This article has been contributed by Roman Daneghyan.
If you think cyber theft is just a problem of big businesses, you’re mistaken. According to an article published in CNBC, 43% of cyberattacks are targeted at small businesses. Cyberattacks now cost small businesses about $200,000 on average. Therefore, no matter the size of your business, it’s critical that you consider ways to secure your business online.
Let’s take a look at some alarming cybersecurity facts and stats.
- Over the years, 95% of breached records have all been from just three industries – Technology, Retail and Government. One reason for this is that these industries are less careful about their protection of customer records. Another possible cause is that these industries are the favorite targets of hackers because of the high level of personal information contained in their records.
- According to an article published in Security Magazine, hackers attack every 39 seconds.
- In 2018 only, Cyber attackers stole half a billion personal records.
- More than 75% of the healthcare industry has been infected with malware over the last year.
Thankfully, there are practical ways to circumvent these threats and secure your business online. Here are ten of them.
1. Look for a Secured Hosting Provider
Today, building a website is easier than ever before. With a user-friendly website maker, anyone can create one. However, regardless of how good the website is made, it’s useless if it is not hosted on a reliable server.
So, make sure your website is hosted by a reliable web hosting company (see our top recommended web hosts here), which is PCI compliant. This is imperative if you want to keep your website’s payment and checkout processes secured from hackers.
Most website owners are not aware, but hosting a website on a reliable server also helps with Google and Bing SEO.
Never go for a free hosting service. A free hosting service may sound attractive, but it comes with limited speed and shared space, which is very risky when it comes to security. It is advisable to choose a hosting service according to your website’s requirements. For instance, if you have a website with a lot of important data, you need a hosting provider that can provide you adequate security and privacy. VPS hosting is a good option for such websites.
VPS stands for virtual private server, meaning you get your own allotment of resources which results in faster load times. Moreover, you get more disk space, CPU and RAM. Unlike with shared servers, VPS hosting means that the traffic and activities of other server customers do not adversely affect your operation.
Image source: tech.co
2. Invest in a VPN Server
Like VPS, VPNs (virtual private networks) are quite efficient in increasing your business’s online security. This technology helps you remain entirely private when using the internet. Not only does a VPN enhance security by keeping your data secure and encrypted, it also allows you to access that data remotely. It helps you hide your online identity and bypass geo-restricted content as well.
Let’s have a quick look at how exactly a VPN keeps your online business secured (plus watch any country’s Netflix) . It connects you via an encrypted virtual tunnel to your desired website. Since this connection is offered by a remote VPN server, your original IP address is replaced by the server’s IP address. As the VPN encrypts all your activities over the Internet, no one can decrypt your personal data.
So for extra peace of mind, incorporate this technology as well. There are numerous inexpensive VPN providers available nowadays that allow you to create a safe connection to another network over the internet.
3. Get A Suitable Firewall on Your Network
Your firewall is your first line of defense when an attacker tries to access your payment terminal. It is a security system that not just monitors but also controls incoming and outgoing network traffic based on predetermined security rules.
A firewall can easily detect if any data is being stolen from your network. A firewall automatically shuts down the process if it notices something weird happening on your system. Moreover, a firewall is capable of protecting your computer from malware and other online threats.
Image source: GeeksforGeeks.org
There are some key points to consider before buying a firewall solution.
- There are some firewall solutions that come with a built-in website filter that enables you to blacklist websites based on website names and categories. This is a good option, so make sure the firewall you choose is capable of performing SPAM filtering duties.
- If you don’t have a separate antivirus program, you must choose a firewall that has a built-in antivirus.
- The firewall should be capable of monitoring SSL encrypted data.
4. Don’t Overlook Email Security
Every day, millions of emails are sent. However, research reveals that around 73% of emails are spam. The United States is the number one generator of spam email, while Korea is the second-largest contributor of unwanted emails.
A large number of emails you receive represent security threats. After all, emails are widely used to infect computer systems with malicious software like ransomware.
To avoid this situation, you should ask your employees not to subscribe to untrustworthy mailing lists. Also, invest in a robust anti-spam software that eliminates unwanted emails and links.
There are some other ways to improve the security of your email.
- Create separate email accounts for financial information and social media notifications/
- Don’t click on suspicious links in emails, especially if they’re from senders you don’t know.
- Always choose very strong passwords with a combination of numbers, letters and symbols. Remember that a hacker can easily guess simple passwords.
- Consider using a secure sockets layer to establish encryption and send email safely.
- Be extra careful when opening any email attachment as 9 out of 10 viruses infect computer systems via attachments. It’s advisable to scan every attachment before you open it.
5. Keep All Your Software Up to Date
This should be your first step in preventing security risks. Outdated software often increases the chance of your systems becoming a cybercriminal’s target. So, update your security program regularly.
