For 13 years, Verizon has released its annual Verizon Business Data Breach Investigation Report, or DBIR, a comprehensive look at more than 150,000 incidents that gives business owners insight into trends in cyber attacks. As expected, the 2020 report took on more meaning: Unprecedented numbers of professionals are working from home, and small- and medium-sized businesses without clear data security policies in place are particularly at-risk right now. “Employees are dispersed and on different devices, and you don’t know what they’re doing. This opens up vulnerabilities like never before,” says TJ Fox, SVP and president of Verizon Business Markets.
The exhaustive 120-page report breaks down threats by industry, business size and region, but there are common takeaways for owners of any size business — especially those who don’t consider theirs big enough to attract cyber attacks. “Should a small business owner sit and read the DBIR from start to finish? No. But they should definitely understand what their vulnerabilities are,” Fox says.
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In this time of uncertainty many small businesses are hesitant to make capital outlays on projects like a data security overhaul, but it’s more important than ever. Beyond office workers turning their homes into offices, retail locations are introducing services like order pickups, and restaurants are utilizing new ordering platforms like GrubHub. All this means you’re interacting with customer data on new networks in ways you’ve never done it before, and it’s crucially important that you understand the data security implications.
In a conversation with Entrepreneur, Fox broke down four measures he considers the first line of defense for small business owners who haven’t paid much attention to data security in the past. “There’s no one magic button when it comes to this, but there are things you can do to greatly minimize your exposure to breaches and devastation to your business and customers.”
Avoid public WiFi
If you do one thing, forbid any and all use of public WiFi for work activities. “Public WiFi is the most dangerous place on the planet,” Fox says. It’s a line he’s been using in interviews for several years, but it doesn’t make the sentiment any less important. Logging into a public WiFi network at an airport or coffee shop opens devices up to attack. Make sure your employees know it’s against company policy to use public WiFi and provide alternatives such as a mobile private network or VPN for them to utilize when they’re not in the office. Use mobile device management on company-owned devices like work laptops or cellphones to prohibit users from connecting to public WiFi networks.