Small businesses are easy targets. Many do not have a full-time in-house IT team at their disposal, and if they do, they might not have the time or skills to detect, contain and deflect an attack.
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According to a recent Barracuda's report, small businesses are three times more likely to be targeted by hackers and nefarious cybercriminals than larger enterprises. The report showed that the average employee working in a company with fewer than 100 employees would probably experience 350% more social engineering attacks than an employee in a larger company.
Hackers will often target CEO, CFOs, or executive assistants who are far likelier to have access to sensitive company resources, such as executive calendars, business accounts and company data eligible for spear phishing attacks.
Remote work even increases the vulnerability of SMBs to cybersecurity threats. With employees accessing business data and systems from outside the office, the need for secure access to business resources in order to minimize the risk of data breaches, phishing attacks, and other cybersecurity incidents intensified.
Virtual private network (VPN) is a proven technology that allows small businesses to mitigate these threats. Let's take a look at what you should expect from a professional business VPN.
Remote working: New threats, new challenges
The pandemic has exacerbated an already growing problem. According to BlackBerry, cybercrimes increased by 600% due to the pandemic, and 667 million pieces of new malware were detected in 2020 alone. One million daily security alerts are seen in 25% of Security Operations Centers worldwide.
This creates a massive pressure on smaller businesses since they often lack the resources to protect themselves from the most common data breaches techniques. Many have weak points and poor security safeguards that leave them vulnerable, especially as employees work remotely, outside the controlled environment.
There are a few reasons why remote workers present a threat to corporate network, including:
Using unsecured Wi-Fi
Remote working enables your employees to work from anywhere, whether at home or a favorite coffee shop, usually using unsecured public Wi-Fi. While there are lots of benefits to this approach, public Wi-Fi is a considerable threat to businesses. Cybercriminals may use the unsecured public Wi-Fi to steal employees’ identities and use it to penetrate the company network.
Exposing corporate network
When employees work remotely, they will likely use corporate networks to transfer data to one another or to communicate. Hackers often target vulnerabilities such as weak passwords, unsecured emails, or outdated software to attack the entire company system.
Phishing and ransomware
Phishing and ransomware pose a significant cybersecurity challenge as employees may fall victim to fake messages or links from online hackers, leading to password theft and system access denial. Ransomware can completely block system access, while phishing mimics authority or organizations to gain access to sensitive data. Cybercriminals can also gain access to sensitive business resources and impersonate the business or personnel, deceiving individuals into disclosing confidential data.
How a VPN can help
Protecting your network resources and information can be difficult. Fortunately, there are solutions that can protect your business that require minimal financial or resource investment, including the use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
A VPN creates a secure tunnel connection between the company IT resources, no matter if located in a local network, datacenter or cloud, and the remote user over the public Internet. The VPN encrypts sensitive data to render it unreadable if the connection is intercepted.
A good business VPN will protect sensitive business data from cyberattacks by adding an extra layer of security. Best business VPNs do not offer just strong encryption but additional security measures as well, such as:
- 2-factor authentication for users,
- End-user protection against web-based threats,
- Access logs,
- Access rights segmentation.
All of these together can ensure that network traffic sent or received by employees is encrypted, end users are protected from web-based threats, and the risk of unauthorized access and lateral movement is limited.
This goes a long way towards keeping your business safe from malicious actors, especially during remote working.
Benefits of using a VPN for business data security
There are a few ways the added security of a VPN can benefit your business, including:
Employees remain anonymous while browsing the Internet using a VPN. This is often a benefit flouted by VPNs aimed for personal use, and the sales pitch is that VPNs can be used to bypass geolocation features used by sites like Netflix. However, there is a business benefit to anonymity as well. The VPN will disguise your company's activities from hackers or businesses with malicious intent.
With the rise of hybrid and remote workforces, more employees are using home networks or public Wi-Fi hotspots to access the Internet. This puts your company's data at risk if the network is not secure. A remote access VPN can securely logs employees in to your office network from anywhere, allowing them to access on-site resources and work efficiently.
Access control is crucial for network security. VPNs can authenticate and authorize users, ensuring that only authorized personnel have access to your company's data and resources. Some VPNs, such as GoodAccess, went even further and are providing features allowing network administrators to control access levels and permissions associated with each username or IP address, ensuring that only the right people have access to the right information.
Protection against cyber-attacks
VPNs use encryption to scramble data, making it impossible for hackers or fraudsters to intercept it. VPN content filters block harmful content, such as phishing and malware sites, protecting your networks and users. A VPN for business usage can also help prevent DNS hijacking attempts, middleman attacks, malware attacks, cache poisoning, rogue DNS servers, and router exploitation.
VPN, and especially cloud VPN, is a very cost-effective technology compared to other cybersecurity measures (such as installing firewalls or multi-factor authentication). If you have no budget or just want to get started with basic protection, you can use a free business VPN.
Small business VPN: What you should know before purchasing one
When searching for the best small business VPN, you should ask yourself questions like:
- Is the business VPN expensive?
- Is the VPN easy to install?
- What level of support does the VPN offer?
