Small Business Tips 11

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cybersecurity7 Cyber Security Tips for Small Business Owners

If you think your small business is immune from cyber attacks, think again. In the last several years the number of cyber attacks against small businesses has risen dramatically. At best a cyber attack on your business could mean the loss of productivity and resources; at worst it could send customers running and shut down your business. These tips will help you understand your vulnerabilities and how to take action to make your systems more secure.

  1. Understand the Risks – Attacks come in many forms, such as viruses, malware, cyber extortion and data theft. Cyber extortionists hold your information or system hostage in return for payment. Data thieves will steal client information for use in identity theft rings or other criminal activity. Leaving client data unprotected is particularly bad for business. While losing a customer’s data would likely mean losing their business, depending on the nature of the loss, the client may also seek damages from you in court.
  2. Eliminate Common Vulnerabilities – Cyber criminals will generally seek the path of least resistance. These often include weak passwords, unchanged default settings and untrained users. It is important to require the use of strong passwords throughout your business. Never leave default security settings on devices or share common passwords throughout your business. Limit access to critical systems and client data to employees who truly need access.
  3. Install Updates – You should complete software updates in a timely manner. Hackers are constantly looking for software vulnerabilities. Software developers create updates to fix known flaws. Failing to update your software is like leaving your door wide open to cyber criminals.
  4. Utilize Security Tools and Settings – Protect your network with a firewall, which will block any unauthorized access. Encrypt mobile devices and laptops to protect any data outside of your network. Install antivirus programs on all computers and update them frequently to prevent the latest viruses and malware.
  5. Back up Your Data – It is vital that you back up your data. Having an offsite backup service will help shorten recovery time from a cyber attack or other IT disaster. Consult a trusted IT professional about the best options for your business.
  6. Cyber Security Policy – A cyber security plan should set clear and concise ground rules for your employees and managers. The FCC offers a helpful online tool that allows you to develop a customized cyber security plan for your small business.  You can access the FCC Small Biz Cyber Planner 2.0 at www.fcc.gov/cyberplanner.
  7. Train Employees – Once you have a plan in place you must pass that knowledge on to your employees. Provide them with a copy of your cyber security policy and have them sign an acknowledgement that they received, read and understand the policy. Make sure employees feel comfortable reporting potential vulnerabilities and asking questions.

bizowner5 Critical Legal Mistakes Your Business Can’t Afford to Make

Running a small business is complicated. Sometimes important tasks fall through the cracks, which leads to mistakes that could jeopardize your business. Understanding and avoiding these common mistakes may help you avoid major legal complications. If you need any legal assistance call your LegalShield provider law firm.

  1. Know the laws that apply to your business. Failing to properly register or license your business could lead to fines or legal action. State laws vary greatly so it is important to research how your industry is regulated in any states and localities where you do business. Call your LegalShield provider if you have questions about the laws that apply to your business.
  2. Always make agreements in writing and have them reviewed by an attorney before you sign. Written partnership agreements, commercial leases, independent contractor agreements and other business contracts help prevent disagreements and potential litigation. Having your LegalShield provider law firm review an agreement before you sign will help protect your best interests.
  3. Make sure you have adequate insurance to protect your business. There are many insurance options for small businesses, including general liability, professional liability, product liability, commercial property and home-based business insurance. It is important to carefully examine your potential liabilities and make sure you have the right coverage. Your LegalShield provider law firm can help review a policy before you sign to make sure you understand the fine print.

  4. Properly differentiate between employees and independent contractors. It is your legal responsibility to establish whether a worker should be classified as an employee or an independent contractor. Incorrectly classifying an employee may have significant tax implications for your business. Read our article, “Classifying Workers: Employee or Independent Contractor”, from January 2014 to learn more.
  5. Keep detailed and well organized business records. No matter the size of your business it is important to accurately maintain your records. Keeping copies of contracts, sales receipts, employment records and invoices will help you stay organized and keep you on the right side of the law. Well-maintained records will also help you accurately prepare your tax filing. Click here to read the Small Business Administration’s “Record Keeping for a Small Business” guide.

yelpFederal Court Dismisses Suit Against Yelp

Last month the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out a class action suit against Yelp, the popular online business review website. The suit, brought on by small business owners, accused Yelp of pressuring businesses to purchase advertising by manipulating reviews. What does the court’s ruling mean for Yelp, the future of online reviews and your small business?

The court ruled that the businesses suing Yelp did not present sufficient evidence that Yelp manipulated ratings. The court’s opinion stated, “As Yelp has the right to charge for legitimate advertising services, the (alleged) threat of economic harm that Yelp leveraged is, at most, hard bargaining.” The court also stated, “Yelp’s manipulation of user reviews, assuming it occurred, was not wrongful use of economic fear.” This means, according to the court, Yelp has the right to manipulate ratings on their website. You can read the courts full opinion here.

Yelp issued a response to the ruling, which stated, “For years, fringe commentators have accused Yelp of altering business ratings for money.  Yelp has never done this and individuals making such claims are either misinformed, or more typically, have an axe to grind––whether businesses upset that Yelp will not remove reviews they don’t like, or unscrupulous internet marketing “experts” trying to make a buck off of honest business owners with dubious reputation management schemes.”

What does the ruling mean for your business? Some business owners believe Yelp and other public review websites will now have a free hand to manipulate reviews, which would present difficult challenges for business owners. Yelp is adamant that they would not alter reviews because it would harm their reputation in the marketplace.

The best way to manage online reviews and improve your online profile is to focus on building a great reputation by providing great customer service. This will help you build a base of positive reviews on a variety of websites. Click here to read our article from March 2014, “7 Tips for Managing Your Online Reputation.”. If you need any legal assistance call your LegalShield provider law firm.