For small-business owners, it is easy to think of preventing hacks as an enterprise-level concern. Surely malicious actors wouldn't bother with small businesses, right? However, according to The New York Times, small businesses are just as likely to come under attack, with the National Small Business Association finding that half of all small businesses surveyed were victimized in 2014. Use the following how-to guide to help your business stay one step ahead of hackers:

1. Encrypt

The quickest way to convince malicious actors to look elsewhere is to encrypt your data at rest and in motion (data stored on a computer versus data in transit, such as in an email). Ideally, you should look for asymmetrical encryption that covers all forms of data transmission, including emails, documents, applications and stored customer data and cannot be easily cracked by cybercriminals. However, achieving this level of sophistication doesn't have to be difficult. You can choose from onsite hardware that has the capacity to adapt and evolve, or less-expensive cloud offerings that can scale up on demand as your company grows. When hackers see company data is actively protected, they will likely move on to other targets.

2. Fight Smarter, Not Harder

Google recommends preventing hacks by sharing knowledge with competitors, law enforcement and academics, according to Wired. The idea here is to leverage knowledge gained by other organizations instead of trying to reinvent the wheel. With new malware threats emerging on a daily basis, it's vital to use the power of collaboration. It's better to know exactly what's on the horizon rather than spending security budgets on best guesses.

3. Curate Access

It is also important to gate content access. There are several ways to accomplish this goal. One option, Business Solutions notes, is two-factor authentication, which requires anyone requesting access to use a token or one-time code in addition to a password. New technologies make fingerprints or other types of biometric data an option for three-factor protection. You can also control access through a consistent security culture. A Verizon report cited by CRN states that insiders cause 20 percent of breach incidents. Some of these insiders act out of malice, but most act out of ignorance. By cultivating a business culture that actively encourages secure IT behavior, preventing hacks is possible both inside and outside company walls.

With cyberattacks on small businesses now matching corporate counterparts, it's time to take action. Preventing hacks requires encryption, intelligent action and effective access protection.

Tags: law enforcement hackers preventing hacks encryption small business protection