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Opinion: How to prepare your business for cyberattacks

Industry Insight

Posted online

Every year, businesses face a variety of problems that can impact their bottom line. One threat that many companies – both large and small – do not adequately prepare for could result in significant and irrecoverable losses. That threat is cybercrime.

While financial cyberattacks can be among the greatest threats to the ongoing viability of a business, a data breach involving the loss or exposure of confidential information can cause significant damage to a firm’s reputation and impact consumer trust for years to come.

According to a recent FBI fraud advisory, businesses worldwide lost more than $5 billion between 2013 and 2016 because of certain email-based cyberattacks alone. Small businesses may face the greatest risk from an attack. According to Symantec, a global provider of cybersecurity, 43 percent of cyberattacks were against small businesses. Worse still, more than half of small companies whose information was compromised closed their doors within six months of being attacked.

The growing number of connected devices employees use creates an even greater opportunity for cyberattacks, reinforcing the need for businesses to implement multiple layers of protective measures. Here are three steps you can take:

1. Seek advice from a qualified professional.

The first step in protecting your business is to recognize the reality of cybercrime threats. Next, seek advice from experts in cybersecurity to implement protective measures intended to reduce the likelihood and impact of a successful attack.

Because cybersecurity technology and methods are constantly evolving, talking to a cybersecurity expert is something every business owner should do on a routine basis.

Not only can consulting with a professional make your operations more secure, but also they can assist in managing your response to an incident, should a cyberattack occur.

2. Educate your employees about the dangers of cyberattacks.

Teaching your employees safe online habits and proactive defense is crucial, as your employees are often the first line of defense when it comes to cybersecurity.

According to federal law enforcement fraud advisories, criminals may compromise a company’s systems when an employee opens a link in a fraudulent email. It is important to stay current and educate employees on the latest scams.

By creating cybersecurity guidelines for employees, they can be more aware of these threats and know how to respond if they see warning signs.

Additionally, federal law enforcement advises that businesses ensure both systems and software are kept up to date and that employees are trained to pay attention to notifications regarding updates to operating systems, antivirus software and web browsers. Using outdated, unpatched software may result in systems that are more vulnerable to attack.

3. Develop a response plan.

As cybercrime escalates and preparedness becomes increasingly important, it’s crucial to develop a plan of action for responding to cyberattacks. If your business becomes the victim of a cyberattack involving unauthorized financial transactions, promptly contact your bank and notify federal law enforcement of the incident.

Implement verification processes as an extra layer of security for approving outgoing funds transfers or for changes to vendor payment instructions. Don’t rely solely on instructions received via email – whether you are dealing with your bank, vendors, clients or employees. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. Always report suspicious activity and transactions to your bank. Use your financial institution’s online tools and alerts to monitor your bank accounts regularly. Many banks offer free and secure mobile apps enabling customers to monitor their financial transactions on the go for added peace of mind. Adding these layers of protection may help prevent a loss.

In an environment where hackers may be one step ahead, taking these steps can help protect your business from the growing threat of cybercrime.

Jon Pascoe is the director of privacy risk management for Arvest Bank in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He can be reached at (479) 750-6006.

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