Did you know that as a small business owner, you are one of the primary targets for cyberattacks? Cybercriminals are everywhere, and there are more and more ways in which they can prey on you.
We all have vulnerabilities, and we can all be victims, but that doesn’t mean that we should just lay in waiting. There are things you can do to protect yourself and your business. Here are a few tips on how you can ward against cyberattacks.
Do this: Your internet connection should always be trustworthy. When you’re at the office or in the comfort of your own home, you’re probably connected to your own network. On the go and in public places, however, you rely on Wi-Fi.
Always make sure to connect to networks that are trusted and password protected. If you do not have access to protected networks in places like coffee shops or airports, ask an employee for the password. That way, you make sure that any information you are exchanging is completely secure.
In absence of access to a secure network, use your phone to create a hotspot with the data on your device. It’s expensive, but it’s worth the protection.
Not that: You will be tempted to connect to random open Wi-Fi networks that are not password protected. That could be a massive mistake. You see, anyone can connect and gain access to the information you are sending via this channel.
Important information such as passwords and personal data can be intercepted and used for nefarious purposes, such as theft, impersonation, blackmail, etc. It seems very convenient to just connect to the free airport Wi-Fi, but this can be the precise moment when someone takes advantage of your vulnerability and steals valuable company info.
Do this: Thankfully, Google does some of the heavy lifting for you and clearly flags trustworthy websites and risky ones. Google gives priority ranking to websites that are safe and SSL-protected.
You can recognize secure sites, because they will typically have a padlock on the left-hand side of the search bar. That will indicate that you can trust this site, that it’s encrypted, and that any information you share will be in safe hands.
Not only that, but you can rest assured that you won’t pick up any weird malware or trojans while you’re browsing and clicking away.
Not that: On the opposite end of the spectrum, a red, crossed out padlock indicates a website that is not properly secured. Google cannot ensure your safety when navigating to this page and will issue advertisements about the potential risks.
If you do venture onto pages like this, you do so at your own risk. It’s not indicated to ever access this kind of page, much less provide them with information about yourself, your clients, or your business. Every click or download can be suspicious, so it’s best to refrain and look for a more trustworthy source.
Do this: You probably know by now that passwords are becoming easier and easier to crack, so you need to really reinforce them. That means that you have to get serious about setting strong passwords. Here are some tips:
- Pick a password that does not make any logical sense. It should be a combination of random characters, including both uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special symbols.
- Pick a unique password. It must not be a password that you’ve already had, that you set for another account, or that someone else has.
- When it comes to answers to secret questions, don’t make the answers straight-forward. That makes it easy for other people to guess or find out. Instead, make up completely off-the-wall, random answers. For example: Q: What is your mother’s maiden name? A: Dinosaur.
Not that: Stay away from the passwords that are easy to guess, find out, or hack. Here’s what you should be avoiding:
- Don’t choose 1234567, “guest”, “password”, and other basic, easy to guess passwords. It’s like not having a password at all.
- Avoid easy to guess information. Don’t make your password your name, your kids’ names, your spouse’s birthday, your pet’s name, etc.
- Don’t tell anyone your password, and don’t write it down. Yes, it’s harder to remember that way, but you also run less of a risk of having a security breach.
Do this: We’re using so many different devices for work nowadays, and it’s super important to protect them all. There are some good practices that you should be using to make sure that you are not experiencing any loss of data.
- Password-protect your devices – all of your work devices should be protected with passwords or even more advanced security measures, such as fingerprint scan or facial recognition.
- Do not share devices – your work devices should be yours and no one else’s. Granting access to anyone else can mean compromising important data.
- Do not use the same devices for work and play – it seems easier to just use the same phone and laptop for all of your personal and work endeavors, but that actually makes it more likely that you will slip up and compromise data.
Not that: Sometimes, working in public places like coffee shops and such is unavoidable. What is avoidable, however, is leaving your devices on the table while you go to the bathroom or out to take a call or a smoke break. The same goes even if you’re working in an office, or at home.
It’s not just about strangers breaking into your work computer, but about co-workers mistakenly seeing something they shouldn’t, or kids playing on your laptop and inadvertently deleting something important, etc.
Do this: Okay, but what do you do when it comes to data storage? Especially when you’re dealing with sensitive information, or client data, you need to find a way to store this info as securely as possible. While keeping information on an external hard drive (especially if it’s encrypted) or on a USB stick is adequate enough, cloud storage is the safest solution.
Cloud storage allows you to keep information outside your office or your own devices, so you don’t need the physical space. It’s the most secure storage solution. It’s easy to set up: you just need to pay for the service and upload your files and voila – they are perfectly secure.
Not that: Whatever you do, do not keep this type of data on your hard drive. You’ll also not want to keep physical files in your office, or CDs lying around. Basically, any type of medium that can become easily compromised or stolen is a bad idea.
If you do have data that you store on CDs, for example, be sure to upgrade this storage solution as soon as possible. CDs are known to deteriorate after a certain amount of time, especially if the storage conditions are improper (for example, exposed to sunlight).
As a small business owner, you must be on the lookout for cyberattacks. Small businesses are less likely to have proper security set in place, so cybercriminals take advantage of that and try to hack into your system and wreak havoc. But that doesn’t mean you can’t protect yourself. There are lots of ways to minimize the risks and fend off prying eyes. A lot of it is a matter of exercising safety practices and learning to protect your devices, your information, and the way you go about working, both remotely and at the office.