For many small businesses, cyber security is the biggest existential threat. All it takes is one attack to cripple a small company that needs every break it can get to compete with its bigger rivals. Unfortunately, these businesses often lack the infrastructure, training and security to repel such hacks. Adequate cyber attack prevention is an essential investment for any company, but it isn't the only necessary step.

In order to maintain a strong defense, companies need to go beyond anti-virus software. They must also invest in employee training, promote correct practices and take an ongoing approach to online security.

Cyber threats never rest
For individuals with personal computers, laptops and devices, downloading an Internet security program and letting it operate in the background is often enough to dispel the occasional malicious email or dubious website. But small businesses should have a more comprehensive approach in order to preserve their online integrity.

That means ensuring employees are aware of any untrustworthy emails that surface, taking a proactive and preventative approach, and updating software regularly.

According to IT Pro, businesses should create a culture of cyber security rather than focusing on an individual project, like putting in a firewall. The source pointed out that security measures build on top of one another, because employees come and go while the security threat is always there.

"Cyber security is adding one level of abstraction," Kai Roer, president of the Roer Group and author of the Security Culture Framework, told IT Pro. "In physical safety we feel it straight away. But safety teams have achieved their results, not just by raising awareness, but also through measurements. Safety measures behavior and sets clear targets. They include the whole organization, and use targets and activities to take them to that goal."

The best, most secure companies routinely measure what they discover through regular security checks and use that data to create an even more secure organization.

Bad practice can undo strong software
The best way to prevent cyber attacks is to educate employees on how to treat suspicious files, how to avoid dangerous sites and how to handle a virus in the system. That's because not even a top-of-the-line firewall can make up for individuals' poor judgment. Therefore, small businesses must take the time and initiative to educate their staff on the best practices in Internet security. The Conversation listed a few of the most common hacking techniques.

  • Social engineering: Hackers that use this method rely on manipulation, often posing as legitimate sources so that people willingly turn over valuable information. The most common form of social engineering is known as phishing. Thieves use emails to solicit private data like credit card numbers by masquerading as reputable sites like PayPal or Bank of America. According to The Conversation, the latest attempts have taken the form of Ebola-themed emails allegedly from the World Health Organization. But in actuality, the attached link installs Trojan malware.
  • Sharp spears: Increasingly, phishing uses what IT analysts call "sharp spears" to coax data out of their targets. Hackers gather as much information as possible about a company or individual to lend credence to their attack. This could mean sending a false email from the bank that the individual actually uses.
  • Spoofed email addresses: Many false emails are difficult to detect because hackers can effectively duplicate email addresses and formats to pose as actual sites. The trick is to analyze the full email header, which will reveal their true identities.

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