Be Cyber Safe: 10 Critical Steps to Protect Your Business From Online Attacks, Data Loss and Other Cyber Threats

37145360 - virus attack concept. control panel with red light and warning. conceptual image symbol of computer infection.Having worked online and with clients online for the past 20 years, I have seen all types of potential online threats.

The number of online threats has increased substantially in the past two years. The word cyber war is not an exaggeration. Understanding the threats and taking preventative measures can help minimize the risk of these threats to your own business substantially.

There are many risks for your business. The most common are:
1. Malware on your website that shuts down your site
2. Malware on your computer or network of computers (such as viruses, spyware, adware, bottlenets) that prevents work and compromises security of others you work with.
3. Spam and phishing scheme that gets your email or logins – cybercriminals have become savvy in their attempts to lure people in and get you to click on a link or open an attachment.
4. Data loss and financial loss from ransomware – ransomware is a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid.
5. Hacked accounts that steal personal information or customer information

Ways to Protect Your Business from Cyber Attacks:
1. Keep All Machines Clean with Latest Versions of Security Software
Having the latest operating system, software, web browsers, anti-virus protection and apps are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats. This also means cleaning your cache to remove any spyware and cookies. Also remove apps and software that you are no longer using. Delete regularly your cache and stored passwords.

2. Back Up Your Data.
Protect your valuable work, photos, music and digital information by regularly making back-ups. Keep a relatively current back-up offline that is not connected to your network. Unplug your external hard drive from USB when you are not backing up. Keep in mind that malware can spread through networked and connected devices. Make sure to regularly check that your back-up system is working. Many times it can be disconnected and you are not aware that back-ups are not being automatically done. Make certain to back up your mobile devices as well.

3. Maintain Your Website:
Your website is your digital presence for your business and often a funnel for your leads and shopping for clients. Its most important that downtime is minimized. This means you need to update your security plugins and other core plugins frequently. We recommend monthly if possible. Add current captchas to your site or better yet, use marketing automation tools to capture client information and avoid spam. Have a reliable back-up process in place. Consider using a malware scanning service with your hosting and an extra back-up service so you can access older versions of your site. Take offline back-ups that are stored in a safe place as well especially after doing major content updates. If you are collecting personal information use SSL to have a more secure hosting. SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. This link ensures that all data passed between the web server and browsers remain private and integral. You can purchase this with your host. further Google is now ranking SSL sites better so it will help with your search engine rankings.

4. Be Cautious
Don’t open attachments and click on links from unknown sources. Always check the url address that you are clicking on by hovering over it first. If it looks suspicious don’t click on it. Many phishing scams use similar looking domain addresses to ones you know. Take care that the source you are providing your credit card to is secure (using SSL and is a reliable payment gateway). Always check the security of the website before providing personal information. Watch for any unauthorized charges to your accounts as well so you can catching a problem early on.

5. Use Two Step Authentication
Two step verification on accounts when available will enhance your security. Watch for any unauthorized charges to your accounts. Fortify your online accounts by enabling the strongest authentication tools available, such as biometrics, security keys or a unique one-time code through an app on your mobile device. Your usernames and passwords are not enough to protect key accounts like email, banking and social media.

6. Make Better Passwords
A strong password is at least 12 characters long and has a combination of special characters, caps and numbers. You should have a unique password for each account. Contact the website immediately and follow any steps they have for recovering an account, if you cannot access your account because your password has been changed.

7. Personal Security
Take care not to give out too much personal information. Use security and privacy settings on apps to manage what is given out about you. Disable wifi and Bluetooth when not in use. Also use locks on your devices to secure them. Keeping a lock on your deice can prevent personal information from being stolen if you lose or have your phone stolen. Don’t forget to learn how to use your “Find my iPhone” App.

8. Connect With Care
Be knowledgeable about wifi hotpots. Public wireless networks are not secure which means that others can potential see what you are doing on your Smartphone or laptop while you are connected. Avoid login in to key account like email and financial services while on public wifi. Take care using public links on shared documents including google drive.

9. Watch Out
Be suspicious of things that are too good to be true and that ask for personal information. Fraudulent emails, texts and voicemails are on the rise. Requests for personal data or immediate action are often scams.

10. What to Do When Hacked
Immediately change all login information. If it’s an email spam scam, notify all your contacts. Clean your device using up-to-date scanning software and removal tools. Be organized with your passwords and don’t store them in an unsafe place.

You may not be able to prevent all online security breaches but you can minimize the risk by having a plan when something goes wrong. Security locks, regular back-ups and keeping personal information safe is a good start. There are many services that can help you with back-up systems for various levels of business risk.

It’s important to have a plan in place. Contact us for more information about our website maintenance packages to keep your website clean and secure.

List of Free security Check-up tools
Official Google Blog
Stop Think Connect Educational Resources