Gaining the trust of your customers can be a lengthy and effortful process. When your business has gone from building on an online presence to consistently providing a top-notch customer experience, you feel confident that your customers would never leave your side.

In reality, you could lose them in the blink of an eye if you fail to protect your customers from cybercrime.

The cybersecurity spotlight has heavily focused on independently owned businesses in the past year and a half. The frightening truth is 43% of cyberattacks target small businesses. Even worse, only 14% of those businesses have prepared to defend themselves.

Keep your customers and business safe by guarding against attacks from cybercrime.

The Dirty on Cybercrime

As the number of businesses making a digital transformation continues to rise, companies are becoming more dependent on tech advances to help run and manage their day-to-day.

Unfortunately, while shifting everything from major company processes to sensitive customer data online, small business owners forget to take the next step of protecting that information against cybercrime. Criminals seek out that weak spot.

Within the past year, there was a 424% increase in new small business cybercrime.

Rebecca Ledingham, a former member of law enforcement, now working for Mastercard, shares that because cybercrime is low-risk with low barriers and easy-to-access tools, anyone could be behind the opposing screen.

“They don’t care who you are,” Ledingham explains. “They care that you are connected to the internet and have a vulnerability to exploit.”

Even if a company survives cybercrime, the damage can linger for years and result in unexpected long-term costs such as:

  • Financial loss from paying ransom
  • Lost business and customer data
  • Disruption in regular business
  • Revenue loss from downtime
  • Cost of notifying customers and shareholders
  • Cost of legal liability and representation
  • Hard to reverse brand damage
  • Decrease in productivity throughout the company

Avoid Free and Cheap Cybersecurity

Starting a business can get costly, and while tempting to take the free or cheap way out, small businesses cannot afford to cut corners when it comes to keeping information secure.

Cybercriminals see free and cheap software protection and run headfirst in hopes of exploiting your business.

A $20 monthly cybersecurity cost sounds feasible until there is a breach. If that happens, you’ll land among the small and medium businesses paying more than $2.2 million a year to fix it.

That is a bill no one wants to foot, especially while watching customers leave for companies they feel are now more reputable.

Actively Seek Out Weak Points

Get ahead of attacks by channeling your inner cybercriminal. It sounds crazy, but you do it while locking up your storefront. Rooms, windows and doors get checked twice to make sure no one sneaks in. Keep that same energy when taking your business online.

Figure out where your holes lie and quickly cover your bases before the bad guys find them. Actively seeking out these weak points is important because the average data breach takes 197 days before it’s discovered.

By catching it within the first 30 days, you could save your business upward of $1 million. With that being said, having a data breach response plan ready to go is a must in order to reduce company downtime.

60% of small businesses that are victims of cybercrime go out of business within 6 months.

Back-Up Your Data

One way to better avoid extended periods of downtime if your company ever experiences cybercrime and you’re locked out of your system is to back up the data you currently have. The longer your business is down the greater the risk of going out of business.

Make a point to back up your processes, daily sales, customer logs and other valuable information every time you get a chance. Be sure to go the extra mile to encrypt the data — if not for yourself, then for the customers who put their trust in your business.

Update Your Software

If the system and software update alerts at the corner of your computer irk your soul, you’re not alone. But, before you click the delay for 2 days button for the 5th time (I know I’m not the only one), just say okay and update it now.

Rumor has it the software companies aren’t pushing these updates just to annoy you and slow up your day — shocking, I know. Updates go beyond new features and bug fixes. They also correct flaws in the system that can leave your business otherwise vulnerable.

This extends beyond your laptop to anything your company owns with an online component including your printer, scanners, web servers, websites and even your elevators.

So as bothersome as those alerts are, take the 5 minutes to install the update and further protect your business and customers. 

Use Strong Credentials

If you want to protect your customers’ information and your business data, you’ll want to start by getting serious about your password protection. It’s one of the simplest defenses you can start off with.

Don’t go simple when creating this. Use a passphrase as opposed to a password and add a string of symbols with no meaning throughout. And, although it seems unnecessary, make a habit of changing this out regularly, especially when you share it with other members of your staff.

30% of data breaches come from the inside.

Avoid Requesting Personal Identifiable Information (PII)

When it comes to collecting customer information, sometimes you feel like you need to know it all for the sake of great customer service. But, if you’re not careful, it can turn around to bite you later.

Avoid requesting your customers’ sensitive information as a precaution. When companies lose customer data to cybercrime, they have to undergo investigation before getting slapped with a hefty fine.

PII to avoid includes:

    • Full name
    • Social Security number
    • Driver’s license number
    • Address
    • Bank account number
    • Passport number

Stay PCI DSS Compliant

When customers swipe their cards with your business and pay online, they’re trusting that you are in compliance with the PCI DSS, a written standard created by the major card brands. They may not say it in those words, but they trust that you dedicate the time to protect their information.

If you’re accepting card and online payments the PCI DSS must be followed. And, while strict, it’s the bare minimum business owners should do to safeguard against cybercrime to help protect clients.

Also, if you’re working with a vendor to process payments, ask them about their PCI DSS compliance, as well.

By following these tips you’re making your business less vulnerable to being attacked by cybercriminals. Getting ahead of the reality of small business cybersecurity helps you that much more in ensuring your business and customer data is safe.