Ways small businesses can keep hackers out of their systems


Small businesses have rapidly become a target for hackers switching their attention away from better-secured big businesses, according to the U.S. Secret Service.

Two out of three hack attacks now are aimed at small businesses, which is a rapid change in just a few years’ times. Think about it: Big companies have an army of IT people to maintain their systems and stave off hackers as much as possible. Hackers know that small business systems are easy to break into because they have no security consultants or IT people.

The Wall Street Journal  reports small businesses are being wiped out by hackers who go in and steal sensitive data and run through fraudulent credit card charges to bankrupt the business. Visa and MasterCard just say, “Tough on you. You obviously didn’t protect your system well enough.”

So what are you to do? Don’t just throw up your arms. Here’s a quick rundown of actions you can take today to protect your small business.

  • If you’re a very small business, don’t do traditional Visa/MasterCard merchant clearing. Use third parties where they are the merchant clearer, such as Square, GoPayment and others like them.
  • If you have any kind of merchant processing for credit cards through your cash register system, you need to keep whatever computers you use for that separate and apart from your other business computer systems.
  • If you are using merchant processing for Visa/MasterCard, make sure you meet the security standards that are required. That way if you do get hacked, you are not liable for the losses. Otherwise, the liability can be unlimited if you’re not up to date with your security procedures.
  • Don’t use default passwords on point-of-sale systems. Change the password to something alphanumeric (numbers and letters) and maybe even something that has symbols in it to protect yourself.

I do some merchant processing for the sale of my older books (and T-shirts for Habitat for Humanity) and I had to go through the process to update the security for accepting cards. It was a pain, but it was worth doing because I wasn’t going to stand for having unlimited liability. You shouldn’t either.

The fact that the Visa and MasterCard are so prone to hacking is ridiculous, but it’s the system we all have to operate within.   

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