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8 Common Digital Security Mistakes to Avoid for Small Businesses

As if small businesses don't already have enough to think about, there's digital security. That's the mindset of many small businesses, which often perceive digital security as another distraction from their core business focus. The reality is that the two are intertwined—what happens in the arena of digital security can decide the long-term prospects of a business. The good news is that these mistakes have been made for you, which makes it easier for your business to avoid them.

Here are eight common digital security mistakes to avoid for small businesses.

1. Ignoring Password Security

Digital technology has been an ordinary feature of the workplace for at least twenty years now. Astoundingly, the most common digital security problem is still poor password discipline. That'd despite it being one of the first elements of digital security any of us learns. This laxity includes everything from using default passwords like "password" and "12345" to writing down and sharing passwords. Companies remain too casual on password security—yet poor password discipline offers one of the easiest, most reliable attack routes around.

2. Neglecting Staff Knowledge

This leads us to the wider issue: the knowledge level of your workforce. Even today, many workers don't have a detailed understanding of IT and digital security. They're only as IT literate as needed to get their day job done. That creates an environment where workers use IT every day but have no idea how to keep the company safe when doing so. Solving this can be as simple as running basic awareness sessions to tackle issues like weak passwords, virus control, and other common issues. Introducing dedicated policies for digital security and integrating security training into your new employee onboarding process are also excellent ways to deal with this issue.

3. Failing to Control Access

The human element of digital security doesn't stop at education. Controlling for human factors is a vital part of digital security. For instance, there's the matter of permissions and access rights. This is just an elaborate way of saying that access to data should be on a "need to use" basis. With broad, blanket permissions, your security is lax. With tighter control on access rights, you reduce the risk of data falling into the wrong hands. The most basic way of implementing tighter permissions is the soft approach. This means only providing access to data a user needs to do their job. More complex is the hard approach of creating dedicated security levels that determine user access in a more codified way.

4. Neglecting Device Security

Even halfway through our list, we're still on the human element of digital security. There's a reason for that. Device security is a popular feature in cybersecurity headlines. There are far too many examples of important data falling into the wrong hands because someone left a laptop in the wrong place. Yet this threat only increases as remote working becomes normal. With more staff than ever working from mobile devices, having a rigorous device security policy is essential.

5. Failing to Update Systems

Outdated software is a blight on the cybersecurity industry. Experts have long pointed to outdated and even obsolete software as an open invitation to hackers.

In many cases, even the operating systems companies use are out of date. That means the basic digital architecture of a business is open to attack. It's a weakness at the most fundamental level. The bulk of updates distributed by software developers are security updates. There's an ongoing arms race between hackers and developers and the updates you see are the developer side of the equation. Regular software updates can prevent you from becoming a victim of that arms race. There's no excuse for failing to patch software, either. Patches are free and only need permission to run. Updating to new versions is more expensive, but what you spend here you save on costly security issues in the long run.

6. Falling Behind the News Cycle

When digital security disasters happen, they can rock an industry. That's true even if only a single company is the target. Paying close attention to the cybersecurity news cycle keeps you in the loop in your industry. It also helps you identify larger trends in the cybersecurity arena. If there's a call-to-arms by security experts concerning a particular piece of software or mode of attack, you need to know about it. Likewise, if your industry is under particular threat, now may be the time to ramp up your cybersecurity.

7. Tightening the Purse Strings

This is a problem with an obvious cause. For a small business, keeping tight control of the company budget is essential. That often means underspending on perceived "extras" like digital security and other support systems. The reality, of course, is that these aren't extras. IT spending is as essential to the long-term productivity and even survival of the company as anything else in that budget. Underspending on digital security is an act of false economy. When (yes, when) a cybersecurity disaster occurs, all of that cash "saved" on IT spending will disappear in an instant.

8. Only Investing in Tech

While it's there in the name, it's a mistake to think digital technology has nothing to do with people. Yes, you should make space in your budget for IT—but that means investing in people, not just technology.

Employees with IT skills are vital for protecting your business. There's little excuse not to have expertise on hand, either. The existence of managed IT services makes it easier than ever to access expertise, even without an expensive in-house team.

Digital Security Mistakes You Need to Avoid

These digital security mistakes aren't occasional accidents—they're endemic among small businesses. Set yourself up for success by choosing not to be among the many small businesses falling into that trap. After all, your survival as a business could be at stake.

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