Most days, a company’s website or other vital Internet accounts will not be hacked. This can provide a false sense of internet security for small business owners who are busy with sales, marketing, product development, and projects. Yet when that one security breach does come, compromising customers’ credit card numbers and personal information, the company’s financial data, and the stability of the website, the results can be catastrophic. That’s why it’s essential to maintain a high level of Internet security at all times, starting with these three crucial tips:
Strong passwords are not optional
Internet thieves are constantly searching for new ways to crack ever more complicated passwords. Hackers don’t get complacent, but many small business owners and webmasters too often do. Any break in the chain of Internet passwords, such as a single password for an email, PayPal, website administration, banking, or social media account can lead to a cascade of damage, as vital information is stolen from one source and used to access another.
This is the reason a business should select only long, complex passwords and never repeat the same password for two different accounts. The best way to do this is use password management software that generates and stores encrypted copies of random combinations of letters, numbers, and symbols for each account.
Hackers can attack from far away, but also from next door
Many businesses use state of the art software to protect themselves from cyber-criminals lurking in the distant regions of the web, yet leave a virtual door wide open into the company via poor Wi-Fi security. Hackers don’t just work from their bedrooms; they are targeting businesses from close range with increasing frequency. They could be sitting in the lobby or a neighboring business with their laptop, “sniffing” information off of a company’s Wi-Fi network. They could even be searching through the trash for a slip of paper with a password written on it.
These vulnerabilities can be fixed by using WPA2 encryption on routers, changing the default password on the router, and taking advantage of the latest technology by buying routers that offer the ability to monitor each device that connects to a network. Additionally, each computer, including those employees used to work at home, should be equipped with a quality firewall program.
Keep access limited even within the company
Cyber-attacks can come from any angle. A disgruntled employee who wants to harm the business that just gave him a two week termination notice can do a tremendous amount of damage. If he knows the company’s passwords or is able to install malicious software onto a computer in the office before leaving the firm, he could steal proprietary information, fraudulently transfer funds, or simply electronically vandalize the company’s website.
Even the most honest employees can be security risks, as their lack of knowledge about the threat of hacking, or just plain carelessness, can lead them to accidentally compromise Internet security. This means that a prudent small business owner distributes passwords only on a need to know basis. This wise owner will also prohibit their employees from downloading any software that isn’t proven to be both clean of viruses and necessary for the company’s operations.
Prepare for the worst
Business owners can take every precaution to protect their company from cyber-attacks, yet still make one mistake: they fail to back up important information. It’s bad enough to have private files compromised, but to lose them entirely is disastrous. No internet security system is totally safe, that’s why it’s necessary to use a cloud backup system to automatically store copies of a business’s financial records, inventory, client lists, and human resource documents away from office computers. These files can also be manually downloaded on a weekly basis to offline, offsite storage devices.
The cautious business owner sleeps soundly
Like a natural disaster or physical robbery, a cyber-attack might not be completely avoidable, but the chances of one happening can be greatly reduced by taking these first three steps, while the harm done can be minimized with the fourth tip. It’s also vital that business owners regularly check in on the current advice for Internet security in this ever-changing cyber battleground.
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