No business is immune to security breaches. Large firms are attractive to cyber criminals for their huge volumes of data, while smaller companies are easy targets, due to limitations in their IT systems. We’ve collected 20 top franchisor tips on how to keep your franchise safe when it comes to digital security.
Before you start panicking and implementing expensive cyber software, you should perform a quick review of your business. What are your company’s biggest assets? How could cyber breaches damage your performance and reputation? Which steps do you need to prioritise in order to best protect your business?
Once you understand the individual requirements of your franchise, you’ll be in a better place to consider the franchisor tips we’ve gathered.
How to keep your franchise secure
Here are the top 20 cyber security best practices for businesses:
1. Use router firewalls
One of the simplest steps you can take is to enable the in-built firewall on your router, and encourage franchisees to do the same. This step alone won’t be enough to protect your business against all online threats, but it’s a great start.
2. Invest in cyber security software
A software package from a reliable security company can go a long way to safeguarding a franchise against viruses and phishing attacks. At this stage, it’s worth researching your options to make sure you invest in the most effective product. Check the seller’s track record, read reviews, and weigh up the pros and cons against the cost of the software.
Once you and your franchisees have installed a cyber security product, make sure you automate its future software updates.
3. Adopt URL filtering techniques
You can stop employees visiting potentially dangerous websites and clicking on harmful links by using a URL filtering tool. If your router doesn’t offer this service, make sure your cyber security package does.
4. Enable anti-spam protection
No one wants to receive spam emails - they’re unwelcome, annoying and can be highly dangerous for a business. These days, they can be cleverly disguised and incredibly convincing, but accidentally clicking on one of their links can open up franchises to viruses and data breaches. Anti-spam protection is a no-brainer for business owners.
5. Create a VPN
A ‘virtual private network’ will let you securely connect to another network over the internet. It’ll also hide franchisees’ and employees’ IP addresses and give them new ones to encrypt and protect their internet traffic. In other words, you’ll be able to browse websites privately without others seeing and targeting your activity; this is particularly valuable when using public Wi-Fi.
6. Use cloud-based services
Although the cloud has come under scrutiny in recent years, its various services can be great for saving files if you don’t want to keep them on your computer.
Usually, cloud-based software such as Google, Dropbox and Microsoft OneDrive, has in-built security systems. So, they’re a handy alternative to traditional storage methods if you want quick and easy access to your documents from different devices.
7. Be link-savvy
When you’re stressed and in a rush, trying to find that important email or chase a key piece of data, it can be all too easy to click on an unsafe link. But taking the time to consider your actions before hurriedly dashing around the internet could save you a lot of trouble.
One of the most effective cyber security best practices for businesses is to avoid clicking on links on untrustworthy websites or in emails from people you don’t know.
8. Be careful when publishing content
You never know where your social media posts and marketing emails will end up, so be careful about the information you publish. Never include personal details or reveal facts you haven’t checked thoroughly, and make sure your franchisees follow the same rules.
9. Consider online contacts
When you’re developing a franchise, it’s tempting to connect with as many people as possible on social media sites to spread word of your business. But it pays to be cautious about the contacts you let into your circle on the internet.
Only share information with people and companies you recognise and trust, and, of course, avoid clicking on links sent by potentially malicious profiles.
10. Create strong passwords
We all know the importance of using strong passwords, and it’s a great franchisor tip. Make sure your chosen phrase is at least eight characters long and includes numbers and symbols. Never use a sequence, such as 1234 or 1111, and avoid leaning towards personal details like your own name or the name of your franchise.
The best options eliminate words altogether. For sensitive data, use randomly generated passwords, with a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols, and tell your franchisees and employees to do the same.
Did you know? Around 90 percent of data breaches were caused by human error in 2019.
11. Change passwords often
This franchisor tip is easy - change your password on a regular basis, such as once a month. You can either invest in software prompting everyone to take this step, or enforce the rule yourself.
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12. Never write down your passwords
You’d be surprised how many people keep a list of their passwords on their laptop or in a notebook on their desk right next to the computer. Obviously, this is a bad idea and almost defeats the object of creating and setting passcodes altogether.
To combat the issue, why not use a secure password manager as a storage solution?
13. Brief franchisees and employees in cyber security best practices
Last year, around 90 percent of data breaches were caused by human error, and this figure is increasing; up from 61 percent and 87 percent in the two previous years (CybSafe, UK ICO).
You can minimise the risk of human error by thoroughly briefing everyone in the franchise network on digital security best practices. Make sure franchisees and employees know how to protect their data and which types of information are confidential, particularly in relation to social media use.
14. Create a policy for employee devices
If staff members in your franchise network use individual devices for their work, you may want to come up with a way to make sure company data is transferred securely. Mobile device management tools can help you monitor and secure your equipment.
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15. Employ a tech specialist
Appointing someone to manage your IT systems will help limit the risk of cyber security issues. Plus, workers across the franchise network will have someone to turn to if they have a question.
16. Appoint a franchise IT spokesperson
Keeping track of the information you release is much easier when only a few select people are responsible for speaking on behalf of the franchise. Create a small team of professionals to manage email marketing campaigns, blogs, press releases and social media activity, and set out some rules to keep data safe.
17. Back up your data
It’s easy to forget, but backing up your systems is a key part of running a franchise network. If you do lose information through a security breach, you’ll be able to restore a previous version of your software with changes you’ve made recently.
18. Perform checks
It’s no good installing a digital security package and then never thinking about it again. It’s important to review its performance and check whether it has detected and prevented any harmful activity. If you find the software isn’t performing as well as you’d like, you can take early action.
19. Change passwords when someone leaves
In an ideal world, we’d be able to trust all our previous franchisees and employees. But it’s worth erring on the side of caution and updating your security systems whenever someone leaves a role. Block their access to your programmes and change your passwords to make sure your data remains secure.
20. Use remote wipe features
If one of your devices goes missing, you need to be able to erase any information stored on it, in case it ends up in the wrong hands. Mobile device managers often have a remote wipe feature, which lets the owner clear its memory from a distance.
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Alice Tuffery, Point Franchise ©