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5 Ways to Protect Your Company From Cybercrime If you run a small- to medium-sized business, it's time to make prevention a priority.

By Lucas Miller

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Some small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) consider cybersecurity an issue to be dealt with once their budget is a bit larger. Unfortunately, it is these businesses that are most likely to be targeted for cybercrime. In fact, 43 percent of cyberattacks target small businesses. Criminals know larger corporations have strong security systems, but smaller businesses frequently leave themselves vulnerable. If you run an SMB and cybersecurity is not yet a priority, it's time to change that. Luckily, there are things you can do to protect yourself, even when resources are limited.

1. Implement employee training

Employees who are untrained in proper security practices are a huge vulnerability. It's absolutely critical to train employees to recognize warning signs of cybercrime, as well as how to keep risks low in the first place, and there should be a system in place for reporting signs of an attack.

One of the most common security threats is phishing. The Henry M. Jackson Foundation, a medical research nonprofit, worked to educate employees by sending out fake phishing emails frequently throughout the year. When the Jackson Foundation first started implementing these phishing-education campaigns, the click rate among employees was around 27 percent. Each time an employee clicked on the fake phishing email, they received a pop-up explaining the warning signs. This made the employees more aware in the future, and the company was eventually able to get click rates down to about three percent.

Educating employees on security threats should never be a one-time thing. Cybersecurity training should occur on a regular basis in order to keep up with the latest technology and ensure new employees don't create security vulnerabilities.

Related: Don't Become the Next Corporate Victim of Cybercrime

2. Create a system security plan

A system security plan (SSP) is a summary of all security practices that keep your data secure. The SSP identifies features in a system such as hardware, software, security measures, training methods and incident-response plans. This document includes details on how to limit access to authorized users and ensure employees practice secure habits and respond in the case of a security breach. It also prevents things from falling through the cracks when schedules get busy. If your IT staff is knowledgeable on this subject, you can save money by keeping things in-house, but otherwise, it's better to hire a consultant. A badly written SSP could end up costing you more in the end.

3. Keep software updated

Many SMBs get too busy to ensure their software is updated in a timely manner, but outdated software can expose your company to vulnerable security flaws. Hackers often study the latest software updates in order to target those businesses who are behind in adopting them. According to Fortinet's 2017 Global Threat Landscape report, 60 percent of organized security breaches targeted vulnerabilities that were at least 10 years old.

4. Enforce secure password policies

Passwords should never be recycled, and they should be updated constantly. Simple passwords are also easy for hackers to crack. In 2012, a password-cracking expert revealed a program that could work around any eight-character password. This is why all passwords should be more than eight characters, and the more complicated, the better.

Related: What Payment Companies Are Doing About Cybercrime

5. Outsource cybersecurity

There are many resources you can turn to if you feel overwhelmed at the thought of managing cybersecurity issues yourself. Many small companies decide to put cybersecurity at the back of their mind because they don't understand it. Doing this could be your downfall, though.

Many IT companies specialize in helping small businesses improve their security. Sometimes an even simpler option is to use anti-malware or anti-ransomware technology. According to research done by Verizon, 28 percent of security breaches involve malware. By using a software program that prevents malware attacks, you can significantly lower your security risks.

Running an SMB is a stressful, time-consuming endeavor, so avoid the temptation to place cybersecurity on your company's backburner. Starting today, make your business's online security a conscious priority and you'll be primed for sucess (and fewer headaches) in the long run.

Lucas Miller

Founder of Echelon Copy LLC

Lucas Miller is the founder and CEO of Echelon Copy LLC, a media relations agency based in Provo, Utah that helps brands improve visibility, enhance reputation and generate leads through authentic storytelling.

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