Your Cybersecurity Spring-Cleaning Checklist
By Neill Feather
For small business owners, tidying up your digital space means conducting a virtual sweep of your website and organization’s security practices. I recommend that small business owners use the following cybersecurity spring cleaning checklist to ensure they don’t miss any important items. The first step of cybersecurity spring cleaning is to deep clean your business website.
Spring Clean Your Website
The first step of cybersecurity spring cleaning is to deep clean your business website. By clearing out what you don’t need, you can improve the overall health of your site. Start with decluttering plugins and software. You should only keep the ones you’re using and delete the rest to reduce your site’s cybersecurity risk. After you remove any plugins and software you’re not using, make sure the ones you keep are updated. In addition, continue to proactively monitor your plugins and software on a regular basis and check for security updates.
It’s also the perfect time to take a closer look at the data you’re gathering from customers. Ask yourself if you’re collecting information that truly benefits your business, such as information that drives value for marketing, sales, and services. If the type of information you collect has changed over time, delete any data and applications you’re no longer using such as analytics code, remarketing snippets, affiliate tracking, and CRM tracking.
Obsolete data can present a major security risk, which is why you should remove it if you don’t need it anymore. For example, if this information were compromised by hackers, they could potentially use it maliciously against you or your customers. Just be aware that some industries are required to retain data, such as legal, finance, and accounting, so make sure to check before you delete it.
If you store customer data, it’s also important to perform frequent backups to safeguard against data loss. Backing up your website files and database ensures you don’t lose important data in the event of a cyberattack or other security incident. Next, automate security efforts. Are you regularly scanning your site for malware? If not, now’s the time to take action. You definitely want to get rid of any malware that’s targeting your site, and not just during spring. Malware can cause serious damage to your website, and can set you up for cyberattacks such as defacement, backdoor, redirect, and SEO spam attacks.
To protect yourself against malware, your best option is to use a website malware scanner that monitors your site daily. Additionally, if you use a scanner that automatically removes any malware when it’s detected, the responsibility of taking action to remove malware is taken off your shoulders and dealt with immediately.
Freshen Up Your Security Best Practices
Start by auditing your cybersecurity protocols. Be sure to review your company’s cybersecurity policies and practices and ensure they’re up-to-date. These include using website security tools on your site, enforcing safe password practices, and having an emergency response plan in the event of a cyberattack. Since the cyber landscape is constantly evolving, it’s essential to carry out these cybersecurity reviews regularly, at the very least once a year. In addition, document any changes to your cybersecurity protocols and share them with your employees.
Next, provide security training for employees. Employees are the first line of defense against cyber threats, no matter if they are working within the organization or at home. Security awareness training and phishing simulations teach employees what to look out for so they can prevent data breaches, ransomware, and other cyber threats that put organizations at risk. An effective security awareness training course will include a focus on common cyberthreats such as phishing emails, which can have severe consequences for businesses.
Ask if your employees reviewed their passwords lately. It’s important that they regularly change their passwords and follow secure password guidelines. If your employees are using passwords that are easy to decipher, have them update their logins with more secure credentials.
Additionally, if they use the same password across multiple accounts, be sure they change them, so each account has a unique password. As a best practice, you can implement a password manager that quickly generates strong passwords, manage your saved logins, and more. Finally, review your list of all existing users with website editing privileges. Remove any users who have left your company as well as contract workers and other users who no longer need access. Remember that only authorized employees should be granted access to your website, and immediately revoke access for users who are no longer with your company.
As small business owners adjust to conducting business in the current landscape, making sure to carry out a digital spring cleaning can help protect their websites and customer data from cyberthreats. By checking off the items on this cybersecurity checklist, you will boost your business’s cybersecurity and raise cyber awareness that will benefit your company all year round.