One of the greatest challenges facing West Virginia’s small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), from small businesses in Beckley and Barboursville to those Berkeley County, is IT security. Whether your company is located in Charleston or Huntington or in smaller areas like Parkersburg and Beckley, small business IT security is a concern across the Mountain State.
Compared to larger enterprises, SMBs in Beckley and elsewhere have budget constraints that may limit the types of security measures they think they can employ. And despite their smaller size, all SMBs store sensitive data, from employee personal information to client files and financial routing information. If you’re a small business, what do you need to know about West Virginia SMB IT security?
Why is West Virginia SMB IT Security Important for Your Small Business?
Personal and financial information is increasingly transmitted and stored digitally. Employee records are often stored digitally. Banks store and transfer funds and account information digitally. Customers place orders for products and services over the Internet, and bills and bill payments are transmitted the same way. We see a goldmine of data being mined when the headlines show yet another data breach at an agency or a large business.
Given the prevalence of storing and transmitting personal information online, securing this data is more important than ever. Cyber security is a growing field, with more than one million job openings created in 2016. IT security is not just a concern for big enterprises either. Securing data is one of the main IT challenges of SMBs in Beckley and elsewhere in the state. And, believe it or not, SMBs are often the target for cyber attacks, with 43% of all cyber attacks lodged against small businesses. WV SMB IT Security is more important than ever.
Risks to WV SMB IT Security
When considering risks to data, usually hackers and malware come to mind. Hacking is the intentional and unauthorized access via the Internet of a computer’s data. Malware is short for malicious software, which covers a variety of software such as computer viruses, Trojan horses, spyware, and ransomware. Malware can erase, hold hostage, or corrupt your data or even transmit your data to an unauthorized third party from your SMB’s computers.
Employees can also be the source of an intentional attack to data security. The “inside job” may not even be on purpose. The unintentional release of data is another security threat to small businesses everywhere, from small businesses in Beckley and Charleston to those in Berkeley County and Charles Town. Seemingly innocent or just negligent behavior can have dire consequences for the employer.
Employees may disclose data unintentionally in a variety of ways. Employee posts on social media may inadvertently disclose inside company information or leave confidential information where it can be viewed by non-employees. Also, an employee may carelessly click on a link on a website or in an email on a work computer and fall victim to a phishing scam or cause malware to download onto the employer’s network. Or an employee may lose a laptop, tablet, or mobile phone that contains or provides access to the company’s confidential data. Regardless of the cause of the disclosure, the loss and risk to the company are serious.
Types of Data Stored by WV Small Businesses
Sensitive personally identifiable information (PII) is any information that could be used to personally identify an individual and, if disclosed, could harm that individual. Similarly, sensitive business information is information that could expose a business to liability if that information were released to competitors or to the general public. Sensitive business information includes social security numbers; birthdates; trade secrets; confidential information regarding the company’s plans to merge with, acquire, or sell to another company; or supplier or customer contacts.
All small businesses use and store a variety of information digitally. In the hiring process, the SMB collects personal identifying information on its employees, such as name, address, citizenship, and social security number. And employers who allow payment by direct deposit also have employee bank account information and routing numbers.
Many businesses also have information on their customers or clients as well. Retail operations may not have names and addresses of all customers, but they may have credit card numbers if they allow customers to charge for purchases. Businesses that sell specific products and services may have contact information as well as credit card or bank account information on their customers. And medical and dental care providers record and store data on their patients’ health records.
All of this information is entrusted to the SMB. Clients, customers, patients, and employees all expect the SMB to take great care in maintaining the security of this information.
Consequences of a Data Breach
If a data breach has occurred at your company, regardless of the source of the breach, you should notify the appropriate law enforcement agency. Additionally, many states—including West Virginia— require you to notify those whose data was subject to the breach. Once the fact of the breach becomes public, your reputation and your business may suffer.
The consequences of a breach of your data’s security can have lasting repercussions on those whose data was released and on your small business. Individuals whose PII was released may be subject to identity theft, fraud, and a lifelong battle to prove, secure, and protect their credit. As the location of the breach, your business may suffer, too. Customers and vendors or suppliers may lose faith in your business and move their business elsewhere. And your business will have the costs of beefing up your IT security to prevent another breach.
Cyber Security for WV Small Businesses
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That applies one hundred percent to security solutions. Following are steps to prevent a data breach in your small business.
First, identify the type of data your SMB maintains and where that data is stored. Then, hire an IT professional to assess your West Virginia SMB IT security. Given the complexity of IT systems and the ever-adapting world of hackers, you need a professional to evaluate the security of your data systems. The IT professional can identify any weaknesses in your security and recommend options for patching those holes.
Second, establish and enforce a security protocol and train your employees on good security practices. Sharing passwords or keeping passwords out where others can see them makes your data vulnerable. Easy access to passwords may be easier for employees, but it also makes it easier for those wishing to exploit that weakness.
The security protocol should establish who may access PII or other sensitive data and what security measures protect that data generally. The protocol should also address the information that may be accessed or stored on mobile devices such as laptops, tablets, or mobile phones, and even on remote access to company servers. For remote access, consider whether you should set up a virtual private network (VPN) to make remote access more secure.
Your cyber security plan should also include regular training of employees on digital security threats. Educating employees on how to identify potentially malicious email can help prevent an employee’s inadvertently opening the digital door to outsiders.
Finally, keep your security measures such as malware protection and firewalls updated. Those intent on hacking are constantly rising to the challenge posed by these and other security measures. Keep up with the latest security measures or hire an IT professional to do that for you.
Cyber security is indeed one of the major SMB IT challenges. The breach of that security can cause customers to flee and erode current and future customers’ trust in your business.
Where Can You Turn for IT Security in Beckley Or Across the State?
ComTech Consulting, LLC takes WV SMB IT security seriously. Our expert technicians keep up with the latest protective technologies. From Beckley to Berkeley County and everywhere in between, small business data security starts with quality IT consultants, and that’s ComTech.
To assure you’re taking every precaution possible to protect your SMB’s and your customer’s data, consult the experienced and highly qualified IT professionals at ComTech Consulting, LLC. ComTech successfully serves SMBs in Beckley and greater West Virginia as well as the surround states. For a consultation, call (304) 720-8491 or email us at Sales@ComTechSBS.com. ComTech will help you secure the data entrusted to you.