What Security Means for Small Business Owners

padlockThe Intel Small Business team is dedicated to providing real-world solutions and resources for business owners. This summer, we’re launching a series of blogs that analyze trendy business jargon, breaking through the buzzwords and giving you actionable information to help your business thrive.

Security is one of those words. You see it appended to everything related to the internet, and feel a vague sense of uneasiness at the thought that your business may not be as secure as it should be. But what does security really mean, and why is it such a buzzword today?

Security is a huge focus for businesses in a digital world. In 2015, businesses spent $75 billion on cybersecurity; spending is expected to exceed $170 billion by 2020. All of this investment is for a very good reason. Businesses — yes, even, and especially, small ones — are at risk of hacks and data breaches. The amount of information on the subject may be intimidating, but it’s worth your time to explore and consider how your business fits in.

Security: What it is and why it matters for small business

When we talk about business security, we mean cybersecurity, or security of information stored and transferred digitally. Data breaches involving financial information certainly make headlines, but data is stored and transferred — and therefore subject to theft — at many points along your customer’s lifecycle. Addresses and order history, credit card and bank routing numbers, browsing history, PIN numbers, security questions, and metadata that you might not even know is being stored are all subject to security protection. Intellectual property is also a target.

Most small businesses agree that technology is critical to staying competitive. The community is vast; there are 28 million small businesses in the U.S., and these businesses are increasingly reliant on information technology. In fact, it’s their size itself that makes smaller businesses a tantalizing target for a security breach. They have more digital assets than an individual person, and are usually much less mindful of security than a big business.

Create your business security profile

To create a business security profile, first assess your risk by considering the types of data you handle and save, including email addresses, account numbers, and bank information. You might even be collecting data without knowing it; photo files and others often contain metadata such as a timestamp and author name. That kind of personal data is valuable to cybercriminals, who might use it for subsequent identity theft or ransomware.

Many hacks start with employee error or negligence. An employee may unknowingly download a virus onto a company computer. If employees are using their own devices to access a company server or network, such as when someone uses their smartphone to stream a digital music service, the device may contain a threat.

Identify opportunities for a security breach to see what risks your business faces. One easy way to stymie attacks is to talk to your employees. Emphasize the importance of security, offer everyone training in your company’s existing security measures, teach good password practices, and reward good judgement.

How to truly improve data security

Be systematic about security, and start with a plan. The FCC has a cyberplanner to help guide you through identifying sensitive data, developing a privacy policy for your company, protecting internet data, creating layers of security, controlling access, and more. Once you have established security priorities and found ways to protect them, publish your security plan so all company employees who handle data are familiar with it.

Find ways to reduce human error. Passwords are inconvenient, insecure, and hard to standardize. A secure platform like Windows 10 has Microsoft Passport and Windows Hello, which use biometric security based on your iris, your fingerprint, and facial recognition. When it’s time to buy a new device, make sure security is built into the hardware to support software protection. The 6th gen Intel Core vPro processor can be found in tablets, 2 in 1s, PCs, and a host of other devices.

“Security” is just a word, but the implications are real and the stakes are high.

To take a strong position on security when it comes to your company’s data, check out the Microsoft Accelerate Your Business security page. For more small business resources, visit Intel's dedicated site.