the letter they replace," Burch says. For instance, consider replacing the letter "s" in a word with $.
3. Map out a disaster preparedness plan.
Identify your critical resources, use appropriate security and backup solutions to archive important files. Test them frequently.
4. Encrypt confidential information.
Implement encryption technologies on desktops, laptops and removable media such as USB devices to protect your confidential information from unauthorized access.
5. Use a reliable security solution.
Today's solutions do more than just prevent viruses and spam, Symantec says. They can also scan files regularly for unusual changes in file sizes, programs that match known malware, suspicious email attachments and other warning signs.
6. Stay up-to-date.
Your security systems might not be so secure if you're not updating them often. New viruses, worms and other malware are created every day and variations can slip by software that isn't current.
7. Educate employees.
Develop internet security guidelines and inform employees about Internet safety, security and the latest threats, as well as what to do if they misplace information or suspect malware on their machine.
Related: Three Tech Tools for Keeping Sensitive Business Data Safe
"In the event of a breach, every employee should be encouraged to come forward immediately if they spot a virus or a piece of malware rather than try to resolve it themselves or hope an intrusion or incident will blow over," Burch says.
The infographic below, from Symantec, provides a deeper look at security issues for small companies: