Just like so many other businesses around the world, your business depends on your network. It’s rare to find a business, no matter its size, that doesn’t depends on a computer network to run. If you’re a small business, you might not have access to the tech teams and advanced firewalls that multi-billion dollar companies do.
In fact, 85% of small businesses reported a hack in the year 2015. That number may seem staggering, but the statistic is all too true.
Even the smallest hack can take a business offline for some time. In the worst case scenario, an attack can be a debilitating blow to your network – leaking clients’ information and taking you offline for good.
To minimize permanent damage, any attacks to your network should be reported and investigated before it’s too late. You should do these things immediately, even if you just suspect that you may have been hacked:
1. Confirm the attack
If you log-in to your work computer first thing in the morning and notice it’s running slowly, you might be a little alarmed. But, a slow-running computer isn’t always a sure mark of an attack. Computers can run slow for any number of things – software and systems might need updating, the machine wasn’t properly shut down, or a program isn’t responding.
Cause for concern happens when your computer is running unusually slow, not just a little laggy. Upon start-up, you might notice unfamiliar programs on your desktop. You could open an internet browser, seeing plugins and apps you didn’t install or authorize. These are just a few things that should send red flags through your mind.
At this point, it’s important to confirm the attack as soon as possible. Do not log-in to any program, accessing any more personal information. Instead, run a network report looking for traffic logs and reports. You’ll be able to see where the hack came from and what was accessed.
2. Contain the threat
Once you can confirm an attack, it’s in your best interest to work quickly and efficiently to contain the threat. Hacks are scary – you might be tempted to pull all of your systems offline. Unless your network has suffered a severe attack, this isn’t always necessary.
Instead, it’s important to focus on the systems that were hit first. For example, you may have had a hacker access your computers using an unauthorized remote desktop connection. Disable this ability for users for the time being.
On the other hand, an employee may have downloaded an infected file from their email. Restrict email access and make sure employees know not to download any more files. Pin-pointing exactly which systems where left open helps you focus on the root of the problem. You won’t waste time getting caught up in other areas, still leaving those venerable programs open.
3. Consult a professional
After you’ve effectively determined the infected parts of your network, your next best step is to consult a professional for help. Small businesses rarely have an IT team, let alone anyone one staff that is well-versed in cleaning up a cyber-attack.
The last thing you want to do is try to solve the issue yourself if you’re not 100% sure about how to do so. Downloading internet programs can leave you open to even more attacks if the software is not legitimate. You also don’t want to compromise any other files by executing commands you’re insure of.
Take a few moments to find a reputable computer support company in your area. Consult family, friends, and fellow small business owners for their IT recommendations. Most IT companies offer one-time support for new customers. This makes a lot more sense than risking even more damage.
4. Restore your network
The next logical step is to clean up and restore your network. This damage done greatly depends on the severity of your attack. A malware program may have just infected your local drive, while a full-scale attack could have taken over your most important business systems.
Regardless of depth of the hack, you should always have a back-up of all your files. You can provide your IT professional with these files. After they’ve cleaned your PC of any infected programs and files, they can then restore your network to what it once was.
It’s important to understand that you may have a few permanently lost files. You won’t be able to tell what’s gone for good until your machines are cleaned and restored. If you planned ahead, you should be able to recover well.
5. Create a plan for the future
Every business owners hopes that their network can be restored to its original state after an attack. But if you haven’t taken the necessary steps to safeguard your most important business programs and back-up your files daily, you won’t be so lucky.
Restoring your network is rarely as simple as changing a few passwords – although you’ll need to do that too. The work an IT professional can do to clean-up the hack is only as good as the systems you have in place to guard your computers in the first place.
If you don’t have a solid cyber-attack plan, you should now. Even more, you might want to employ and IT company to monitor your network for you. Plenty of good IT computer support companies offer monthly subscriptions. They’ll take care of monitoring and fixing any breaches, even before they can become a threat. And isn’t it worth a little planning to avoid another attack?