Full Security Guide for Small Businesses (Physical and Cyber Security)
Many small business owners neglect security risks, thinking that thieves and hackers will only target the big fish in their industry. Actually the opposite happens more often than not. Big fish usually have sharp teeth, small fish is often unprotected.
What I mean is that small businesses typically invest less in security cameras, guards, cyber security software, alarms and other methods. But this doesn’t mean that you should go on a huge security products shopping spree. Since smaller prizes attract thieves with lesser skills, you can deter many and catch the braver ones in the act by implementing a few simple security methods and educating your employees.
These are the 25 essential security tips that almost every small business should implement. I’ve separated them into 3 categories (physical, cyber and employee best practices), for easier reading:
Physical Security Tips
Protect your business from physical break ins and robberies by implementing these security methods:
1. Bolster the gate and fence
Does your business have a gate and a fence that you lock up at night? This is an awesome strategy for deterring criminals, if the fence is high enough that it’s difficult to climb over. It also provides an outdoor perimeter that can be more efficiently monitored with security cameras.
A fence and a gate will also prevent thieves from driving close to an entrance of your business (such as a back door) and moving the stolen goods quickly from building to vehicle.
So their job will be more time consuming even if they manage to climb over the fence, and chances are they’d have to focus exclusively on smaller objects. Especially if they only manage to climb the fence but are unable to unlock the gate.
It’s best to lock the gates using an automatic opener like Mighty Mule’s Automatic Gate Opener or a good old-fashioned security chain. It will take tools, effort and noise to break through, three things that every thief wants to avoid.
For securing the fence, consider installing spikes and additional obstacles on the top, such as barbed wire. If you have a wall-type fence that relatively thick, there are professionally crafted spikes that can be placed on top.
A fence and a gate also provide a great surface for placing anti-theft deterrents such as signs, stickers and fake security cameras. Let everyone know that your business is impenetrable. It will provide you and your customers with a sense of security, which is especially sought after in businesses that require a significant investment from customers and clients.
Read more: How to prevent burglars from climbing a fence
2. Improve door locks
Door locks, especially entrance points to a building should be of above average quality. Many businesses and home owners still use regular deadlocks. They’re still an industry standard and I have nothing to say against them.
But if you are worried about employee theft, you might consider adding an electronic code lock, which will allow you to delegate a different access code to each employee. For example, the Ultraloq Smart Lock provides a touchscreen keypad AND fingerprint identification. That way if an employee is working with a thief or they enter the business area when they’re not supposed to, you will know who that employee was and will be able to easily connect the dots.
Another issue to consider are door hinges. If you have outward-opening doors, the hinges are typically accessible from the outside. With regular hinges, the pin can be removed. Then the door becomes vulnerable to forceful removal. So I suggest installing secure hinges that have a non-removable pin. I wrote a really helpful guide on how to secure outward opening doors so make sure to read it for more details.
I recommend taking some extra measures with securing back doors, in the form of a security bar. This is a versatile device that allows you to block the door from the inside. You can easily block the door when you’re going home and unblock it whenever it has to be used.
There are two types of security bars, one is for outswing doors, the other for inward opening doors and sliding doors. Make sure to get the right one. I’ve linked to the proper type for each door on Amazon so you can check them out for yourself.
3. Improve window locks
Securing a small business is very similar to securing ones home. Just imagine what would be the most vulnerable entry points in your house. Besides the doors, the windows are the most likely target in most situations.
Window locks that prevent the opening of a window from the outside are crucial. Adjustable security bar or the really compact Burglarbar are the most affordable and simple extra locking mechanism you can employ.
If you want to go an extra mile, consider adding obstacles in front of the window, such as blinds and steel grills. Thorny shrubbery can make accessing the window more difficult, so consider adding such natural obstacles as well.
4. Glass security film
Other than installing additional locks and obstacles, consider strengthening glass surfaces on your doors and windows. Many business buildings are offices are covered with glass panels. Sure, they look good, but they’re also a security and safety risk. If they’re easy to break, the burglar could reach inside and easily open the door/window.
