The online world is a great place full of information, tips and guidance, but it also has a dark side. People are able to hide their identities and sometimes take advantage of this by carrying out criminal acts which they know will be difficult to trace back.
Everyone should take precautions to be safe when using the web, but especially business owners who often store sensitive information online. If an attack ever happens, it can cost companies not just money, but the trust of their customers. In November 2015, TalkTalk had 157,000 personal client records stolen, which caused them to lose roughly 100,000 customers.
Here’s 5 tips about how to keep your business secure.
1. Passwords are required for nearly everything online and that’s why it can become difficult to keep track of what goes where. Many people fall into the habit of keeping the majority of their passwords the same, but this really puts you in danger of being hacked. Just a few weeks ago the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, had his social media passwords cracked and surprisingly they were really simple. You’d think such a tech savvy guy would know better!
To make sure your passwords are secure you should make them lengthy and use a mixture of upper and lower case letters, punctuation, symbols and numbers. You should also try to think of something that isn’t related specifically to you, your date of birth or wife’s name are a big no-no. If you use social media, anyone could find out some of your most personal information which could potentially be used against you. If you’re struggling to think of a password, you can get randomly generated ones from sites such as Norton. If you want to keep track of all your passwords- because there can be a lot- you can use software such as LastPass which do a free or corporate version.
2. According to staysafeonline.org “more small business owners say they do not (45%) provide internet safety training to their employees than do (37%)”. If you own a business, you’ll have lots of staff members going online to do things associated with your company. Maybe you’ve got a social media manager or someone who sorts through your data? These individuals are your responsibility so make sure that you give them training about how to stay protected and safe online. If they make an innocent blunder it’s your business that will be left suffering. Put together a list of things that you want to brief staff members about, such as what’s in this blog, and arrange a meeting.
You should show people examples of what to look out for that could be potentially dangerous, spam emails are a prime example. They’re often designed to look like something you would trust, but if you click on the link it can plant a virus on your computer that will start stealing personal information.
Tip: You and your staff should never click on something which they are unsure about, and in particular, never enter any personal details. If something feels a bit strange or wrong, always get the opinion of someone else.
3. Always back everything up, it may seem obvious but life often gets in the way and this soon falls to the bottom of the list. If you use numerous devices for work its important you do these on a regular basis, because if just one unexpectedly breaks you could lose something important. Business owners are often travelling, working on the train, from cafes or meeting partners, if your phone was stolen then that’s a lot of numbers and data that you will lose. It’s just not worth it.
4. Free WiFi is available everywhere now and it’s tempting to join. However, this can be dangerous and lead to a serious breach of security. It’s being seen more and more that malicious people are creating their own hotspots and calling them names that are recognisable to deceive unknowing individuals. For example, if you’re sat in Costa they might call it ‘FreeCostaWiFi’, however, when you join they will be able to see everything on your computer and potentially steal information. To avoid this, you should make sure that if you ever go on free WiFi you don’t do anything that you wouldn’t want other people seeing. Browsing the internet for information is fine, but going on sites such as your internet banking could be dangerous.
It is recommended that if you own a business you use something called a VPN (Virtual Private Network). With this, you can keep your information safe when using public networks and make sure everything is kept secure.
5. Sometimes the most innocent things in work can cause trouble. Do you allow employees to plug their personal USB devices into computers? According to staysafeonline.org, 67% of business owners do. This can be really unsafe because sometimes people unknowingly have viruses on their USB devices and when they put them in different computers this can be passed on. It can be particularly bad if you have a shared network, if the virus gets into this then not only could important information be stolen, all of your files could be corrupted. This means you could potentially lose years of work.
You also have to be careful because although you may trust all of your employees, there have been cases of individuals stealing data from their work and selling it on. Don’t let this happen before you take action, be proactive rather than reactive and you will protect your business.