Top cyber security solutions for small businesses

These encrypted apps and web services can help small businesses secure their data without spending too much time and money.

Cyber criminals love to target small businesses because they know small and medium-sized businesses, short on time, resources, or expertise, cannot always secure their data. But the cost of not securing your company’s data has never been higher. The data breaches themselves and the GDPR fines make it too expensive for businesses to ignore cyber security.

It is important to state that cyber security is primarily about creating a culture of cyber security awareness. That means training your employees to consistently implement best practices and having the proper processes in place to deal with security breaches. Merely switching to encrypted services will not solve all of your cyber security issues. However, encrypted services do reduce your company’s exposure, and, when paired with a security-conscious workforce, they can go along way to preventing a data breach or hack.

Note that while some of these tools will be good solutions for companies of any size, others will work best for smaller businesses that have not created their own internal network. Securing a larger business’s network will require specialized tools, such as firewalls, intrusion detection & protection systems (IDS/IPS), authentication services, and advanced monitoring solutions.

Email provider

Most small businesses rely on emails to handle both their internal and external communications. Following email security best practices is essential to keep your business’s data safe, but some email providers can offer your company more security than others.

ProtonMail

ProtonMail offers its users end-to-end encryption. Your emails are encrypted before they leave your device so that only you and your intended recipient can access them. You can even secure your messages to non-ProtonMail users by sending password-protected emails. Finally, ProtonMail is both GDPR and HIPAA compliant.

Platforms: Android, iOS, and web app. Also has Bridge integration with Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, and Apple Mail
Price: Has a free option. Premium plans begin at $5 per user per month.

VPN

A virtual private network is an effective way to add a layer of encryption to your online activity. It also allows your employees to safely work on public WiFi while they are on the road.

ProtonVPN

ProtonVPN secures your Internet connection with AES 256-bit encryption, the industry gold standard, and its use of Perfect Forward Secrecy means that even if your traffic is intercepted and saved, it can never be decrypted at a later date. It has hundreds of servers available in over 30 countries and on six continents, which means your business is never too far from a fast, secure VPN server.

Platform: Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, and Windows
Price: Has a free option. Premium plans begin at $5 per user per month.

Domain name registrars

If your business has a website, you know you need a snappy, memorable web address to help people find you. (If your business doesn’t have a website… you might want to reconsider your approach.) To register your web address, also known as a domain, or to see if it is available, you must work with a domain name registrar.

A quick note on privacy and domain name registrars: When a domain is registered, the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) requires the registrar to file the owner’s contact information, like their name, email, address, and phone number. This information is then added to the WHOIS public database, which can be searched by anyone on the Internet.

With the information listed in the WHOIS database, hackers can spam you and potentially hijack your domain or steal your identity.  

Namecheap

Namecheap, as their name suggests, offers domain names at great prices. They claim to be a “one-stop shop” for setting up a website, and they offer what they call WHOISGuard for free to anyone that registers a domain with them. WHOISGuard uses its own contact information and a unique, random @whoisguard.com email to replace your personal email and contact information, keeping your personal information out of the public sphere. Namecheap also allows you to protect your account with two-factor authentication (see below) that makes it much more difficult for someone to hijack your domain.

Price: Varies, depending on desired domain

Epik

Epik is another domain name registrar that takes securing its users’ personal data seriously. Epik allows you to substitute a third party’s contact information (in this case, the contact information of the corporation
anonymize.com) for you own in the WHOIS database. This makes it much harder for scammers, telemarketers, and spammers to contact your business. Users can also secure their Epik accounts with two-factor authentication (although their method of 2FA relies on SMS, which means it is less secure than other forms of 2FA).

Price: Varies, depending on desired domain

Team collaboration

Many businesses have employees and contractors working remotely. This can make coordinating a challenge unless you use a team collaboration app. Given the amount of information that can be exchanged and stored on these platforms, using one that is encrypted is a necessity.

Wire

Wire is one of the only end-to-end encrypted services that allows for group calls, which makes it more useful than Google Hangouts and more secure than Slack when trying to manage team communication. Wire has been independently audited and is entirely open source, allowing you to be sure that Wire’s code is doing exactly what they say it is.

