Cyber-safety has been so precarious as of late that protecting your business may seem inordinately difficult, if not impossible. Hackings and data breaches happen more and more – an alarming 78% of US organizations have been victims of cyber-attacks in 2019. And yes, that includes small businesses, as well.
If you thought that hackers only go after large companies, you’d be mistaken. Data is valuable, regardless where it’s coming from. In fact, small and medium businesses make easier and more convenient targets. They are less likely to have a good security system in place, and are thus, much more vulnerable to attacks.
Thankfully, there are lots of things you can do to protect your business, so let’s talk about some of them.
What kind of cyberattacks should you be aware of?
Malware & ransomware
Malware unfortunately plagues us all. And as if that weren’t enough, ransomware became a thing, too. If you’re mercifully unfamiliar with ransomware, it’s a type of malware that essentially locks your computer and all the data you have on it. You can get it back – if you pay ransom to the hackers who’ve infected your computer. Hence, the name ransomware.
The worst thing about this is that it’s incredibly hard – verging on impossible – to undo without resorting to giving in to the hackers. Some services will promise they can get your data back, or it’s free, but the success rate isn’t necessarily high.
Obviously, hacking is a major concern not only for individuals, but also for companies, big and small. It’s by no means something we left back in the 90s. Hackers can create unbelievable damage and generate losses of billions of dollars.
Hackers usually target your personal and sensitive information and will take advantage of weak passwords or unsecured accounts.
Phishing scams are alive and well, ridiculously enough. From the good old’ Nigerian prince to catfishing and spam emails that generously let you know that you’ve won millions of dollars, scammers abound online.
Phishing is most frequently perpetuated via email, so those spam emails are actually more dangerous than you think. It only takes one click to download something that can infect your computer.
Each of these cyberattacks can have dire consequences, but none as bad as data breaches. The problem is that with a data breach, it’s no longer your own information that is in the wrong hands, but the data of all your customers.
That makes you a legal target for anyone who suffers damage because of your security breach and can have serious repercussions, including the total shutdown of your business.
What can you do to protect your business from cyberattacks?
That cyberattacks are incredibly damaging is something we already know. However, what we still need to discuss is how you can protect your business from these cyberattacks – most notably, data breaches.
Invest in a high-quality anti-virus software
The very first and most important point to make, here, is that you need serious security software. The free trials you download from the internet are not good enough, especially to protect your business.
Security should be your utmost concern, so the software that ensures it is an absolute business essential. Invest in software that will protect your most valuable data, and make sure that all of your devices and employees’ devices are using it.
More often than not, breaches happen because of oversights when it comes to things as simple as an anti-virus. Do not create opportunities for this to happen.
Set strong passwords
Password-protection should be one of your first steps, as well. You cannot allow anything to remain unprotected. Passwords need to secure everything, from your bank accounts to your most important files and devices. However, it’s not enough to simply set passwords. They also have to be the right kind of passwords.
The reason for that is that weak passwords can easily be hacked. Whether it’s a person close to you who knows enough personal information about you to guess your password or a special software that hacks your password, you need to make it as difficult as possible. Here are some tips:
- Do not use personal information – The worst thing you can do is use personal information as your password, such as dates of birth, names, cities, phone numbers, etc. They’re the easiest to guess, and thus, the easiest to hack. You want your password to be as random and non-sensical as possible.
- Do not use recognizable words – Continuing on the previous idea, stay away from actual words. “Bigpurplechicken” isn’t personal information anyone is likely to guess about you, but it’s a recognizable pattern. It’s much better to throw in random letters and numbers.
- Use a combination of different characters – As mentioned, the more random your password is, the better. Make a conscious effort to use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special symbols, in no particular order. That strengthens your password.
- The longer your password is, the better – It makes sense, right? The longer a password is, the harder it’s going to be to crack. A lot of passwords need to be at least 6 or 7 characters long anyway, so you don’t really have a choice. Aim for as long as possible in order to maximize your security.
- Do not set answers that make sense – A lot of services use security questions in order to grant you access into your account, in the eventuality of a forgotten password.
However, these questions often just make it easier for someone to hack into your account. Anyone could find out your mother’s maiden name or where you went to school, so make sure that you don’t answer these questions in a way that makes sense.
For example, if the question is “What is the name of your Alma Mater?”, your answer could be “Cheetah”, “Broccoli”, or “Football”. Just something that you will remember, but that has nothing to do with the actual question.
Store your sensitive data safely
Improper data storage is actually a major reason why businesses fall victims to breaches. Did you know that the way you keep your important files can be dangerous? Here are the best ways to store your sensitive data:
- Cloud storage – The best option, by far, is cloud storage. It’s the safest way to store your data and make sure it’s protected. Cloud storage can be bought, but it’s also available for free (in limited amounts) with a Google account. For business data, however, you’ll want to invest in unlimited storage.
- Encrypted hard drive – If you’re storing your data on your hard drive, the safest way to go is to encrypt it. There are several types of tools that can help you with that, including VeraCrypt, BitLocker, or AxCrypt.
- USB drive – If you don’t have the possibility of encrypting your data, then rather than storing your files on CDs or DVDs, opt for USB drives. They’re way more portable and more likely to withstand deterioration.
Educate your employees on security
Unfortunately, despite your best efforts, security breaches still happen sometimes, and it’s not even your fault. You were not the weak link, but your employees were. And that usually happens either because the company did not educate the employees on security matters, or the employees weren’t careful enough.
It’s definitely a matter of concern, particularly for companies that work with remote employees and freelancers. After all, there’s no way to ensure that they’re doing their very best to ensure security. Here are some things to drill into them, regarding security:
Device security may seem trivial – after all, who loses their laptop anymore, and who’s interested in the data on the device, instead of getting money off pawning or selling the device itself? But it is precisely that underestimation that enables thieves to extract valuable info from devices.
Basic device security includes password-protecting it. If your employees are remote workers, you’ll also need to warn them about leaving the device unattended in coffee shops and other public spaces. It only takes a minute to steal a laptop.
Encrypting the hard drive can also be a necessary measure, if the files on it are especially sensitive. Particularly when it comes to customer information, taking this measure is a good idea.
Remote workers may also face security threats from their Wi-Fi connections. The allure of free Wi-Fi in public places is strong, especially when you’re running out of data. However, that can seal your fate. You see, unsecured networks are not at all safe – that won’t come as a shock. Any info you send over this network can be viewed and intercepted by third parties.
That means that you need to impress upon your employees and collaborators how important it is to ensure the security of their network. Ideally, they’d be able to use their own data (whether on a laptop or by creating a hotspot with their phone). However, it’s also worth asking for the Wi-Fi password at public institutions and businesses that have secured networks.
What’s the bottom line?
Security is no joke, and it’s vitally important for your business. Cybercrime is on the rise and more aggressive than ever before, and a lot of businesses and individuals alike have fallen victims to it. There may not be a foolproof way of making sure your data is totally safe, but you can certainly make solid efforts towards securing your data.
Protective software is a must, as is using a secured Wi-Fi network. All the devices in use for your company need to be safe and secure, with passwords and encryption software. Make a point of teaching your employees the importance of security, in order to minimize the risk of a data breach.