Small business owners often leave the issue of cybercrime protection until they have more money in the bank. Unfortunately, that could be a recipe for disaster since 46% of micro and small businesses identified cyber security breaches or attacks in the last 12 months. Hackers know that large organisations will have secure systems in place, which makes smaller businesses easier targets.

This guide will show you how to prevent cybercrime in a small business. We’ll cover the following:

  • What cybercrime is, and the most common types
  • How to prevent cybercrime in your business
  • How Countingup can help

What is cybercrime?

Cybercrime is a criminal activity involving a computer, mobile device or network. Cybercriminals use technology to access or exploit your personal data or trade secrets, usually for malicious purposes.

Cybercrime constantly evolves, and cyber criminals find new ways to steal data and damage business structures. The most common types of cybercrime are as follows:

  • Ransomware: this happens when cybercriminals unleash malware (bad software) on your system that blocks access to your data until you pay them money to get it back. This often happens through email that includes attachments or links to sites that carry the malware.
  • Phishing: this cybercrime also happens through email, and sometimes text messages, that are made to look like they’re sent from a trusted contact or company. The goal is to trick you into sharing personal information. These attacks can be very difficult to spot since skilled cybercriminals can mimic the desired organisation almost exactly.
  • Insider threats: this is when digital information is stolen from the inside either by anyone with access to the inside of your firewall, antivirus and endpoint protection. Insider threats are more common in larger companies, but you still want to be careful about who you give access to your protective systems.

Understanding the most common cyberattacks is the first step to protecting yourself and your business against them.

How to prevent cybercrime in your business

While awareness is the first step to preventing cybercrime, there are a number of other ways you can lower the risk of a cybercriminal getting a hold of your sensitive information. We’ve listed the best methods small business owners can use today without spending a tonne of money or time on it.

Stay alert

It’s impossible to know when your system might get hacked, so it’s essential to stay alert and cautious at all times. For example, you should never open emails from an unfamiliar source, even if they seem legit. You should also never click on pop-ups or random links. It only takes one careless slip for a cybercriminal to gain access to valuable business information.

Backing up your data

Always take care to back up your data. Doing this will ensure you can still access your data in case of cyberattacks, or other incidents like damage or theft. Since ransomware and other malware can move between connected devices, it’s important to back up your data on separate, secure devices. For example, you could use a USB stick, a separate drive, the cloud, or another computer to keep the information safe. 

Most network or cloud storage solutions allow you to make backups automatically. Using automated backups saves time and ensures you always have the latest version of your files backed up. 

Choose secure passwords

This is another one that might seem obvious, but 80% of hacking-related breaches are linked to passwords. We get it: keeping track of lots of different passwords is tedious and tricky. It’s much easier to use the same password for every app and software log-in. But guess what? Using the same password everywhere makes it much easier for cybercriminals to get into your systems. 

To keep your data safe, use a unique password for every platform you use and make it something only you can relate to. Use a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters to make it as difficult as possible for hackers to figure it out. Tools like Google’s password manager will store your passwords safely so you can find them easily.

Keep your software updated

Outdated software can leave you exposed to cybercrime, so it’s important to keep it up to date. Hackers tend to study what the latest software updates are across the board so they can target the businesses that are behind in installing them.

To get ahead of cybercriminals, make sure you install any software updates as soon as they are released. Make sure you also have malware protection software installed on all your devices and keep those up to date too. We recommend turning on automatic updates on your device to ensure the latest version is installed.

In addition, make sure your devices have antivirus software installed. Most modern operating systems have antivirus built-in (such as Microsoft Defender or macOS Security). If you switch on automatic updates, these antivirus programs will always use the latest version for maximum protection.

Ensure your social media is secure

Did you know that social media hacking is becoming more and more common?

Between February 2020 and February 2021,  the national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre, Action Fraud, received 15,214 reports of email and social media hacking. Out of these attacks, 12% were businesses that had their accounts compromised by criminals. 

You might not think 12% of 15,214 sounds like much, but what if yours is one of those businesses? Social media is a great way to communicate with and update your customers, but be careful about how much information you share publicly. 

It’s critical to choose strong passwords for your social media accounts and do not share your logins with anyone to prevent account compromise. You can take security one step further by enabling two-factor authorisation to access your accounts. 

In addition, think carefully about what images, videos and content you share. For example, if you post a picture of you working, make sure your laptop screen doesn’t show any sensitive information.

If you need more information, NCSC has a dedicated guide that details how to protect your small business against cybercrime.