Since the first web page went live almost 30 years ago at the CERN institute in Geneva, Switzerland, the internet and associated web technologies have completely transformed pretty much all areas of modern life – but perhaps none more so than the world of business and commerce.

These days, it’s almost impossible to think of any company that doesn’t rely on data to at least some degree for its day-to-day operations. From simple scheduling software and email to e-commerce stores and complex database apps, technology is at the heart of most modern businesses and brings with it previously unimaginable power and market penetration.

However, while tech has afforded undeniable advantages to companies, with businesses coming to rely on it more and more, the risks presented by online criminals have increased exponentially.

Why SMEs have become such a target

In recent years, one type of company has become a target of cybercrime more than any other – namely Small to Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs). Unfortunately, there remains a shockingly prevalent view among many smaller firms that they’re too insignificant, or their revenue is too low to be an attractive target for cybercriminals.

In truth, quite the opposite is the case, and online criminals have increasingly come to view SMEs as an easy target due to their frequently lax approach to online security and lack of protection.

Sensible steps to help protect your SME firm from malicious attack

In the past, many smaller firms found the costs of employing adequate cybersecurity prohibitively expensive, so instead, they took dangerous risks with their data. However, a lot has changed in a very short time when it comes to web tech, and there are now many simple security steps you can employ that will help increase your protection. Below are just a few ideas you should consider to give better data safety to your firm.

Outsource your firm’s digital operations to a cloud service provider

It’s worth remembering the web is still in its relative infancy, and online tech is constantly evolving. Over the last few years, one of the most exciting (and fastest-growing) new developments in internet services has been the emergence of cloud computing.

Cloud computing essentially draws on the storage and processing power of remote machines, meaning companies no longer have to install their own networks and servers and instead can outsource their digital requirements to specialist IT providers. A cloud service company won’t just provide and host your network and data; they’ll also ensure it’s protected 24/7/365 with advanced security tech like Cloud Native WAF.

Cloud services have only been made possible by faster connection speeds and fiber lines combined with improved tech and software, which have made remote computing a viable proposition for companies of all sizes. Moreover, as cloud service providers typically serve multiple clients, they can offer cost-effective, scalable solutions to firms of all sizes, budgets, and types.

Enforce strict password rules and guidelines in your company

It might sound ridiculously obvious, but one of the simplest (yet most effective) steps you can take to protect your company is to enforce the use of difficult-to-guess passwords. All too frequently, hackers gain access to company data through users employing basic passwords – or using the same password for multiple accounts (e.g., use the same credentials for personal and work email addresses).

It won’t matter how secure you try to make your network if your employees don’t follow sensible guidelines when it comes to the passwords they use across your network. For the best protection, insist your employees use individual passwords for each access point they have to your network (alphanumeric passes work best) and also make sure they change them regularly. You should also insist staff don’t use the same password across multiple services.

Educate your staff about the dangers of operating online

Researchers constantly find humans are the weakest link in the chain when it comes to online security. Unfortunately, uneducated workers pose one of the easiest routes into networks for cybercriminals – a fact borne out by the unprecedented rise in social engineering attacks such as phishing.

Don’t just assume your employees know how to recognize suspicious emails, websites, or attachments. Instead, you should take the time to train them (and yourself, if required) to be savvier when it comes to working online to make them more capable of identifying possible risks.

Regularly check for software and Operating System updates

Software developers are in a constant battle to stay one step ahead of security risks identified and exploited by hackers. Online criminals and the types of attacks they release are becoming more sophisticated by the day (including now using Artificial Intelligence to search for potential weak spots). Consequently, most development companies make frequent updates to their software to address, fix and plug potential backdoors. You should download and install patches and updates when prompted to maintain the greatest protection (note, if you work with a cloud provider, they will likely do this for you).

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