There are two ways to make glass tougher: by replacing it with tougher glass (go figure!) or by covering it with relatively thick security film. I prefer the second option because it’s way cheaper and easier to install.
Security film is self-adhesive, clinging to the glass surface. It protects against forced entry attempts by keeping the glass shards in place. Which means that a burglar would have to use more force, for a longer time AND create more noise to break a glass door or window.
Security film can be installed by a complete amateur. It involves cutting it to the proper size and carefully placing it on the window (from the inside). Here’s my full guide explaining the best glass security films and how to install them, including a video tutorial.
5. Remote alert system with cameras
I say remote alert with good reason. There are plenty of alarm systems that will go off but they won’t send you a notification on your electronic device. So unless you’re nearby to hear the alarm, it won’t matter much. But by receiving a notification you will be able to act even if you’re chilling in Bahamas.
The best combination is to have security cameras with motion sensor technology and remote alert. Motion sensor will catch movement in the area and send you an alert. This will provide you and the authorities with more time to act.
The Blink Indoor security camera system is the most popular option for securing indoor areas that has all of these options. Plus, it’s wireless. It has a 2-year battery life so it’s really convenient since it’s easy to install in any area.
Naturally, you don’t want the motion sensor to be constantly active while you’re actually doing business. Every camera system allows you to toggle this option on/off in an instant.
Make sure to get the proper camera for the job. As you probably know, there are outdoor and indoor cameras. There is also a shape-based difference, as there are bullet cameras and dome cameras.
Bullet cameras are better for monitoring larger distance, which makes them a good option for places like parking lots. A dome camera has a wider lens, so it’s typically better for indoor areas or monitoring a single entrance point.
6. Secure garage doors from fishing tactics
Does your business have a garage door that opens upwards? If it does, you could be in greater danger of a break in.
The problem with many garage doors is that they’re not completely sealed from the outside. There’s a small gap or a small gap can be created by pushing it inwards. This gap can be used to pull a wire hook inside and manipulate the garage door opener.
It’s not possible with all openers because some have a release mechanism that has to be pulled straight down. But with some openers, if the cord is tugged towards the door it will work. Since doing this is quite easy, many thieves will use the garage door to break into homes and businesses. But there are a few simple ways to secure a door against fishing attempts, such as:
- using a garage door lock shield: usually wood cleat and a piece of plywood is screwed to the opener’s arm so that it can’t be reached from the outside.
- plastic zip tie lock: even easier is to create a lock with a zip tie on the emergency release if your trolley has a pair of holes.
- garage door monitor: this device will let you know if the door is fully closed or open at any moment, and it will alert you in case of a break in attempt. The Skylink long range model is arguably the best monitoring device for regular users.
- automatic garage door opener: If you get a great automatic opener, the before-mentioned tips and devices aren’t necessary at all. I recommend the eKyro Opener which has a ton of useful security features such as remote opening and closing of the door through WiFi, Alexa compatibility, notifications in case you forget to close the door, can be used to provide authorized access to multiple people, security encryption and real-time activity log so you can know exactly when the door was used and by whom.
Here’s my full garage door security guide in case you need a deeper explanation of these methods and a few others.
7. Anti-theft signs and security floodlights
Place one or more theft deterrent signs around your business. Let criminals know you haven’t forgotten about them. Warn them that you have an alarm system and security cameras in place. Or a sign that shows you’re willing to use a firearm if the situation warrants it (of course, depending on your state’s laws, otherwise it will seem like an empty threat).
Floodlights with motion sensor technology can also be really useful to prevent thieves from sneaking in the shadow of the night. Super bright floodlights would make any thief uneasy, especially if they can be spotted from the street or surrounding buildings.
Floodlights can work well in combination with security cameras by brightening the area and improving video quality as a result. Some security cameras are already equipped with floodlights such as the highly rated Smart Floodlight Camera on Amazon.