Platforms: Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, Windows, and web browser add-ons
Price: Starts at €6 per user per month

Messaging

For companies that do not need all the functionality of a collaboration app but still want their communications to be secure, there are end-to-end encrypted messaging apps.

Signal

Signal is widely considered to be the most secure encrypted messaging app, with endorsements from numerous experts, including Edward Snowden and Bruce Schneier. It supports texts, group texts, as well as voice and video calls. Conference calls between more than two people, however, are not possible.

Platforms: Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, and Windows
Price: Free

Threema

Threema, unlike Signal, does not require a phone number to create an account, which means Threema is as close as you can get to truly anonymous messaging. The company headquarters is in Switzerland, giving its service strong legal privacy protections. Threema has also created a special plan that is optimized for businesses and is GDPR compliant.

Platforms: Android, iOS, Windows phone, and web app
Price: Starts at 1.40 CHF per device per month

Cloud storage

Cloud storage has redefined how offices can work. By storing files on the cloud, your business can maintain a backup of all critical documents in case of a catastrophic system failure as well as easily share documents and sync progress between different employees. Protecting these files and the data they contain should be one of your business’s top priorities.

Tresorit

Tresorit is a GDPR-compliant, end-to-end encrypted cloud storage service. It has optimized its service for businesses, allowing you to create different levels of access for different documents and giving you control to revoke access from different users and devices.

Platform: Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, and Windows
Price: Starts at $25 for two users per month

Boxcryptor

Boxcryptor is slightly different. It allows you to encrypt your documents before you save them on a separate cloud service, like DropBox or Google Drive. Your team can still easily collaborate and share files over the cloud, but now your documents are secure. Using Boxcryptor’s end-to-end encryption also qualifies as taking a “technical and organizational measure” required under GDPR Article 32.

Platform: Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, Windows, and a Chrome web browser add-on
Price: Starts at $600 for five users per year. (There is also an individual Business plan that is $96 per user per year, but it has less functionality.)

Cryptomator

Cryptomator is the free, open source version of Boxcryptor. With Cryptomator, your employees can create a virtual hard drive that is connected to a folder (called a “vault”) on their cloud storage service and give it password protection. Any document they drag and drop into the virtual hard drive is automatically encrypted and backed up in the vault. There is also Cryptomator Server, for larger businesses looking to add encryption to the files on their company servers.

Platform: Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, and Windows
Price: Free

Password manager

Creating strong, unique passwords or passphrases for your accounts is one of the basics of cyber security, but no employee can remember all the passwords necessary to log in to all the platforms they need to use for work. (Look how long this list is already!) A password manager changes all that. By safely encrypting all your passwords, a password manager allows you to create passwords that are impossible to crack, without having to remember them all. Using a trustworthy password manager to secure your passwords is one of the easiest ways to improve your company’s security.

Bitwarden

Bitwarden is an open source, end-to-end encrypted password manager. It helps your employees create randomly generated passwords for all of their accounts, and then syncs those passwords across all their devices.

Platform
: Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, Windows, and web browser add-ons
Price: Starts at $5 for five users per month

1Password

1Password another end-to-end encrypted password manager, but it has a few more bells and whistles. Their Watchtower feature will alert you if any of your passwords have been exposed in recent data breaches.

Platform: Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, Windows, and web browser add-ons
Price: Starts at $3.99 per user per month

Two-factor authentication

To ensure your important accounts are secure, you should enable two-factor authentication (2FA) in addition to using a strong, unique password. The site Two Factor Auth will help you identify which services you can use 2FA on. By using 2FA on your accounts, you can prevent intruders from accessing your accounts even if they get a hold of your passwords.

YubiKey

The YubiKey is a hardware token (a specialized USB stick) that you can plug into your device to confirm your identity. While it is thought to be the most secure form of 2FA, relatively few services support hardware token 2FA.

Platform: YubiKey 5 NFC works with macOS, Windows, and NFC-equipped Android and iOS devices
Price: A YubiKey 5 NFC costs $45.

Duo

Duo offers several 2FA solutions, including solutions that incorporate Yubikey hardware tokens, confirmation requests delivered to the Duo app that foil man-in-the-middle attacks, and time-based one-time passcodes.

Platform: Android and iOS
Price: Has a free option. Premium plans begin at $3 per user per month.

