Last updated Dec 13, 2023 and written by Laura Azevedo

IT security essentials for new startups

You’ve set up your company, you’ve got a great team on board with your venture, and you’re ready to hit the ground running.

But have you considered how you’re going to keep your IT setup secure?

In today’s increasingly digital world, IT security should be at the forefront of every entrepreneur’s mind. Though there are lots of tools and frameworks that can be used to keep confidential data away from prying eyes, there are a few fundamentals that you must set in place to prevent data breaches and malicious attacks, both of which could be disastrous for your business.

Here are five IT security essentials for startups that will help you keep you, your systems, and your employees safe.

1. Invest in good anti-virus software

Anti-virus software runs in the background to stop your machine from being compromised by known viruses and other types of malware. Though there are plenty of freebies available, we would recommend purchasing and installing technology from a reputable provider for the best level of protection.

Make sure your chosen anti-virus package is installed across all your business devices, even (and especially) the laptops, tablets, and mobiles that your employees use when they work remotely. You should also update this software regularly to make sure it’s running the latest patches.

2. Apply a VPN to your network

Virtual private networks (VPNs) create secure connections between your devices and the networks you log into. They can help to keep things like your IP address, location, passwords, and sensitive data safe from hackers. If you value your company’s online privacy and want to benefit from added encryption while you’re working online, a commercial VPN is a must-have for your startup. 

3. Choose secure passwords

Passwords that are easy to remember are also easy to hack. Make sure all your business passwords are at least eight characters long and contain one uppercase letter, one number, and one symbol. Avoid guessable passwords like surnames, pets’ names, and birthdays – and never use the same passwords across personal and business accounts!

If you find yourself struggling to manage all these unique passwords in one place, you could benefit from using a purpose-built password manager app. You might also want to consider setting up two-factor authentication (2FA) in order to access your business profiles and accounts.

4. Learn how to spot phishing emails

Phishing refers to sending out emails that look as though they are from a reputable company but are in fact sent by scammers who are ‘fishing’ for sensitive and personal information. This practice accounts for up to 90% of all organisational breaches every single year – so it’s important to teach your team how to identify ‘fake’ emails that could put your data at risk. Red flags include:

  • Spelling mistakes
  • Urgent copy – for example, ‘immediate action required’
  • Domain names and email addresses that don’t match
  • Unfamiliar or suspicious attachments

5. Have a backup plan in place

You should back up your data once a day (and more frequently if you rely heavily on your digital systems to keep your business operating). This way, if you lose this data for any reason, you’ll be able to restore everything in a matter of minutes. Scheduling automatic backups to an external hard disk or a cloud account will save your team valuable time and give you peace of mind that your data will be there for you if you need it.

One last thing regarding IT security for startups. If you’re just starting out, it can be tempting to give everyone in your team the same access permissions. But the more people that are logging in to your accounts and systems, the higher the risk. Try to give out this data on a need-to-know basis – and keep a record of who has access to what, in case you need to find the source of a breach or an attack.