By Praveen Kannan and Anna Strokolyst The Hotspot Shield team believes the internet should be open and secure …
However, you would be making a grave mistake if you are not taking proper measures to protect your business against cyber attacks. Your business might not be as well known as companies like Facebook, Nike, or Starbucks, but the threat of a cyber attack still exists for your business.
In fact, criminals are increasingly targeting smaller businesses since most small businesses have more vulnerabilities and are easier target.
In their latest annual Internet Security Threat Report, the company Symantec found that 31% of all targeted attacks aimed at businesses with less than 250 employees.
Such attacks can be incredibly costly for small businesses in terms of the financial loss, disruption of services, and time involved to resolve the issue. According to a 2013 Small Business Technology Survey that polled 845 small business owners across industries in the U.S., “The average cost associated with the cyber-attack, among those targeted, was $8,699.48.”
In addition, nearly half of all small business owners surveyed claimed to have at one time been the victim of a cyber attack. To prevent cybercriminals from attacking your small business, implementing the following recommendations:
Keep Company Computers Up To Date
One of the easiest strategies you can implement in order to prevent cybercriminals from hacking into your systems and stealing sensitive information is to simply make sure your company computers are up to date. This means paying attention to notifications about updates to your operating systems, firewalls, web browsers, antivirus software, and other third-party plugins. When you ignore these notifications and postpone following through with security updates, you’re willingly leaving cracks in your security defense system.
Keep Your Antivirus and Anti-Malare Programs Up to Date
Antivirus and anti-malware programs are used to prevent, detect, and remove malware from computers. Hackers and criminals are constantly developing and releasing new viruses and malware. In order to prevent computer viruses, Trojan horses, worms, keyloggers, and other forms of malware from attacking your computer, it’s essential that you keep your antivirus and anti-malware programs up to date.
According to reports, Google flags somewhere around 10,000 sites each day that it deems unsafe for users to visit. Without the constant use of antivirus software, your machines are vulnerable to dangerous malware and cybercriminals looking for opportunities to hack into unprotected computers.
Use Strong Passwords For Everything
According to security experts, if the password you use for things like email, social media accounts, and other business software can be found in a dictionary (like the word “password” for example), it can be hacked in roughly thirty seconds. In an article titled, “How to Devise Passwords That Drive Hackers Away,” author Nicole Perlroth writes, “A password should ideally be 14 characters or more in length if you want to make it uncrackable by an attacker in less than 24 hours.” Additionally, you should use a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols.
Because longer passwords tend to be harder to remember, consider a passphrase, such as a favorite movie quote, song lyric, or poem, and string together only the first one or two letters of each word in the sentence”. It’s also important that you use different passwords for every site or account you have (Facebook, PayPal, email, etc.). If you have to keep an account of your passwords, don’t store them in places that could easily be found (like your email inbox, on your desktop, or on a sticky note).
If you want to use a tool to help you manage all your passwords, you can try LastPass or 1Password. By using these tools, you only have to remember one secure password, which you use to unlock the tool.
Hire a Security Consultant and Have Them Perform an Audit
Hiring a security consultant to find security flaws in your systems might sound expensive, but it’s a valuable service that can save you a lot of headaches and money down the road. It is for this reason that companies like Facebook have developed programs that reward security researchers and other “white hat hackers” for finding and informing them about potential security risks.
With over 1.11 billion people using the social networking site each month, the company takes great measures to protect a huge amount of private data and information. As a small business owner, it’s important that you make similar investments in order to prevent costly cyber attacks.
Train Your Staff on Cyber Security Practices
According to the website CyberFactors.com, in-house employees are responsible for 40 percent of small business breaches. If you have employees, you need to spend time training and educating them on the different types of cyber attacks and how they can help prevent cyber attacks. To get started, Forbes recommends the following:
- Train your employees on IT risk.
- Create clear and simple company policies regarding technology.
- Put somebody in charge of security.
For more details on each recommendation listed above, click here.
Don’t Keep Stored Sensitive Data That You No Longer Need
You should dispose of sensitive information stored on your company computers that you no longer need. It can be easy to forget about documents that are hidden away in the files on your computer. If you have sensitive information from former clients, employees, contractors, or any other parties you no longer interact with, you still have a responsibility as a business owner to keep the sensitive information they provided to you safe from criminals on the internet. Consider putting a plan in place to safely and regularly remove or wipe unnecessary information like this from your company computers.
Use a VPN Service
Your laptop and mobile device probably contain some confidential information and data that you wouldn’t want stolen. But if you happen to access the Internet at places with weak wireless security (Public WiFi networks are inherently unsecured), you are vulnerable to attacks from hackers.
Without strong security measures in place, a hacker can easily get access to the data and information on your computer using various methods. The best way to protect the data and information going in and out of your device when accessing the Internet via WiFi is to use a VPN service. A VPN encrypts all your internet communications, thereby prevent anyone from tracking your internet activities and stealing your personal and sensitive information.