FCC Warns of Wifi Risks, Urges Small Business Owners to Develop Internet Security Plan


Are Internet risks like hacking, phishing, and data breaches crippling the small business owner?

It sure sounds like it when you consider that small business owners lose billions of dollars in revenue annually to cyberattacks and data breaches.

In fact, small- and medium-sized businesses suffer an average loss of nearly $200,000 per attack. While there are security tools available, the problem is that many business owners continue to struggle to understand and implement available solutions.

That was just one of the key takeaways from Monday morning’s privacy roundtable in Washington, DC, in honor of National Small Business Week. (The meeting was live-streamed on the FCC’s website and C-SPAN, but you can watch the recap on YouTube here.)

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski said businesses must do more to safeguard their computer systems – and their customers’ personal data. He said one of the biggest challenges our country faces – both for businesses and national security —  is the growing threats to cybersecurity.

“While it is critical to secure the government and large industry from cyber threats, it is vital that cybersecurity for small business be in this equation. We’re here today to help small businesses overcome these security challenges,” he said.

The roundtable shared examples of Americans who have been hit by malware, viruses, and phishing. One example was the story of a construction company CEO who lost $92,000 after a hacker scammed the company in an online phishing expedition. The cybercriminals allegedly gained access to the firm’s bank accounts after an employee clicked on a link in a malicious email.

The meeting included notable industry executives like Cheri F. McGuire, a cybersecurity VP at Symantec, and Dave Notch, the chief information security officer at Thomson Reuters. It also featured government experts in cybersecurity and information technology like Ann Beauchesne, a national security VP for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Chanelle Hardy, a policy VP for the National Urban League.

What else did this think tank discuss during its 90-minute meeting?

  • Small businesses should develop cybersecurity plans (more than 50% of businesses don’t have one!) and train employees on security threats.
  • Michael Chertoff, a consultant and former secretary of Homeland Security, joked that small businesses need to train employees on “proper hygiene” while conducting business online.
  • The FCC will add a new section to its website specifically designed to serve small business owners trying to navigate cybersecurity dos and don’ts. In fact, here are ten tips shared at the roundtable:

Train employees in online security.

  1. Protect yourself from viruses and malware.
  2. Use a firewall.
  3. Install software updates.
  4. Make backup copies of important information.
  5. Control physical access to computers.
  6. Secure your company’s wifi networks.
  7. Require employees to have secure user accounts.
  8. Limit employee access to files.
  9. Change passwords regularly.

Recognizing the Risks

If you are a small business owner, what steps will you take to secure your company and employees?

If you work for a small business, has your employer talked to you about the risks? Do you access customer data or financial details while using free wifi?

What have you done to protect your company’s sensitive data and avoid a massive (and costly) data breach?

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Elaine Rigoli

Elaine Rigoli is PRIVATE WiFi's manager of digital content strategy.