8. Small business insurance
Improving security will deter theft in many cases. But even so, there are no 100% guarantees when it comes to criminals. Natural disasters are also impossible to predict and protect against fully. The greatest way to secure your bottom line from freak accidents and thieves is to invest in a small business insurance policy.
There are many solid insurance providers on the market. One of the highly rated providers is Hiscox Small Business Insurance, which operates in US and UK. You can get a quote on their website and see exactly how much it would cost to get your business insured right now.
Also keep in mind that investing in security devices can lower the cost of an insurance premium. This goes for home insurance and business insurance. All the more reason to add a few cameras and a code lock to the place.
Cyber Security Tips
Cyber security is becoming increasingly important for small businesses. If you’re not careful, hackers can get access to your bank accounts, customer data and other information.
Identity theft is a common problem with information that’s stored on electronic devices or shared online. The following strategies are designed to protect electronic devices and online work from hacking attempts:
9. Implement identity theft prevention tactics
Whether in business or personal life, identity theft is a unique nightmare worth doing your best to avoid. Here are just a few bad things that criminals can do with your ID information:
- Apply for credit cards or loans in your name.
- Withdrawing funds from your bank account.
- Use your health insurance to obtain medical care.
- Use your SSN to steal your tax refund.
- Sell your information to other criminals.
- Creating fake social media profiles with your name and photo to conduct fraud.
- Blackmailing you in case they have sensitive information that could damage your public reputation.
These are the most common reasons why identity theft happens:
- Entering information on phishing websites that mimic the real thing (like a fake Facebook website)
- Not using up-to-date security software
- Purchasing products from shady websites
- Using public WiFI
- Not secure the router
- Using weak login credentials
- Using the same login credentials in many places
- Having weak privacy settings on social media
- Downloading and installing sketchy phone apps
If you can avoid making these mistakes, it will be much harder for criminals to get a hold of your identity and run havoc on your business. Read my full guide on identity theft prevention to learn more about these tips.
If there isn’t a clear separation between customer area and employee area, someone from the outside could get a hold of your business computer while an employee is on a break or taking care of some work in a different room.
To prevent this from happening it’s best to educate your employees to place a login password on electronic devices used to conduct business. When they have to go away, they should place the computer in hibernation/sleep mode. If anyone tries to access the data, they’ll be met with a password requirement.
If possible, consider adding a physical barrier between employee and customer areas, like the one’s found in many financial institutions. If that’s not possible due to the nature of your business, consider locking your computers and laptops so they can’t be moved from the spot.
There are locks specifically designed for this purpose. For desktop computers I recommend the Kensington Locking Kit and for laptops the Combination Cable Lock for Laptops. Laptops and tablets are obviously more vulnerable than desktops, so they should be considered a priority for most businesses.
11. Use different emails, usernames and passwords for professional and private purposes
Did you know that your email and password could be circulating online already? If you’ve used the same e-mail address and password to sign into various forums and websites that aren’t too secure, there’s a risk that the security of at least one of those websites was breached and your data among that of many others stolen by hackers.
In fact, you can check out if any of your emails has been hacked into or not on the Have I Been Pwned website. My main email WAS pwned. Luckily I changed the password before anything bad happened. I admit, I used the same password and email address for logging in many places.
This is why it’s super important to separate your business emails and passwords from private ones. And of course, try to use as many different emails and (long) passwords as you can in order to further minimize risks from security breaches.
12. Install anti-malware software and update regularly
If you have Windows 10, you also have the Windows Defender Antivirus software from Microsoft. This is a pretty decent program that eliminates many dangers and gets updated regularly.
Spybot is another effective program that deals primarily with detecting and eliminating spyware. It has a free and premium version, which allows for more security options such as dealing with not only spyware but other forms of malware.
Having said that, the Norton Antivirus Program has the best reputation on the market. It doesn’t slow down the computer too much and the team at Norton are very diligent in safeguarding against latest threats.
