Whether it's running your business or protecting your personal information, cybersecurity is essential, and it should be on every mompreneur's radar.
For many mompreneurs, running a small business requires them to wear several hats. Unless you hire someone to handle your marketing, sales, and accounting tasks, you will be the one doing that work. And in the midst of juggling everything you need to do for your business on a day-to-day basis, you may sometimes neglect one particularly important task: ensuring that you have taken adequate cybersecurity measures to protect both your family and your business.
Find out what steps you can take as a businesswoman to keep your business and personal data safe—as well as that of your customers—when running your business from a home office.
Keeping Your Business Information Safe
In a world that sees almost daily announcements of technological innovations, the small business owner can often reap the advantages of new and emerging technologies. But the flip side is that hackers, fraudsters, and scammers alike are also keeping abreast of the latest technological advances, and this presents a clear danger to all businesses. When it comes to cyber protection, the small size of your business is no guarantee that cybercriminals will leave you and your business data alone.
What then is the savvy mompreneur to do? The following tips will help you develop a solid cyber protection strategy, whether you run your business out of leased premises or directly from your home:
- Know what needs protection. You can't come up with an effective cyber protection plan until you know what you need to protect. Stacy M. Clements, web and technology consultant and owner of Milepost 42, advises mompreneurs to start by taking an inventory of all the information they need to run their business, such as customer information, financial data, and project details. And don't forget to include the technology you use to access that information, including online services such as accounting software, or even email.
- Use different passwords for different sites. In addition to strong passwords, it's also a good idea to use a unique password for each site or service you're accessing. "Don't reuse passwords across systems, don't share them with anyone else, and make sure you change them on a regular basis," Clements advises. She suggests using a password manager to help you manage all your unique passwords. Her recommendations include LastPass, Dashlane, and KeePass.
- Enable two-factor authentication. Also known as 2FA, two-factor authentication requires users to enter a second piece of information in addition to their passwords before access to information or services is granted. While not all services or sites offer two-factor authentication, it's always best to use it whenever it's provided, particularly for your business accounts. "While two-factor authentication isn't foolproof, it does add an additional layer that cybercriminals would have to bypass to get to your information," says Lisa Good, CEO and co-founder of GSG Computers and a mompreneur who works from home three days a week on top of managing an external office and staff.
- Install business-grade firewalls and antivirus programs. Good notes that investing in business-grade security apps and programs is important, even for the work-from-home mompreneur. For a top-grade firewall program, she recommends Sophos. "If the business version of a Sophos firewall is out of the budget because they're just starting out, I would recommend using the 'Home' Sophos service until they can move up into a business-grade model," she says. "The Sophos Home service would have better protection than any other home product available right now. " Her suggestions for antivirus programs include both Sophos and Webroot.
- Keep everything updated. Many people think of their operating systems when they hear the word "update," but it's important to remember that updates may be necessary for other programs too. Clements tells mompreneurs to perform updates for all software they have installed, whether it's PC programs, software running on mobile devices, or programs on network devices, such as routers. "Set a schedule to remind you to update regularly," she advises. "If you have a website, you should have someone keeping that software up to date as well. It's easy to let updates slide, or resist doing updates because we don't like the changes to an interface we're used to, but failing to keep software and systems up-to-date is an open invitation to hackers."
- Backup, backup, and then backup some more. Cybersecurity experts are in agreement about the importance of backing up your data. In today's world, your business information is the lifeblood of your business; Clements points out that even if you take every recommended action and never make a security mistake, something as mundane as an electrical failure or fire can cause a serious loss of data. Continuously backing up and testing your information ensures you will be equipped to deal with such losses, regardless of how or why the loss happened. Good agrees and suggests performing a monthly restore to make sure you're backing everything up properly, and nothing has been corrupted. "The worst time to find out that your backup isn't working is when you need it," she notes.
Cybersecurity Challenges of Working From Home
For the work-from-home mompreneur, keeping business information separate from their personal information can be one of the more challenging aspects of running a business from their home. Both Clements and Good recommend using a separate PC or laptop for your business. But if this isn't financially feasible, you can also do the following:
- Use a separate email address for your business
- Make sure the passwords on your business accounts aren't easy for your children to guess
- Set up a separate business user profile on your computer, and use it only for business purposes
- Have a business-only account for any online services you also use personally
Cybersecurity isn't something that only medium to large-sized businesses need to address. For the mompreneur, being proactive about cybersecurity needs can go a long way towards protecting both business and family.