Ways to Protect Small Business Financial Data

A young female business owner with long brown hair and glasses leans over a table as she types on a laptop.

As a small business owner, you’ve worked hard to set up your business and turn a profit. Part of creating (and keeping) a successful business also means creating and executing a cybersecurity plan that keeps all your data safe from hackers and social engineers.

Small businesses are a tempting target for hackers because they often don't have the resources to invest in the kind of rigorous cybersecurity programs employed by larger enterprises. This could become problematic if a small business is contracted to a bigger business. Hackers sometimes attempt to hack the smaller business to get data from the bigger company. In one example of this risk, a breach at retailer Target a few years ago was alleged to have happened due to the hacking of a smaller third party company.

Here’s what you can do to keep your company's and your customers’ information safe:

Create a Security Policy that Covers All Your Data

A cybersecurity plan starts with implementing a security policy. This means knowing exactly what data you’re collecting, where it is stored, and how it’s protected. Your security policy should make clear that your company takes data privacy and security seriously and that you have systems in place to ensure any collected data is safe and unassailable.

A comprehensive security policy should cover the following:

  • Guidelines for employees on social media, email, internet browsing, etc.
  • Password policy, including elements of a strong password, and password storage recommendations
  • How data is to be accessed remotely, such as through a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN)
  • Use of third party cloud products (Google’s suite of products, Evernote, Dropbox, etc.)
  • Use of company devices such as tablets, computers and phones and a reporting policy in case they’re lost or stolen
  • Security passes and physical checkpoints in the building to prevent unauthorized people from walking in and accessing data
  • Policies for the destruction of physical material and data
  • How to report and handle a data breach

Part of creating a strong security policy is incorporating privacy policies for protecting your customers’ data, too. When it comes to protecting your customers’ financial data, you can't be too cautious

  • Your privacy policy should include:
  • how customer data is collected, used, shared and tracked
  • how it’s being shared with third parties
  • opt-ins or opt-outs, so customers can make a decision on what kind of information they're sharing
  • a link to your state’s customer privacy rights
  • a contact so customers can ask questions about privacy.

Small businesses should invest in a total encryption solution for all communications and storage. These days, thanks to cloud technology, costs have come down for a turnkey security solution. By partnering with a platform that offers an encryption solution, you can customize it for your security needs. Any updates should run across the entire platform, ensuring that the same level of security exists across the entire company.

Train Your Employees

You could create an ironclad security policy, and have the best security platform in the world -- but still just one email with a malicious link could bring it all crashing down. Employees are often unwittingly the cause behind security breaches, and it is key that small businesses educate their employees every year on what to look for from phishing scams, hackers and social engineers.

Phishers and social engineers are getting much more sophisticated with their attempts, often tricking employees with links to sites that look almost exactly like the legitimate versions but will capture vital information to allow them to hack into your systems.

Work with Partners Who Understand and Protect Their Own Data

Your company’s data may be safe when it’s with you, but what about when you send it to a partner? Ask your partners and business you contract with about their security and privacy policies before you release your information.

Protecting your and your customers’ financial data is a critical cost of doing business. By investing in a plan and working with partners like the seasoned experts at

The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Fifth Third Bank, National Association, and are solely the opinions of the author. This article is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute the rendering of legal, accounting, or other professional services by Fifth Third Bank, National Association, or any of their subsidiaries or affiliates, and are provided without any warranty whatsoever. Fifth Third Bank, National Association, does not provide tax or legal advice. Please consult your tax adviser or attorney before making any decisions or taking any action based on this information. This information is provided for educational purposes only and does not constitute the rendering of tax or legal advice.