Entrepreneurs need to secure the digital data that their businesses generate. This should be a top priority for every business owner. Unfortunately, information-technology security does not get the attention that it deserves. The consequences for many small firms are serious – data theft, fraud and angry customers. A report published on CNN Money says that hacking costs the average American firm $15.4 million per year with the most costly cybercrimes being committed by spiteful insiders. Here are a few simple steps that any business can take to prevent unauthorized persons from breaking into its computer systems: Use strong passwords Make it mandatory for all employees to use passwords that are difficult to hack. Some simple rules to follow: Do not use dictionary words. (This rule also prohibits using dictionary words with their letters reversed.) Your password should never consist only of numbers. The same password should not be used for different accounts. Use all the allowable character types. You will have to ensure that your staff follows the discipline of never revealing their passwords to co-employees. Carry out a security audit It will take an expert to understand which parts of your information technology infrastructure is susceptible to getting hacked. The security audit will cover the operating systems that you use, your software applications and your company’s IT policies and procedures. Many companies now make extensive use of mobile devices to allow their employees to access the company’s business systems. It is essential that you take steps to protect these against malicious attacks. Encrypt your data Encrypted data cannot be read by someone who steals your hard drive or your USB drive. The data requires a digital number or key to unscramble it. It is practically impossible for anyone who does not have this key to read your data. If you do not encrypt your data currently, make this a practice right away. Backup your data Losing your data files can prove to be a terrible setback for any business. Years of customer data, financial records and employee details can be lost. Recreating all this information can be a herculean task that will involve a great amount of time and money.Backing up data takes very little time and is relatively inexpensive. Many computer users regularly back up data on their hard drives. But a better solution is to save data to a separate location. Small businesses are as vulnerable as large companies Many small business owners think that they will not be targeted by hackers because the value of their transactions is minuscule compared to those of larger companies. But this is not true as the cost of launching a cyber-attack has plummeted in recent times. It takes hackers very little effort to break into a small business’s computer system and it is well worth their trouble. Every business should lay emphasis on making its information technology platform as secure as possible. A good start is to educate employees about the dangers of unauthorized internet use on company devices. It is also important to update software regularly and install security patches as advised by the manufacturers of the computer equipment that you use. While it is practically impossible to make a company’s computer system foolproof, small business owners can definitely take a number of steps that will make the task of cyber criminals more difficult.