Tips For Protecting Your Small Business Against Cyber Crime
When it comes to protecting your small business and its users’ data, you have to do everything you can, for the internet is dark and full of terrors.
The news have been filled with more and more words about cyber security and massive hacks, that resulted in millions of users having their personal and banking information stolen. Massive corporations such as Walmart, DailyMotion, Anthem, River City Media, Yahoo, Dropbox and Ubisoft have all fallen victims to hackers with hundreds of millions of user accounts being stolen.
Hackers are constantly out to get their hands on valuable information, such as banking credentials and anything they can use for identity theft. But having your user’s data stolen isn’t the only threat your business has to face. Any of your equipment or your investments can be harmed by hackers if you don’t take the right precautions.
There are two main ways through which hackers get access to sensitive data or money. They either infect your company’s computer hardware with malware and other software, or they use social hacking. Social hacking is a relatively new term that refers to getting valuable data or money by tricking people.
For example, some hackers send an email to a company’s employee, posing as their boss and demanding them to send money to a bank account or to send them certain data. There are plenty of creative ways hackers use to trick people and to get what they want. A skilled social hacker could easily take control of your phone card, various online accounts and more. So, protecting yourself with the right software is only the first step. Education is the second step.
Your employees have to have the proper training, the proper know how and make the proper precautions, in order to protect your company from the attempts of cyber criminals.
We all know the story. The more a company grows, the more wealth it deals with and the more attention it attract, people with bad intentions will also catch on. The smell of money and value attracts curious eyes, who will be looking for ways to exploit any security flaw they come across and extract any valuable data they can get their hands on. These people have no concern for anyone else in these scenarios and will not shy away from causing damage, even if it causes millions, as long as they get what they want.
So, in order to help you protect yourself and your business from such unpleasant encounters, we have composed the following lineup of tips. We’ll share what you can do right now to improve your small business’ cyber security.
Make no mistake, these are only precautions and a few good tips. If there is a lot of money and sensitive data involved, it is best if you consult with a security expert after you read through this. Most of the initial steps and precautions are the same as what we shared here. But always hire an expert if there is a security issue that has to be handled properly.
Also, there are few things that can keep an experienced black hat hacker from hacking you and your entire office if he/she wants to. But the more you tighten your security, the harder it becomes for anyone to slip through it.
Be More Mindful Of Your Passwords
You know what passwords are and what role they play. The question is how you use them. Are they long enough and how many times have you reused a single password?
These are the two main issues that have to be handled as soon as possible. It’s easy to understand why a longer password is better, and I’m glad if you already have a good one. But if you’re using the same passwords or similar passwords for multiple accounts, it’s not good enough.
One big issue when it comes to passwords is cross-application password access. A lot of us use the same password for various social media accounts, our computer and the applications we use. We litter the internet with it and eventually, if one of these websites or apps have their data stolen, someone is going to have our password for everything we use.
Weak security questions are also a major problem. A lot of people use their pet’s name, their grandparents’ or girlfriend’s name or a number of things that can be looked up fairly easily. Someone might even go far enough and call us on our phone to ask us. Believe me, millions of accounts have been hacked this way. The only reason this happens is due to simple unawareness.
So it’s best to take the precautions and handle both of these, with passwords coming first.
Once we figured out that we’re using too short passwords and the same password in many places, the only logical solution is using longer, more complex passwords and mixing all of them up a little.
So first, instead of using a password like “Jamie1985”, go for something like “thesonicblast#22587$”. Now, if you use 10 different accounts in 10 different websites or apps, then switch all of the passwords for something like this. Make sure they are all different.
The question, “How would anyone remember so many complex passwords?!” naturally arises. We’re not in school to remember so much nonsense, and we don’t have to. You can use a handy little tool called a Password manager. It’s a little software that stores and even types all the passwords for you, enabling you to use monster passwords everywhere. The only password you have to remember is your master password. Write it down and keep it in a secure place, where only you can find it, because from now on, it will be the key to your online presence if you use a password manager.
One of my favorites is LastPass, because it’s very convenient. You can store all of your longest passwords. You can use this software for free, but there’s also a premium option with much better features.
There you have it, one of your greatest security vulnerabilities handled with absolute ease!
Now, for the security questions, you have to figure out some better security questions. Step away from the names of your parents and individuals in your life and go deeper. If you want to go with names, make it your favorite childhood action hero or anything imaginary that only you know about.
Your browsing sessions and accounts will be a lot more secure if you use two factor authentications wherever you can. Like the one Google offers.
Secure Your Wi-Fi Connection
The Wi-Fi you use in your office can pose as a major security risk. The Wi-Fi you use in the coffee shop close to your office is an even greater security risk. If you share information through any unsecure network (that isn’t password protected and/or encrypted), it’s like yelling your personal information out loud on the street. If someone listens they will hear it.