File encryption

VeraCrypt

VeraCrypt is an open source disk encryption service for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux devices. Using VeraCrypt, your employees can encrypt the hard drive on their device, encrypt their flash drive, or even hide how much volume they have on their hard drive.

Platforms: Linux, macOS, and Windows
Price: Free

Notepad

Standard Notes

Standard Notes is a simple, end-to-end encrypted note-taking app that can sync your notes across all your devices. Its clean interface and numerous extensions mean that you can use Standard Notes for everything from writing yourself reminders to coding.

Platform: Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, Windows, and web browser add-ons
Price: Has a free option. Premium plans begin at $9.99 per user per month.

Joplin

Joplin is another end-to-end encrypted note-taking app, but unlike Standard Notes users must manually activate the end-to-end encryption feature. Joplin relies on external services, like NextCloud or Dropbox to synchronize across devices.

Platform: Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, and Windows
Price: Free

For businesses that have not yet secured their data, these encrypted services are a good place to start. Download and subscribe to these end-to-end encrypted services to start protecting your company’s data. While encrypted services alone will not guarantee your small business’s cyber security, they are necessary tools that every business should consider.

Best Regards,
The ProtonMail Team

You can get a free secure email account from ProtonMail here.

We also provide a free VPN service to protect your privacy.

ProtonMail and ProtonVPN are funded by community contributions. If you would like to support our development efforts, you can upgrade to a paid plan or donate. Thank you for your support.


About the Author

Richie Koch

Prior to joining Proton, Richie spent several years working on tech solutions in the developing world. As a senior editor and writer at Latterly, he covered and commented on international human rights stories. He usually writes for ProtonMail and ProtonVPN to advance the rights of online privacy and freedom.

 

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21 comments on “Top cyber security solutions for small businesses

  • Hi. Thank you very much for this useful list !
    Coud you tell me what you think of sync.com (cloud storage)… Sounds safe and encrypted but maybe I am not aware of everything.

    Reply
  • I think you are misinformed about Threema on your site. AFAIK you’ll have to buy Threema once and are there no further costs. (until current day at least)

    Reply
    • Hi! KeePass is a great password manager but it doesn’t have the same level of multi-platform support as BitWarden.

      Reply
  • You also have Telegram as messaging app. It is secure and respects your privacy and you have the option to write encrypted messages. One time Telegram moved its base to another country, because a government wanted access to the content.
    That shows that it is secure. There is more information you can get about this through the documentation

    Reply
  • An additional tool that is well-worth mentioning is “etesync” (www.etesync.com). Etesync provides an open source, end-to-end encrypted calendar, tasks and contacts service, available for Windows, Linux, Android, Web etc.

    Reply
  • Correct me if I’m wrong, but Cryptomator is not the open source “version” of Boxcryptor. It’s the same type of software, purporting to do the same thing. Apart from that, they are unrelated. They have significant differences in their features, too.

    Reply
  • Please can I add some interesting Open Source P2P solutions for everyone out there? Briar (Free; Android): A messenger, supports emojis, chats, groups, forums and blogs, works via Tor or via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi directly. Jami (Free; Android, Windows, iOS, MacOS, Linux): A messenger, chats only, can SIP, mostly okay. Antox (Free; Android): A messenger, chats only, works a bit questionable. KeepassXC (Free; Windows, Linux): A password manager, supports 2FA, has SSH Agent (Linux) and can add a key from at an opening, can integrate itself with a browser, it is a fork of KeePass. Syncthing (Free; Android, Windows, MacOS, Linux): Cloud Storage, useful to sync your data between devices, can work directly via Wi-Fi without the Internet. Also there are Retroshare, Freenet, Zeronet and IPFS but I am not familiar, however, I just know that they can be used like Cloud Storage. That’s what I know so far, I hope it will help, though.

    Reply
  • It should be noted that Cryptomator is open source for PC, but closed for mobile. For my organization, that removes it as a safe candidate since I need both PC/Mac and mobile platforms to access cloud storage.

    Reply
  • I think you can go further especially about Password Manager. Definitely a Must Have but the important thing is the way to use it. To be more safer in the clouds you must leave your keys outside them even it is a little bit more complicated in every day life. I personally use 1Password (great app) but with local synch (Wifi). 100% security is not possible. In my opinion protecting your clouds thanks to another cloud, it is like closing an armored door and hidding the key under the mat…

    Reply