How to Protect Your Small Business from a Data Breach?

Personal information has immense value and ever since we use computers to store large heaps of personal information, cyber security has always been an issue. Anything that has value is bound to be a subject of theft sooner or later. The only question is whether you, as an online business owner, are prepared for it or not.

With plenty of stories about massive data breaches hitting the news and the internet, it’s no wonder that cyber security is becoming a larger concern than ever before. Large online companies like eBay, Yahoo, Tumblr, Instagram, Adobe, Deep Root Analytics, Walmart, even major banks and the US Military have fallen victims of hackers. This adds up to hundreds of millions of users having their personal information and banking information stolen. This has led to stolen money, credit cards and other unpleasant experiences.

But technical hacking isn’t the only thing you should be prepared for. There is a craft called social hacking, which is based on the exploitation of human factors within a security system. A good example of a social hack would be:

You dressing up like a company’s employee. You wait in the parking lot to see an actual employee arriving to work, going up to him to say hi, or simply to follow him to the entrance. As he enters and the guards let him pass, you act like you’re together or like you’re supposed to go where you’re going and boom, you’re in. From there you might be able to physically breach the company’s data center, steal valuable information or do whatever you have planned out in the first place.

Hackers are everywhere, lurking in the shadows, looking for the opportunity to get their hands on valuable information as soon and as easily as possible. They will either use the personal information and banking information they stole to steal money or even more valuable information. Or demand ransom for what they took ownership of, through you.

Once you decide that you will run an online business, where you ask your buyers for their personal or credit card information, you take sole responsibility for the information they provide. You have to create a secure pathway between them and your business, where they can safely provide their personal information and make their purchases.

The only thing you can do to protect data on your website is to give it your best shot. Nothing is too well guarded for a professional black hat hacker, so there is no absolute security, no matter how hard you try. But you can definitely make any hacker’s job a lot harder and protect your websites from the less skilled ones.

You first have to handle the most common security breaches and then eliminate every threat factor one by one. Most security threats (such as the human factors) can be dealt with, through a bit of precaution, the installation of software and through proper settings.

While we can’t make you an expert in cyber security through an article, we can show you the security measures you can take and the software you can install right away. You can definitely make your online business a lot more secure right now!

But it is also important to mention, that if you’re not much of a tech savvy person and don’t know much about cyber security, it’s smart to hire a security professional. You should definitely ask a cyber-security firm for help, if your website has been breached. Even if it’s safe and sound, it’s still good to consult somebody. What we’re sharing here, are the necessary precautions you should take to make your online business more secure.

You should definitely consider the amount of money you can invest into your website’s security, because it will help you sleep a lot easier in the long term.

Beef Up Your Line of Defense

The easiest hacks happen because the business owner or the user hasn’t taken some of the basic precautions. These precautions are composed of 5 things.

Encrypting Data

encrypt data make backups

I really hope that you’re using HTTPS on your website, because it is one of the first and most important layers of encryption you should use.

Encryption is one of your main tools for securing sensitive information such as bank card numbers, personal information and anything else of value. These are the things hackers are looking for most of the time. Encryption can be used on hard disks, cloud-based services and email accounts.

Any sensitive data you store on your web server or send through a network, should be encrypted the moment you get your hands on it.

But one of the most important security measure for an online business is using an encryption software for protecting costumers’ personal and financial information during a business transaction.

One of the main methods of doing this is through using Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure and use Folder Lock for encrypting the rest. When it comes to payment transactions, you’re better of outsourcing to PayPal or another online banking company, and letting them handle your transactions for you.

Make Backups

Once you put something on the internet, nobody can ensure that it’s 100% safe. So the best insurance you have are backups.

Make a local copy of your entire website and regularly make backups of every bit of its data. This way, you have immediate access to any data that you might need, regardless of whether it has been deleted or tempered with. By having secure, off site copies of everything, all of your website’s data will be much safer.

Back up every bit of important information, such as customer records, financial records, sales records, tax form and any crucial information that your business is working with.

Put it all on an USB-based, external hard disk drive and nobody else will be able to get their hands on it besides you.

Using cloud-based storage is also essential, because it is very secure and can also make backups systematically (every hour if it’s necessary).  These are backup services such as Amazon S3, Sync.com, SugarSync, Carbonite for Business and there are plenty of business grade cloud backup services too out there.

Software and Updates

Commonly used software, such as Windows, Mac and content management systems like WordPress all have well known security leaks. These leaks are fixed through updates and patches, so installing them is crucial from a security standpoint. This is because hackers can easily exploit security flaws that they knew in the previous version of a software.

It’s best to sign up for automatic updates, no matter what kind of software you use.

The next step is making your defensive layer thicker.

Purchase an anti-virus and malware software. You can also use these for free, but premium options will always come with more useful and powerful features. Spam emails, comments and unsecure Wi-Fi connections are enough of a threat, even for the everyday user, let alone an online business. If you catch a malware with a key logger, it will capture every bit of information that is typed on your computer and send it to the hacker.

