Saturday, October 24, 2015

Cybersecurity: Keep Them Virtual Doors Locked Please!

October has been established as National Cyber Security Awareness Month by the Dept. of Homeland Security, to especially educate individuals & small business owners about cyber security. No better time to talk about Cyber Security I thought!

It has been a busy summer over here at MN Tax Solutions LLC. I was taking stock of our big challenges from the 2015 tax season & so I thought I should share some of the important lessons we learnt from it. No matter how many times we say this, it cannot be said enough- It is imperative to take regular stock of your "cyber-security health"! Just like you would go to the doctor for regular check-ups! 

What are your best cyber-security practices? What are the types of threats you could face? How would you secure information? Understanding these questions help business owners make sound decisions and make intelligent investments for cyber-security protection.

Let us look at some Cyber-security tips that small business owners can put in place. Please also see the cyber-security tips available for small business owners on 

  • Protection against viruses, spyware, and other malicious code

Make sure each of your computers are equipped with antivirus software and anti-spyware and update regularly. Most software is available online from a variety of vendors. Configure all software to install updates automatically.

  • Secure your networks

Safeguard your Internet connection by using a firewall and encrypting information.  If you have a Wi-Fi network, make sure it is secure and hidden. To hide your Wi-Fi network, set up your wireless access point or router so it does not broadcast the network name, known as the Service Set Identifier (SSID). Password protect access to the router.

  • Establish security practices and policies to protect sensitive information

If you have employees, establish policies on how they should handle and protect personally identifiable information and other sensitive data.  Have a consequences for violating your business’s cyber-security policies.

  • Educate employees about cyberthreats and hold them accountable

Educate your employees about online threats and how to protect your business’s data, including safe use of social networking sites. Hold employees accountable to the business’s Internet security policies and procedures.

  • Require employees to use strong passwords and to change them often

Consider implementing multifactor authentication that requires additional information beyond a password to gain entry. Check with your vendors that handle sensitive data, especially financial institutions, to see if they offer multifactor authentication for your account.

  • Employ best practices on payment cards

Work with your banks or card processors to ensure the most trusted and validated tools and anti-fraud services are being used. You may also have additional security obligations related to agreements with your bank or processor. Isolate payment systems from other, less secure programs and do not use the same computer to process payments and surf the Internet.

  • Make sure you have made the latest change if you accept credit cards

Are you ready for the shift from magnetic-strip payment cards to safer, more secure chip card technology, also known as “EMV”? October 1st is the deadline set by major U.S. credit card issuers to be in compliance. 

  • Make backup copies of important business data and information

Regularly backup the data on all computers especially critical data regularly or store the copies either offsite or on the cloud.

  • Control physical access to computers and network components

Prevent access or use of business computers by unauthorized individuals. Laptops can be particularly easy targets for theft or can be lost, so lock them up when unattended. Make sure a separate user account is created for each employee and require strong passwords. Administrative privileges should only be given to trusted IT staff and key personnel.

  • Create a mobile device action plan

Mobile devices can create significant security and management challenges, especially if they hold confidential information or can access the corporate network. Be sure to set reporting procedures for lost or stolen equipment.

  • Protect all pages on your websites, not just the checkout and sign-up pages

If you are a small business owner, you may have smaller resources than the big guys to secure your systems & networks. This makes you an attractive target for cyber-criminals. You can still take many steps to create an economical cyber-security plan & protect what you have built. Also make sure you have a plan in place if your security is breached & do contact the authorities immediately.

As always, read my disclaimer here. Please consult a qualified tax professional for your unique tax needs. More of my contact information is on my website,