We are well and truly engaged in the holiday season now. For the owner of a small retail business, of course, that means (hopefully) a crush of customers and transactions. And even the business that is involved in non-retail operations faces an above-average number of vacancies, summaries, and year-end reports.
Clients of the Wesleyan University of Illinois (SBDC) McLean County Illinois Small Business Development Center are encouraged to take additional steps this time of year to strengthen their cybersecurity. Think of this as a beginning of the year resolution.
Cybercriminals will victimize small businesses to the tune of around $ 3 billion this year if past trends continue. We all make an effort to lock down and secure our vehicles and homes from unwanted intrusions. Why would we do less to protect our customers, our financial information and our identities from cyber burglars who can cause infinitely more inconvenience and misery in our lives than someone who commits a physical break-in?
Beyond using common sense to avoid scams and phishing schemes, small business owners can take steps to improve their cybersecurity by simply being smart and diligent in creating and maintaining usernames and accounts. strong passwords.
I know this is boring, but passwords should always be at least ten characters long and should combine special characters (&, $, @, etc.) with a mix of numbers, uppercase and lowercase letters. Keywords or dates are not enough. Think how easy it is to search the definition of a word all over the Internet. Supercomputers can try all dictionary word combinations like “key” in your “lock” password in seconds.
One idea is to take a phrase like “Oh, say, can you see at dawn” and translate the initials to something like “0ScUCbtD3l1tE”.
Remember in the old movies when the soldier stumbling upon a sentry had to answer “Who is going there?” Â»With the password of the day? Yes, they changed this password every day. You should regularly change yours and ask your employees to change theirs at least every 90 days.
You should use different passwords for each app and vendor website. You can keep track of them with a relatively inexpensive over-the-counter password manager app that encrypts and saves all those complicated strings.
Additionally, although this again can be slightly inconvenient like any security measure in our lives, it is best to use “two-factor authentication” when available.
Please contact SBDC (www.mcleancosbdc.org) for more useful ideas to improve your cybersecurity. During the holidays, I hope you stay safe and healthy online and in store.
Karen Bussone is director of the Small Business Development Center at Illinois Wesleyan University.