It’s no secret that small businesses are now sure targets for hackers. The number of data breaches reaping serious financial implications to cripple online businesses is on the rise.It is time that we secure our investments with the best cyber security measures, from the very basic security practices to boosting employee awareness.
Here are five of the biggest online security hacks you should know as a business owner.
- Use Strong & Unique Passwords
According to security researchers, up to 80 percent of hacking-related breaches involve either the use of stolen passwords or weak and guessable passwords. You can ensure hackers do not infiltrate your accounts by using a secure password that is hard to crack.
The bottom line is using a combination of uppercase, lowercase, numbers and special characters (including spaces) for your password. For example, Sup.eR@321! is a better password compared to super321. Additionally, avoid using a single password for multiple sites as this may compromise your online identity should the password leak.
Another best security practice is understanding the information you are giving away. Most websites have account recovery mechanisms in case you forget your password, where they generate questions like “Which city were you born in?” Hackers can use the public information you’ve posted maybe on Facebook to answer these questions and finally gain access to your account.
Again, since most businesses run on mobile applications, learning more about smartphone security will help protect your investment.
- Encrypt Your Data
Information security is the key when it comes to protecting your business. It is important that you understand the underlying structure of your online business and how it stores data.
Different data protection policies ensure your information remains safe should a breach occur. Encrypting your databases, hard drives, bank routing digits, employee social security numbers, credit card accounts or any other data using modern algorithms is a key defensive tool when storing and transmitting data on the internet.
Security professionals recommend that you turn on full-disk encryption tools on your operating system such as FileVault on Mac or BitLocker on Windows-based PCs. These tools encrypt every program and file on the drive making it difficult for hackers to decipher the encrypted data.
- Secure Your Network
Many small businesses are compromised through Wi-Fi networks using techniques such as “wardriving.” Hackers can take advantage of poorly protected networks to infiltrate devices on the network for login information and financial data. The best defense against such exploits is establishing a secure wired network infrastructure instead of wireless networks that are highly vulnerable to hacks. Wired networks are more secure as users can only access their services by plugging into the ports. However, you should also disable remote access to your systems.
In case you have a wireless network, ensure it uses the latest applicable encryption standard such as WPA2, which is difficult to penetrate. Also, disable its SSID function (service set identifier) on the wireless router to make the network invisible to unauthorized users.
- Install Anti-Virus & Anti-Malware Software
Cybercriminals usually hack networks and infect devices with viruses, malware and other malicious software. These attacks have high potential for damage as the malicious software can spread to the entire network. Malware can run in the background of a system and capture information—including login details—without the user’s knowledge.
It is therefore important to protect your system pre-emptively. You can do so by running anti-virus and anti-malware programs on your devices as both a remedy and a point of protection in addressing these threats.
As a small business owner, you should update your software regularly. Software vendors such as Microsoft, Apple, Avast and Adobe, among others, usually provide updates to fix patches and security vulnerabilities discovered in previous versions.
- Educate Your Employees
Most security breaches stem from human-inflicted error. These mistakes could come from the business owner, the system administrator or even regular employees. You should, therefore, be vigilant to create employee awareness on the best security practices.
With the help of an IT expert, keep your employees informed about various online threats. Develop a formal internet policy that every employee should follow. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission developed a helpful “Cyber Planner” system to help small business navigate this very process.
The policy should set out all accepted and prohibited online activities. For instance, you can prohibit your staff from clicking on links or opening email attachments that don’t pertain to your business.
It is imperative that you sensitize all employees on the importance of protecting business data, and how to recognize security breaches.