Cybercriminals love to test your defenses. They love to see how far they can get into the networks of businesses all over the globe. Cybercriminals really love going after small businesses because they can all too often sneak onto a network, copy data and move on. Through the use of ransomware, they can hold your data hostage and refuse to cooperate until you pay them some amount of dollars - and if you don't pay up, they threaten to delete all your data.

But protecting yourself is not as hard as you might think. While cybercriminals and hackers are an everyday threat to businesses, you can take steps to significantly reduce that threat and take that target off your back.

The first thing you need to do is understand why cybercriminals target small businesses and what makes your particular business vulnerable. There are many things small businesses do and don't do that open them to attack and data theft. These may include not having enough (or any) security in place or not training employees on security protocols.

Realistically speaking, the biggest threat to your business does, in fact, come from your own employees. This doesn't mean they are intentionally harming your business or leaving your network exposed to outside threats. It means they don't have the proper training and knowledge to protect your business from a cyberthreat.

For instance, your team needs to be trained to use strong passwords, and those passwords must be changed periodically (every three months is a good rule of thumb). A lot of people push back on strong, complicated passwords or use the same password for everything, but this is just asking for trouble and should not be
allowed at your company.

Once strong passwords are in place, enable two-factor authentication (2FA) on everything you possibly can, from network access to every account you and your employees use. This is an additional layer of security on top of standard password protection. This feature is generally tied to a mobile number or secondary e-mail, or it may be in the form of a PIN. For example, when 2FA is enabled, after you've put in your password, you will be prompted for your PIN for the associated account.

Another thing you must do to get that target off your back is to get anti-malware software installed. Every workstation or device should have some form of this protection. Not sure what to use? This is when working with a dedicated IT company can come in handy. They can help you get the right software that will meet your specific needs without slowing you down. They will install software that is compatible with your PCs and other networked equipment. Plus, they will make sure anti-malware software is working and is regularly updated.

On top of this, you want to have an active firewall in place. Every business should have its network protected by a firewall; like antimalware software, firewall security comes with a number of different settings, and you can
customize it to fit the needs of your network. Firewalls help keep attackers and malicious software off your network. When paired with a good anti-malware software, your layers of security are multiplied. The more layers, the better protected you are.

Finally, with all of this in place, your employees need to know what it all means. Keep your team up-to-date on your business's security protocols. This includes items like your password policy, malware protection policy and proper e-mail and web-surfing etiquette. The bad guys are never going to stop attacking, but you have the power to protect your business from those attacks.