You might think that you’re immune to cyber attacks because you’re a small business. After all, the big news stories on this all seem to focus on large companies or government entities. The fact is, 43 percent of cyber attacks target small businesses* – a number that has been increasing over the past several years.

So, what are cyber crooks after? All kinds of things. They might find a way to rob your banking accounts or steal the identity information in your customer files. Maybe they’ll file fraudulent tax or insurance claims. They might even hack into your web site and create havoc with your customer communications. If the worst happens, there’s a 60** percent chance you’ll end up going out of business if you are cyber attacked.

In other words, the threat is real, your risk is growing, and your liability is severe.

I can tell you that at our bank (and perhaps other banks), we are requiring borrowers in certain types of industries to prove that they have adequate cybersecurity measures in place. It’s just too risky. Businesses operating in today’s climate will increasingly find that sufficient cybersecurity is a prerequisite not just for lending but many other types of B2B relationships.

According to the US Small Business Administration, there are some simple preventive measures that can reduce your exposure.  For example, every computer that serves your business needs to have antispyware and antivirus software installed – and you need to run the updates regularly. It’s best to set the updates to run automatically on all of your systems. Cyber criminals are concocting new scams literally every hour. Your security software will continuously be on the lookout for these new threats and will renew your system’s ability to block the bad stuff. Nothing’s foolproof, but this alone will make your business computer systems much safer.

If you work with sensitive customer information such as credit cards, social security numbers, or health records, have a tightly scripted policy and procedure for protecting this type of data. Your employees need to know and practice these procedures religiously and understand the consequences of violating them. Remember that employee cyber-training is not a “once and done” – it must be a monthly or quarterly occurrence to stay relevant.

Make sure all of your network connections are secured. Your internet connection should be firewalled and your wi-fi network hidden and has strong password protection. Also, backup all of your important data in at least one other location, preferably off the internet. The recent international ransomware cyberattack – WannaCry – encrypted the data of thousands of businesses, rendering the data useless. Victims had to pay to get the data unencrypted – unless they had completely backed up their data elsewhere.

A final point: don’t mix business and personal systems. The network that performs business transactions should not be connected to a network that accesses personal email or other apps.

If you’re interested in learning more, the US Small Business Administration is a great place to start understanding more about protecting your business, your livelihood, from cyber attacks. The local organization, National Cyber Exchange, is also a very good resource.

*Foxbusiness.com. ** Denver post 10.23.2016.

Robin RobertsRobin Roberts is the President of Pikes Peak National Bank.  Pikes Peak National Bank is a family-owned community bank with approximately 40 employees located in El Paso County.  Robin has been with the bank for over 16 years.  The bank’s small business focus works well with Robin’s efforts to encourage entrepreneurship and small business ownership in our region.  To that end, Robin is a volunteer consultant at the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center (SBDC) where she works with new and existing small business owners to help them navigate the commercial loan process.  She is also the Chair of the SBDC’s Advisory Board.  Additionally, Robin is a board member and volunteer with Junior Achievement of Southern Colorado.  She serves on the boards of the Old Colorado City Foundation, the Fire Foundation of Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak Community College Foundation.  Finally, Robin is a proud veteran of the United States Army.