Just as you secure your business’s premises with locks, alarms and surveillance, you need to ensure your business is secured online. Even if your business is a brick-and-mortar shop, you use computers and the internet every day for a variety of reasons. You may not realize it, but you can be a vulnerable target of cybercriminals who will go to great lengths to steal your data.
Having a software solution to secure your business from online threats is essential, and there are several tiers of security you can implement to guard against malware, which is the leading form of cybercrime according to the Ponemon Institute, an organization that conducts independent research on privacy and data protection. Malware consists of viruses, Trojans, rootkits, ransomware and dozens of other varieties.
Antimalware software is designed to detect malicious programs and remove them. It does this by drawing from a database of known malware signatures that is constantly updated with evolving threats. It then scans your computers, seeking out new threats and quarantining them, if found. This, of course, depends on whether the malware in question has previously been discovered and added to the database. More advanced programs can identify suspicious code and flag it as malware. This method is more protective than database backchecking, but it can result in false positives.
Cybersecurity is a never-ending, back-and-forth battle between criminals and security developers. Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet solution to ending cybercrime. Computer and software developers continue to change and advance the technology, and there will always be those who find new ways to exploit it for criminal activity.
According to the Ponemon Institute, cybercrime cost U.S. businesses an average of $21.2 million in 2017, and the global cost for cybercrime has risen by 62 percent in the last five years. These costs result in lost productivity, damage to equipment, not to mention financial fallout resulting from lawsuits brought by customers (involving a breach of customers’ personal information).
Large corporations may have the resources to recover from a major data breach, but small businesses suffer tremendous losses from which they may never recover. Large business breaches make the headlines, but according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, small and midsize businesses are the primary target of hackers. Smaller businesses don’t always have the budget to put up proper safeguards, and many small business owners don’t see cyberattacks as a threat.
Ransomware is a growing problem. This form of malware hijacks your computer or network, encrypting data and locking you and other users out of the system until a ransom is paid. Experts advise that you should never pay the ransom, as it encourages thieves to target you again; however, some businesses feel like they don’t have a choice. According to a report by Symantec, the average ransomware payout in 2016 was more than $1,000 – a large sum but not unreasonable for most businesses, which is why these attacks are working.
Further, it’s not uncommon for a business that has paid the ransom to still not receive their data back. Once ransomware is activated, there are few solutions to getting around it due to the amount of encryption involved, which is why preventing it is important.
The baseline solution for protecting your business from online threats is small business antivirus software that comes with multiple licenses. You will likely pay at least $100 for a one-year license for five computers. You can pay for additional licenses, with many companies allowing you to only pay for what you need.
Keep in mind that these are just antivirus/antimalware programs. If you’re looking for a more complete security solution, many internet security companies offer more complete coverage and tools, such as identity theft protection, password managers, virtual browsers, and DNS redirecting, to prevent and fix many malware issues. Expect to pay at least double the amount you would spend on stand-alone antivirus solutions.
Another advanced tool is email encryption software, which protects sensitive information sent via email, making their contents unreadable to any hackers attempting to intercept them. These are premium programs and usually cost at least $100.
If you’re on a budget and only have one or two computers you need to protect, there are free antivirus programs that provide moderate protection from low-level threats. This is only recommended if you don’t store pertinent financial information on your computer or if the information being stored on that computer is not essential to your business’s everyday operations.