The internet is by far one of the greatest advancements of human innovation in the 21st century. For all the good that has come from it, there is one glaring issue that seems to pop up in the news more than it should: cyber security. Over the past several years large corporations such as Target, Home Depot, even eBay have fallen victim to cyber attacks. With the overwhelming majority of cyber attacks aimed at large corporations, most people would think that their small businesses or personal websites are safe given their obscurity. Think again. In 2012 alone, Verizon discovered that 71 percent of cyber attacks occurred in businesses with less than 100 employees. As frightening as that may sound, undertaking the right precautions to protect your small business can help you stay ahead of the curve when it comes to cyber security.

The most common cyber attacks on businesses target user information or data. Credit cards, phones numbers, usernames and passwords are all fair game when it comes to cyber attacks. Should this information be stolen, it is also likely that whoever is attacking your business would attempt to lock you out from accessing the information. The first step you can take to protect all your data is to back it up. Buying an external hard drive is the best thing you could do in order protect yourself from losing your information forever. However, some people believe that an external hard drive is a rather old school method of cyber security. Their preference would most likely be the “cloud”, an intangible and seldom understood form of data storage. But what really is the cloud and how effective is it at protecting information?

Cloud storage has become one of the most popular ways to store data within that past few years, yet few actually understand what the “cloud” is. Most people don’t understand what type of cloud-based storage they have or even where the servers are located. Are they within the city? The state? The country? Are the providers liable for protecting your data? These are important questions to ask if you are using low cost cloud storage like many small businesses are.  If you don’t have the answers to these questions, or are somewhat uncomfortable if you do have the answers, chances are you either need to invest in stronger cloud storage or an external hard drive.

Of course no cyber security overhaul would be complete without mentioning usernames and passwords. If you’re like most people, you probably use the same password (or some variation thereof) for most of you online accounts. That is probably the easiest mistake you can make. Cybersecurity expert Vikas Bhatia once said that “if your password can be found in the dictionary it can be hacked in 30 seconds”. Try using different passwords for social media, business accounts, even email in order to add another layer of protection against cyber attacks.

These are all simple, easy techniques that most people can use to protect their small businesses from cyber attacks. Obviously greater precautions can be taken by purchasing expensive anti-malware software or even outsourcing your businesses security, but most small businesses don’t have that sort of luxury. As the internet continues to evolve, so does the threat posed by cyber attacks. While you may not be able to stop cyber attacks from happening against your business, you can certainly make sure you are prepared if it does.