For contractors, cybersecurity might not be high on the priority list. Between balancing projects, sourcing building materials, and interacting with clients, it’s easy to let the security of your computer systems fall to the back burner. However, contractors and the construction industry overall are at risk now more than ever due to the adoption of smartphones, laptops, and other tools.
The good news is that there are a few easy tips that help protect your business.
The Risk of Cyber Threats to Contractors
Contractors and others in the construction industry are at risk for security breaches every day. If you keep customer information on a computer, use a smartphone to schedule projects, or take advantage of accounting software, among many other tasks, there are risks for a breach. Some of the most common cybersecurity breaches that happen with contractors include:
- Phishing scams: These are most commonly emails sent by scammers who are trying to get you or your employees to click a link to gain access to your company’s system.
- Tech support scams: A scammer sends a message to a construction/contractor business pretending to be tech support and saying your computer system needs to be fixed to gain access to sensitive information.
- Ransomware attacks: A scammer infects your system with malware and threatens to release sensitive information unless a ransom is paid.
3 Cybersecurity Tips for Contractors
1. Hold “Fire Drills” to Help Prevent Cybersecurity Attacks: One of the best things you can do to help prevent a cybersecurity attack is to hold training sessions. Gather all your employees and walk through what one of these attacks could look like. A great place to start is going online and looking up some classic phishing scam emails.
Go through the main “red flags” to look out for, which may include:
- The email being sent from an unknown or unofficial address.
- The email having misspellings and grammar issues while trying to get the recipient to click on a link.
- The content of the email stressing a sense of urgency with language like “you need to act now.”
Trainings like this for employees can help develop their muscle memory on best practices in case one of these events happens. To help, YouTuber ThioJoe has a great in-depth video on how to spot scam emails.
2. Keep Your Technology Current, and Update Passwords: Many manufacturers of technology like smartphones and computers regularly update their software, making it more challenging for cybersecurity threats to break through. When you’re using an old or outdated system, those protections aren’t there to help prevent the latest cyber-attacks, putting your system at higher risk.
That’s why it’s important to keep any technology that holds customer or business information current. While the cost of replacing an old phone or computer might seem high at first, it’s less than the financial and legal damage a cyber-attack or scam could cause your business.
Part of keeping your technology current also involves using best practices for your passwords. For starters, if any of the software used for your contracting business offers two-factor authentication, be sure to turn it on. Also make sure that no one in your business is using one universal password. You can also take the hassle out of juggling multiple passwords by using a free password manager such as that offered by Norton.
3. Know Where Your Data Live: A key step in helping your contracting business stay safe from cyber security threats is knowing where your sensitive data is kept. Create a list of any software or hardware that has customer and/or business data on it. This list should be where the bulk of your cyber security efforts go toward. Since most small contractors don’t have unlimited resources, this tip can help ensure you get the most bang for your buck.
You’ll also want to look for any vulnerabilities in the software or hardware where the data is held. An easy place to start is backing up this information regularly to an external hard drive. This routine process can keep your business running if the company’s main computer(s) are compromised or need to be repaired.
These are just a few of the ways you can protect your business. Be sure to consult with an IT specialist to ensure your specific systems are operating securely. For more cybersecurity tips, the Federal Communications Commission (FFC) also has a great collection of resources specifically for small businesses.