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  • Protecting your business against harmful cyber attacks

    The total is staggering.

    Cloud computing has led to more employees working in remote locations.Nearly $600 billion is stolen from businesses each year, according to a new survey, and most of that stems from small businesses that don't have the means to use deluxe security systems to prevent fraud or theft.

    It's not that small-business owners aren't using security plans, it's just that they are using them rather ineffectively.

    The survey from Bank of the West noted that 95 percent of small-business owners use some sort of protection plan for their company, but the majority of the owners fail to use a proven method.

    Two of five small businesses utilize background checks when hiring employees, and 18 percent use two-person controls. Those numbers, however, aren't high enough to keep the bulk of small businesses safe from fraud or theft.

    Derek du Preez, the former CIO of the National Security Agency, implores businesses to take advantage of its own data to enhance its risk management approach when evaluating external threats. By doing so, businesses can limit potential security vulnerabilities.

    "Companies need to continuously monitor how effectively these critical assets are being protected," said Derek du Preez, former CIO of the National Security Agency, according to CenterBeam. "This is going to be delivered by collecting as much data as possible from the assets and checking for discrepancies in order to check that no vulnerabilities are being created."

    The Bank of the West study stated that roughly 66 percent of small businesses do not deploy a data-security policy, which leaves them vulnerable to certain attacks. The study called those figures "concerning" when taking into account that 56 percent of small businesses allow employees to work from remote locations, which can make company information additionally susceptible to theft or fraud.

    More employees are working remotely due to small businesses using technologies like cloud computing, smartphones and laptops. This movement has propelled telecommuting to jump from 44 percent three years ago to 60 percent in the current market. Cloud computing had the biggest jump among small businesses, going from 43 percent use in 2013 from just 5 percent in 2010.

    "Small-business owners are handling more of their firm's IT operations," said Todd McCracken, president and CEO of National Small Business Association. "This growing IT reliance makes issues, such as cyber security, intellectual property protection, and a functional online marketplace, critically important in today's global economy."

    Here are a few tips for your business to stay ahead of the security curve:

    1. Shield your assets through your business entities. If you are running your small business without an LLC or a corporation in a informal manner, you are operating as a sole proprietorship. Forbes said small-business owners working in this manner should create a business entity that guards your personal assets from lawsuits against your company. This limits the risk of your personal assets in case you are ever sued, and those with a larger assortment of assets are more likely to fall prey to a lawsuit, valid or not.

    2. Upgrade security issues and IT problems. According to a study from NSBA, cyber attacks typically cost a small company nearly $8,700 per attack. By dishing out some extra cash upfront to protect against fraud and theft, you can save yourself some serious dough and major headaches down the road.

    3. Locate a program that keeps passwords in one area. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, one such program that can keep digital assets firmly locked up is Legacy Locker. The program can be used to transfer access to digital assets such as email, social media and blogging accounts, which can severely limit the chances of cyber fraud or theft.