If your router was left with default settings since it was installed in your office, than it might be a good time to change it. This could leave you wide open to potential hacking attempts.
If they get through, it’s easy to slip in harmful software and steal any information they see fit.
The safest option here is to set your router’s security to WPA2, which isn’t a too powerful defense, but it will require a lot more knowledge to hack.
Also, to make things a lot safer, use a VPN (virtual private network) when you’re connecting to the internet through public hotspots. This will mask your computer’s IP address and make it look like you’re connecting from somewhere else, for anyone who might be listening in on that network.
A VPN is a valuable asset in your arsenal of security tools and any security expert would recommend using one, when you have “something you want to hide” on the internet.
Defend Against Social Hackers
Social hacking is a fancy word for fooling people and having them hand over valuable information.
How are you supposed to know that you shouldn’t hand over your bank cards pin number to one of your bank’s senior employees? Oh wait, you were talking to a thief, not a senior employee!
The only way to protect yourself and your business from social hacking is through education. It’s done by educating yourself and your employees a little. The right kind of awareness is necessary and that’s what will keep you out of bothersome situations.
Social hacking can take many forms. The classics are phishing and the use of links that a user just has to click. Usually, social hacking has been done through telephone calls or in person even, but thanks to social media, hackers have a much larger reach than ever before.
So, always ask plenty of questions and keep an eye out for information that someone you don’t know or don’t see is asking for. Let them ask for what they want and make sure that your answer can’t put you in a bad position in any way.
Tighten Your Security
By following at least one of these tips and by using some of your own or someone else’s tech-savvy skills, you can make your small business a lot more secure. The tips we’re sharing here are simple and you can go through with them even with very little skills. Remember, Google is your friend and you have all the right keywords that will help you in ensuring your small business’ safety!
Virus and Malware Protection
Installing antivirus and anti-malware is a must. They are one of the defensive walls that you have against all the harmful software floating around the internet. One wrong click is all it takes to get a malware on your computer that can record anything you type and send it to its owner. It’s a simple and easy method for stealing personal information and even taking control of someone’s computer.
You can find an antivirus program within a matter of seconds. If you can, it’s smart to invest a little money to buy a premium one, especially one that offers live support. Norton, WebRoot and BitDefender are the best ones to use in my opinion.
Keeping these software updates will keep your PC a lot more secure than it was before. Also, install every new update that comes out on your operating system. Older versions might have too many known security flaws that hackers can easily exploit with their good routine.
Encrypt Any Sensitive Data
Remember those good old days when you used to pass notes to your classmates? It would have been a real pain if the teacher or someone else got their hands on it. It’s the same deal with personal and financial information. You’re passing it around the internet and you don’t want anyone else to read it.
Well, you can stop anyone from intercepting your data by encrypting your sensitive data. First off, download a software through which you can make the encryption. Encrypt any financial information and personal information that is stored on your computer with BitLocker, VeraCrypt, Folder Lock.
Also, any website through which you provide sensitive information, should have HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) enabled and don’t settle for anything else. Someone can easily intercept the messages you send if you send it through regular HTTP. By using an add-on called HTTPS Everywhere, you can ensure that every site you visit, has HTTPS enabled, whether you’re doing it on your phone or your computer.
In short, Encryption is the most powerful way you can defend any information stored on your computer and sent from it.
Install a Firewall
It is called a Firewall, because it places a layer of protection between your computer and the rest of the world. A firewall keeps track and defends against anything that would want to access your computer. A two way firewall will keep track of both incoming and outgoing data transactions and will alert you if any unusual amount or type of data goes through it.
This keeps you ensured that no unwanted connections and data transactions are made from and to your computer.
Make Regular Backups
Make backups of anything that’s important. You can never know what can happen to files you upload to the internet, as time passes.
The most surefire way to go about it is to copy everything you wish to back up to an external hard drive and keep it in a safe place. But there are also more efficient ways for doing regular backups. There are plenty of cloud backup plans and hosting plans that offer regular backups. You can set them to back up all of your files every hour if you want to.
Once you have everything backed up, whatever happens, you can strip down everything from the internet within seconds and have it replaced with the original copy.
Create a Separate Network For Everything Financial
For this, you’ll definitely need your administrators help. By creating a separate network that handles your payments, transactions and any money related information, you’re creating a massive wall between it and your public store. This way, any hacker will have to go a few extra miles to get their hands on your financial information.
This is a nice, bold way of protecting your transactions.
The internet is filled with eyes everywhere and plenty of hackers are sniffing around every possible place, to get their hands on information that they can demand a ransom for or can use to steal money.
Nothing is foolproof and even with the best security measures taken, it would only slow down the work of a professional black hat hacker. But the chance of an individual like that targeting your small business is very little.
Still, the better defense you have against cyber-crime, the less people will come close to doing harm to your company and stealing any information.
I hope that this article helped you building a more secure business and that you enjoyed going through it! Thanks for reading!