Why Security Should Be Top of Mind When Creating a Business Because startup founders can be slow to install safeguards against cyber attacks, criminals often target new companies.

By Joe Ross

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The to-do list for launching a new business is incredibly long and labor intensive. Consequently, security tasks usually fall by the wayside for reasons like lack of funds, resources or know-how.

Because security is often at the bottom of a startup's checklist, new businesses are at the top of cyber criminals' target list. According to Symantec's 2014 Internet Security Threat Report, the number of attacks against smaller businesses (with fewer than 250 people) nearly doubled from 18 percent in 2011 to 31 percent in 2013.

In 2013 and 2014, my company, CSID, surveyed small and medium-sized businesses on their security practices and found little change over the year despite the growing number of cyber attacks. In both years, my firm found that 3 out of 10 these smaller businesses were not taking any measures to protect against security threats. More troubling is the fact that 43 percent of the respondents felt comfortable with their current security measures, even if none were in place.

Related: 5 Steps to Keeping Your Private Communications Secure

This year's survey found that as smaller companies grow, they tended to dedicate more resources to protecting their business against security risks. While it's encouraging to see businesses invest in security over time, it is troubling that security is not a business imperative from the get-go.

Security should be a priority for small and medium-sized businesses from Day 1, as the cost of a breach can be crippling. Fraud costs, data-breach investigation fees, reputation costs and customer-support expenditures are just a few reasons why budding businesses cannot afford to leave security to chance.

Here's a list of the most important security measures to consider when starting a business -- to avoid headache and financial heartache in the future:

Related: Entrepreneurs Need to Get Serious About Security -- Now

1. Protect your identity. At the beginning, your business is very much an extension of yourself, making your identity attractive to cyber criminals. When you apply for a business license, much of the information submitted -- your name, business name, location, phone number and license -- will be publicly available.

Cyber criminals can target new business owners (since those starting a business likely have some money and a good line of credit) and try to obtain credit in the company's name. Criminals might also compromise new business websites, as security measures are often not yet in place.

Be on high alert on personal social-media sites for social engineering schemes. Do not connect with people you don't personally know.

Secure new business websites with long, complicated log-ins, keep virus software up-to-date and ensure that sensitive information is encrypted.

When you register your business, ask what, if any, information can be omitted in public records.

Keep an eye on your personal credit score and information for any fraudulent activity by using a credit and identity monitoring service.

Related: Online Debit, Credit Fraud Will Soon Get Much Worse. Here's Why.

2. Monitor your business credit. Most small and medium-sized company owners know that they have a business credit score, but a majority of them do not know what the number is. One tactic used by cyber criminals to exploit the finances of these companies is to pose as the owner and run up credit using the business' name. This can ruin the line of credit for the business. New-company owners do not tend to keep a close watch on their business credit, which gives cyber criminals a chance to abuse it before getting caught.

Know your business credit score and look for any suspicious changes in your credit every month for your business' first year. After that, check every six months.

Try a monitoring service to keep track of your business's overall health and mitigate the risk of a breach.

Related: The Risks of Business Travel in a Wired World (Infographic)

3. Use secure devices and networks. Many startups don't have an office, and entrepreneurs rely on coffee shops, libraries and other public places as remote worksites. When working in a public setting, make sure your device and network are secure to keep cyber criminals from collecting sensitive information via tactics like man-in-the-middle attacks (when someone intercepts Internet traffic).

Make sure any cloud services you access are secure. Services like Box, Copy and Hightail are great, inexpensive solutions for startups. Before using any service, do your research. Any cloud vendor you use should have a trustworthy security reputation.

Use a virtual private network (VPN) when working in a public setting. A VPN allows you to access a secure network when you are in an otherwise insecure place. Using a VPN can help protect sensitive communication from cyber criminals trying to hack into devices connected to insecure, free public Wi-Fi. There are many free and inexpensive VPN apps you can use to protect your devices.

Make sure your mobile device does not automatically join the nearest available Wi-Fi connection. This can put your mobile device that stores personal and work information at risk for a man-In-the-middle attack.

As your business grows, security risks will shift, prompting the need for a different set of security measures.

Related: Why Your Credit Card Company Wants to Replace Magnetic Strips With Microchips

Wavy Line
Joe Ross

President and Co-Founder of CSID

Joe Ross is president and co-founder of CSID, now a part of Experian Partner Solutions, a provider of comprehensive credit data and identity management technologies and services. Ross is widely recognized as an identity protection leader with more than 15 years of experience in the industry.

Editor's Pick

'Catastrophic': Here's What You Should Know About the Debt Ceiling Crisis — And How a Default Could Impact Your Business
I Helped Grow 4 Unicorns Over 10 Years That Generated $18 Billion in Online Revenues. Here's What I've Learned.
Want to Break Bad Habits and Supercharge Your Business? Use This Technique.
Don't Have Any Clients But Need Customer Testimonials? Follow These 3 Tricks To Boost Your Rep.
Why Are Some Wines More Expensive Than Others? A Top Winemaker Gives a Full-Bodied Explanation.

Related Topics

Business News

7 of the 10 Most Expensive Cities to Live in the U.S. Are in One State

A new report by U.S. News found that San Diego is the most expensive city to live in for 2023-2024, followed by Los Angeles. New York City didn't even rank in the top 10.

Money & Finance

3 Ways to Create Multiple (Big) Streams of Income

Here are three ways to create multiple streams of income. These strategies require effort and resources but offer significant financial potential.


The Real Reason Why The Return to Office Movement is Failing is Revealed in New Study

There is a vivid sign of the disconnect between employees and their workplace, a glaring indication that companies need to revise their scripts to improve their hybrid and remote work policies.


Why You Need to Put More Effort Into Marketing in a Recession, Not Less

Rather than ditching your content marketing efforts in anticipation of a possible recession, it's crucial to keep taking action based on data and strategy (with a little gut instinct thrown in for good measure).


'That '70s Show' Star Convicted on Two Counts of Rape. He 'Drugged' His Victims.

Danny Masterson was accused of forcibly raping three women at different times between 2001 and 2003. The jury reached a verdict on two counts but was deadlocked on the third.

Business News

What Makes Scenthound a Top New & Emerging Franchise

Focusing on out what dogs and their owners actually need helped Scenthound CEO Tim Vogelcreate a successful franchise system.