- Will the VPN grow with the business?
- Which additional security measures does the VPN offer?
Of course this is not an exhaustive list, but if it is your first time thinking of a business VPN, you should get the right answers.
Is the business VPN expensive?
One of the primary concerns that small business owners have when considering VPNs is the cost. While it is true that some VPNs can be expensive, there are also affordable options available. Many cloud VPN providers offer tiered pricing plans that allow businesses to choose the features that they need while keeping costs manageable. Additionally, some providers offer discounts for small businesses or non-profit organizations or have free entry-level options you can use to get started.
Is the VPN easy to install?
Many business VPNs come as a service so you don't have to build your own infrastructure. You just subscribe to the service and let the provider take care of everything. Since business owners may not be tech-savvy or have a dedicated IT department to manage VPNs, it is important that the VPN offers an intuitive design for configuration, responsive customer support, and supporting materials to guide businesses through the setup process.
When choosing the best business VPN solution, it is necessary to pick the one which supports different operating systems and devices so the user can freely use the device they like, whenever they want to.
Of course, don't rely only on the information provided by the vendor. Check the reviews on platforms such as G2 to see if the vendor's marketing is telling the truth.
What level of support does the VPN offer?
Small business owners may worry about the level of support they will receive if they run into issues with their VPN. Best business VPN providers offer customer support through various channels, including live chat, email, phone, and personal assistance in each stage of the customer cycle.
Will the VPN grow with your business?
As a business grows, it may need to add more users, devices, networks or other units to the VPN. Fortunately, professional business VPN providers offer solutions that allow businesses to easily scale up or scale down based on the current needs. This flexibility ensures that small businesses can grow without outgrowing their VPN.
Which additional security measures does the VPN offer?
Your business VPN may take additional security measures to provide the best possible protection.
The basic technique for protecting your corporate network is called IP whitelisting. It is a security technique which mitigates risks of unauthorized access by giving administrators an option to select (whitelist) IP addresses that are allowed to access your network, services or clouds. It is a very simple, but effective practice. To do that, your business VPN service must offer a dedicated IP address.
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a popular security measure that requires users to provide a second form of identification, such as a code sent to their phone, to access the VPN. Single sign-on (SSO) is another security measure that allows users to access multiple applications with a single set of credentials, simplifying the login process and reducing the risk of password theft.
Some business VPN solutions offer online threat protection, which can protect users against malware, phishing, and other online threats, by blocking communication with malicious domains and content.
There are many more security features you might like, so check what's included in your VPN service before purchasing.
Choosing a business VPN
There are hundreds of VPNs available on the market, which can make it difficult to choose the right one. Besides the factors mentioned above, it's important to asses the feature set of each business VPN, especially in the following areas:
Security and privacy
The rule of thumb is the closer the better. A VPN with more server locations provides better speed and performance, which can be useful, especially if you work with large volumes of data. Actually, it's not necessary for the gateway to be located in your country. However, the closer the gateway is to your location, the better the latency and smoother the service you'll experience.
Speed and performance
A VPN can sometimes slow down your internet connection, which can be frustrating, especially during video calls. Therefore, it is crucial to choose a VPN that offers high speeds and performance, 1Gbps/10Gbps speeds on the gateway should be standard. Keep in mind that the service experience also depends on your local internet connection. So even if the VPN gateway provides high performance, the experience can be crippled by slowness of your local Internet.
User-friendly interface and customer support
The interface of a VPN should be easy to use since not all business users are tech-savvy. The VPN should offer a straightforward setup process with easy-to-use features and an intuitive design for everyday users. Additionally, the VPN should provide customer support to help you navigate any issues that may arise. With business VPN such as GoodAccess, it is a standard that users connect to the protected infrastructure via just one click.
In your business environment, there are probably different kinds of devices with different operating systems installed. Also, your employees might prefer using their own devices where you have no control. Therefore, the VPN should work on desktops, laptops, smartphones, or tablets and be compatible with different operating systems like Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. This compatibility ensures that everyone can securely access your private infrastructure, regardless of the operating system.
Cost and scalability
While there are several free VPNs available, they may not offer the same level of security and privacy as paid VPNs. It is recommended to choose a paid business VPN that offers value for money. Look for a VPN that offers tiered pricing plans with different features and services so that you can find the best service mix for your business.
Wrapping up on choosing small business VPN
Small businesses are vulnerable to cyber attacks as they often lack the resources and expertise to detect and deflect attacks. Remote working has further exposed them to new challenges.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a proven, mature technology that fits the needs of modern businesses with remote teams. Since there are many services on the market, it is important to pay attention to several factors when choosing the best business VPN for your needs.
What makes a difference is the ability of the VPN provider to offer more than just a simple traffic encryption. Look for advanced security measures that allow you control access to your business resources, check how competitive the pricing is and how scalable the service is, learn about the vendor's security measures and seek for a service with excellently rated support.
GoodAccess is a VPN service designed specifically to meet the needs of small and midsize businesses and cover all the aspects described in this blog. So if you want to give it a try, check out our full-featured 14-day free trial.