To save time, set all your software programs to install updates automatically. This will make it much more difficult for cyber attackers to infiltrate your computer network and website.
Here are some essential things to consider when buying an antivirus software.
- Remember, a reliable antivirus software must protect against spyware and malware.
- Go for an antivirus solution that can provide a “quick scan.” It will give you peace of mind if you don’t have time for a full computer scan.
- Choose an antivirus that is capable of performing file download scanning and email scanning, as sometimes hazardous elements are concealed in files and emails.
- Though it may seem like common-sense, most people forget to check compatibility with their computer operating system. Do this before you make a purchase!
6. Have a Separate Network for Payment
Keeping your payment terminal network separate from your general network minimizes the chances of a cyber-attack to a great extent.
In most cases, a hacker accesses your system via your employees. By hacking the employee’s computer system via an infected email, attackers get access to data in your network.
When you keep your payment terminal on a separate network that has authorization just for one or two individuals, the risk of a cyberattack is lowered automatically. Thus, attackers will have to work a lot harder to get in, meaning they will likely simply skip your business and move onto an easier target.
7. Strong Passwords
Always make sure that you change the default usernames and passwords on your networks as soon as possible. Such passwords are generally known to cyber attackers. If they remain unchanged, they can leave your business exposed to cybercriminals.
In addition, change your usernames and passwords every 90 days. Don’t forget, the longer a password remains the same, the higher the chance that it will be hacked. Never send your password or any other kind of sensitive data via email.
Pay special attention to passwords. Passwords that combine numbers, special symbols and letters in both uppercase and lowercase are harder to crack. For added security, you may use two-factor authentication.
Image source: The Latin Way
Check out some quick tips for choosing a strong password below.
- Combine numeric and alphabetical characters to create a strong password.
- Use both upper and lowercase in your password to make it case sensitive.
- If your system allows, consider using symbols in your password.
- Choose obscure words to include in the password. For instance, (here’s looking at you) can be written as [email protected] However, stay away from general dictionary words that are easy to guess.
8. Protect Your Computer Network
There are numerous security software options available on the market that can test your network and payment terminals for breach vulnerability. Investing in professional security software will pay off.
So, always look for reliable anti-virus and anti-malware software. You should look for a complete security package that includes malware clean up and website penetration testing.
9. Backup Frequently
Regular backups are one of the best ways to protect your business against data loss. When you have backups of your important files securely stored, you can quickly recover them all in the event of a cyber-attack.
Recovery from a backup usually involves restoring data to the original location. This entire process takes only a few minutes. Nowadays, most hosting providers allow website owners to configure cPanel backups, so make sure you find one that does.
A lot of people are not aware that having a proper data backup system can help them in the following scenarios.
- Your computer system may crash at any moment, and you can lose days of data in the absence of a good backup system.
- God forbid if a thief finds their way to your office and steals your computer systems and laptops. Data backups can help you get all your crucial data back in case of physical theft.
- Data backup helps you prevent data loss in the event of virus attack.
- Hard drives and solid-state drives can fail, and you can lose all your data. Therefore, you need a solid data backup plan in advance.
See our post on the best backup hard drives.
10. Educate Your Co-workers or Staff on Cyber Safety
Even if you’re investing in state-of-the-art monitoring and security tools, you can’t be sure about cybersecurity if your staff doesn’t know the basics of possible threats.
Your employees may not be aware that unwanted emails, pop-ups and links can severely hurt your online business. It’s your responsibility to inform them about how to secure their device and choose powerful passwords to ensure the security of sensitive data.
Check out some quick tips to train your workers in cybersecurity.
- Arrange a live training, in which one of your employees experiences job-specific cyber issues. This live training must showcase different solutions to deal with that issue.
- Initiate a cyber awareness program right from the onboarding process. It will help build a mindset that every worker needs to follow cybersecurity protocols.
- From time to time, perform evaluations of both computer systems and employees to know how vulnerable your online business is to cyber-attacks.
- Look for some ideal ways to communicate cybersecurity information with your entire staff.
- Consider appointing a tech leader in every department of your organization. This will help you promote cybersecurity culture within your organization.
During the last few years, the number of internet crimes has increased dramatically. Businesses that are victims of cyber-attacks not just suffer from financial loss but also from customer trust and loyalty issues. So, regardless of the size of your business, protecting your customers’ information should be your top priority.
Not only does strong online security help you reduce the risk of falling victim to data sabotage, it also protects your workstations from spyware and other forms of malware. With good security practices, you can ensure that your crucial data is secured.
If you want to take the security of your online business to the next level and protect your customers’ sensitive information from cyber attackers, be sure to follow the 10 steps mentioned above.
About the author: Roman Daneghyan is a social media marketing, content marketing, link building and SEO expert.