Ten Tips From the FCC for Improving Your Small Business Cyber Security

This post is part of the series, SmallBusiness.com Guide to Business Computer and Tech Security: Advice, alerts and information about digital security threats faced by small businesses. You can browse other posts in the series below.

  1. Lynda.com Alerts 9.1 Million Users After 55,000 Accounts Are Breached | December 2016

  2. What Does HTTPS Mean? And Why a Small Business Website Needs the ‘S’

  3. Yahoo Security Breach is Another Reminder of Why Password Protection is Critical to Your Business

  4. Homeland Security Tips for Choosing Harder to Hack Passwords

  5. Passwords Are Stolen Everyday; How to Protect Yours From Being One of Them

  6. How to Recognize and Avoid an Attempt to Crack Your Two-Step Verification Passwords

  7. How Voice Recognition Software is Being Used to Detect Cyber Criminals

  8. How to Avoid a New Cyber Attack Attempting to Access Small Business Bank  Funds

  9. Seven Resolutions for 2016 That Will Help Protect Your Small Business Computers

  10. Top Ten Free Antivirus Utilities For Your Small Business | 2016

  11. Most Small Businesses Have No Cyber Attack Response Plan

  12. If Your Business Bank Account Gets Hacked, Your Bank May Blame You

  13. Why You Should Still Use a Password Management System, Even if You Heard One Was ‘Hacked’

  14. Advice From Google on Avoiding Scams Directed at Small Businesses

  15. More Tips for Actively Managing Your Passwords

  16. What Small Business Customers Should Know and Do About the JPMorgan Chase Cyberattack

  17. How Hackers Use ‘Social Engineering’ and How to Prevent It

  18. Ten Tips From the FCC for Improving Your Small Business Cyber Security

  19. Password Protection Advice from SmallBusiness.com

  20. Ebay Asks 145 Million Users to Change Passwords

  21. What is Two-Step Verification and Why You Should Start Using Them

  22. How (and Why) to Use a Password Management Application

  23. How to Reduce the Odds of Being Hacked While Using Public Wifi


The revelation that up to 1.2 billion username/password combinations have been stolen by hackers in Russia underscores the need for small businesses to take “cyber security” seriously. In addition to the advice we’ve previously shared about managing passwords, here are ten tips for improving your small business cyber security from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.


1. Train employees in security principles

Establish basic security practices and policies for employees, such as requiring strong passwords, and establish appropriate Internet use guidelines that detail penalties for violating company cybersecurity policies. Establish rules of behavior describing how to handle and protect customer information and other vital data.

2. Protect information, computers and networks from cyber attacks

Keep clean machines: having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats. Set antivirus software to run a scan after each update. Install other key software updates as soon as they are available.

3. Provide firewall security for your Internet connection

A firewall is a set of related programs that prevent outsiders from accessing data on a private network. Make sure the operating system’s firewall is enabled or install free firewall software available online. If employees work from home, ensure that their home system(s) are protected by a firewall.

4. Create a mobile device action plan

Mobile devices can create significant security and management challenges, especially if they hold confidential information or can access the corporate network. Require users to password protect their devices, encrypt their data, and install security apps to prevent criminals from stealing information while the phone is on public networks. Be sure to set reporting procedures for lost or stolen equipment.

5. Make backup copies of important business data and information

Regularly backup the data on all computers. Critical data includes word processing documents, electronic spreadsheets, databases, financial files, human resources files, and accounts receivable/payable files. Backup data automatically if possible, or at least weekly and store the copies either offsite or in the cloud.

6. Control physical access to your computers and create user accounts for each employee

Prevent access or use of business computers by unauthorized individuals. Laptops can be particularly easy targets for theft or can be lost, so lock them up when unattended. Make sure a separate user account is created for each employee and require strong passwords. Administrative privileges should only be given to trusted IT staff and key personnel.

7. Secure your Wi-Fi networks

If you have a Wi-Fi network for your workplace, make sure it is secure, encrypted, and hidden. To hide your Wi-Fi network, set up your wireless access point or router so it does not broadcast the network name, known as the Service Set Identifier (SSID). Password protect access to the router.

8. Employ best practices on payment cards

Work with banks or processors to ensure the most trusted and validated tools and anti-fraud services are being used. You may also have additional security obligations pursuant to agreements with your bank or processor. Isolate payment systems from other, less secure programs and don’t use the same computer to process payments and surf the Internet.

9. Limit employee access to data and information, limit authority to install software

Do not provide any one employee with access to all data systems. Employees should only be given access to the specific data systems that they need for their jobs, and should not be able to install any software without permission.

10. Improve the management of passwords and authentication

Require employees to use unique passwords and change passwords every three months. Consider implementing multi-factor authentication that requires additional information beyond a password to gain entry. Check with your vendors that handle sensitive data, especially financial institutions, to see if they offer multi-factor authentication for your account.


(Photo illustration: Thinkstock.com)