Regardless of your choice, make sure that you have at least one program installed and updated to the latest version so that it’s able to deal with the latest security threats.
13. Encrypt and hide your Wi-Fi network
If you’re Wi-Fi is not encrypted, your neighbors or anyone else in the area could connect and steal your bandwidth. It could also provide an avenue for more serious hacking efforts, such as identity theft.
Hiding your Wi-Fi network, using a strong password and having a name that doesn’t link directly to your person or your business are also valuable methods for deterring hackers.
Here’s a simple video guide on establishing Wi-Fi network security:
14. Use a VPN for remote Internet access instead of public Wi-Fi
You’re more likely to contract a bacterial infection in a public toilet than your own. The same eternal truth can be applied to public and private Wi-Fi.
Public Wi-Fi can be accessed by anyone and hackers will sometimes create their own publicly accessible network. Once you log in, they have an easy path for accessing your device.
There’s also the danger of the actual public Wi-Fi provider messing with your data. Although it’s not likely that the personnel in Starbucks will exploit your connection, why take the risk? Especially if you have many employees and you depend on their better judgment as well.
Using a VPN (virtual private network) is the more secure option since you and your employees won’t be accidentally sharing information with anyone else.
NordVPN is a great VPN provider for US-based users and for those abroad. It’s very affordable and provides high speed connection, constantly assessed security and works on all popular platforms. Also, six devices can be secured with a single account, including a router and even a smart TV!
15. Invest in cyber security insurance
Whether you’re operating a car dealership, an accounting company or any other business that requires Internet access, you can become target of cyber criminals. All of the before-mentioned tips are helpful in reducing the risks in the cyber sphere, but the risks will always be present as long as you have money and valuable information that can be accessed through electronic devices.
If your cyber or physical security get breached and the bad guys get access to your data, you could get into serious trouble with your clients and customers. Not to mention investors and the looming threat of bankruptcy if they get hold of your bank accounts.
This is why cyber security insurance is an important piece of the safety puzzle for any business that is connected to the Internet. In comparison to regular home and business insurance, cyber insurance is more unique because it’s harder to estimate the worth of stolen data and there are many gray areas.
Again, Hiscox specializes in insuring small businesses, and cyber liability insurance is one of the areas they cover. You can get a quote on their website.
Security Best Practices for Employees
Educating your employees about physical and cyber security is crucial for avoiding the common mistakes mentioned before. Unfortunately it isn’t enough that you follow the procedures. Everyone else who has access to your business building and data needs to be serious about security as well.
The best way to educate your employees is to hire a security expert to explain the risks and prevention tactics through a presentation. Or, more easily and affordably, send them a link to this article.
They’ll definitely learn a few useful tricks and get a sense for the security risks that surround us at all times, which will definitely improve their own behavior in this regard to some degree.
In addition to all the tips mentioned above, here are 5 more basic security best practices for employees:
- Avoid pop-ups, unknown emails, and links
- Enable firewall protection at work and at home
- Install security software updates and back up your files on a regular basis
- Turn on the motion sensor on your security devices before closing shop
- Don’t leave any electronic devices unattended without a password requirement for access
Final Word: Small Business Security Tips
Business security requires a multifaceted approach. It’s equally important to secure the physical and online aspect of a business, regardless of how large it is.
If you’re the owner of a small business, chances are that you only have a few employees and not too much ground to cover. Your security costs should reflect the size of your business. That is true for the amount of security devices and the cost of insurance premiums.
I suggest starting with the priorities. Secure your doors and windows with adequate locks, and install a few security cameras with motion sensors. Next, take a few days to update your usernames and passwords, install premium security software and talk to your employees about the best practices explained in this article.
Most importantly, insure your business in order to prevent the horrible consequences that the theft of data and physical goods can create for your bottom line and reputation with clients and customers.
If you implement the before mentioned strategies you will definitely become too big of a headache for any scum that’s looking for an unsuspecting victim. Hope this helps!