To protect your business from harmful software, install the right protection software and keep it updated at all times.

The final step is installing a firewall on your network.

If a hacker tries to access your network or payment terminal, the firewall is the first and hopefully the last obstacle they’ll bump into. A firewall protects a computer from harmful software, such as malware and can detect if unusual amounts of data are extracted from your network. Any unauthorized or suspicious activity will be instantly blocked.

It is important to use every measure to limit people’s access to sensitive information. It’s important to have a system that detects any unusual behavior pattern and reports or blocks it.

You can also create a separate network for handling your payment terminal. If you can separate your payment terminal from the general store you share on the internet, you can dramatically decrease the chance of having a data breach. This puts a large canyon between your store and the payment terminal where all the sensitive financial information goes through.

Many hackers hack into a business’ data center through unaware employees, who accidentally download malware and use the chance to grasp control over the network.

With a separate network, that has a minimal number of trained employees administrating it, the likelihood of this happening is minimal.

Protect Your Passwords

password protection

Yes, I know, who wouldn’t think of this?! But did you know that even though we live in the age of technology, one of the most efficient way to get your hands on a person’s password is by simply asking for it? I can pretend to be your mom or your wife, put up a good act through the phone and change the pin code of your phone number or have complete control of your account.

So passwords should be protected with the right technology and the right kind of human precaution.

One of the greatest issues of password protection is cross-application password access. For the sake of simplicity, a lot of us use easy to remember passwords on multiple websites.

If we’re a bit smarter, we make subtle changes here and there, but most of us tend to use the same passwords on every website we register to.

This makes a hacker’s jobs infinitely easier. Once they breach a website’s data, where they get their hands on your information and password, they can move along to hacking the rest of your accounts.

Security questions are also a major risk. A lot of people use security questions, to which the answers can easily be found on their social media website, like their mother’s, dog’s name or their girlfriend’s birthdate. A lot of the security questions you would use on a site can be easily Googled.

So how do you counteract these threats?

For the password breach, you have to make it much harder for the hackers and even for yourself a little. Make, longer, more complex passwords, with symbols and numbers added to them. To make things harder, use a different password on every account you register. Which would be about 5-10 accounts for the most of us.

But how would you remember 10 passwords that are as hard as “freedominfocus1787#2“? Well, that’s where some handy software, password managers come into play!

Password managers can store all your passwords and even spare you the work of typing them in every time you visit a website, making your passwords 10 times more powerful.

The best password managers are Zoho Vault, StickyPassword and LastPass. Among these, LastPass is the one you can use for free and we highly recommend it, because it’s a powerful security tool and incredibly handy. You can use it on both your desktop PC and smartphone, so you’re one click away from using better passwords everywhere!

You don’t have to memorize all the infinitely complex passwords you use, only one, your master password. It will be the key to the rest of your passwords, so make sure that it is strong and that you remember it no matter what. Write it down on a piece of paper, just to make sure.

Now, for security questions, you should use a philosophical question or something that only exists in your mind and can’t be looked up. If someone tries hard enough, they can find your grandparents’ name or other actual information. But if you use something that you’re sure you didn’t share anywhere else, you’ll have a security question that’s actually secure!

Always Hire Experts To Handle Security Issues

Don’t get teary eyed if you see your website’s security being breached and don’t stress too much about preventing it from happening. Consult or hire experts for doing it for you. They are your best chance in protecting your online business.

There are plenty of things that you don’t have time to wrap your head around, so it’s best to hire an expert to help you with your website’s security. They’ll share plenty of precautionary measures you can make and help you with setting up your website in a more secure manner.

Also, once you have a contract with a security team, they will handle any security issue on your website, the moment it comes up.

Hire a Lawyer

hire lawyer

To have the proper legal protection for your business and to have someone to guide you the rules of the game, you’ll definitely have to hire an experienced lawyer. He or she will help you set up your business correctly, to protect all of your personal assets. You’ll also have an action plan against getting sued.

While legal issues are not cyber security issues, they are just as important to deal with and there is a lot to do, to ensure your and your business’ safety.

Make Sure You And Your Business Are Two Separate Legal Entities – The first thing you want to avoid is getting sued on your individual assets because problems that appear within your company. So it’s smart to arrange someone else, a trustee to own your business.

You should also assign a legal entity to your business, such as Corporation, LLC and so on. Which one you choose is up to you.

Have An Insurance for Your Business – You’ll definitely want to protect yourself and your entire business from any unfortunate events. Be prepared for any errors and omissions that might happen as you run it.

Purchase a Data Breach Insurance – The best legal step you can take when it comes to protecting your business’ data. It only costs a few dollars more, if you bundle it with your regular business insurance and will prove to be a life saver if a data breach actually happens.

Conclusion

There’s a lot to go through when it comes to your business’ security and your personal security. The internet is vast and it is filled with dangers that we have to be protected against. These tips will help you take the initial steps to make it a safer place for your business, but there is still plenty of work to be done if you haven’t invested much resources and energy into your security.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading through this article and that we helped you to learn something new and useful today!

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