Small businesses have become a prime target for cyber criminals in recent years. The potential rewards are smaller than those available from hacking corporations, but small enterprises are softer targets. A cyber criminal can breach the security systems of hundreds of small businesses in the time it takes to hack the protections of a corporation.
The Internet offers great opportunities for entrepreneurs, and it makes running a business easier and more efficient. However, criminals have recognized the potential for profit, and they have developed hundreds of methods for committing online theft and fraud. Unless business owners understand the threats and take online security seriously, the risks of using the Internet can outweigh the benefits and rewards.
The following tips will help businesses avoid hacking and other cyber crimes.
1) Don't be complacent.
The majority attacks can be prevented easily. Carelessness and simple mistakes can open the door to hackers. Accessing the Internet is now part of everyday life, and this often leads to complacency. Online security should be taken as seriously as the need to lock the door to your business premises at night.
2) Install and update security software.
Connecting to the Internet without a firewall and antivirus software makes a business extremely vulnerable. Don't be tempted to rely on free antivirus software, as this offers limited protection. Spending a couple of hundred dollars on security software is an investment in the future of your business. As well as short-term financial losses, reputation damage caused by cyber attacks can last for years. Hackers develop ways to defeat security software over time, so always run updates to ensure you are running the latest versions available.
3) Use secure passwords.
Biometric security protections will replace passwords in the next couple of years, but for now, they are an effective tool for restricting access to IT systems and equipment. Passwords should be at least ten characters long and contain numbers and characters as well as letters. Using the same password for multiple accounts is very risky, and you should never share them with other people.
4) Be careful with public Wi-Fi.
Public Wi-Fi is a convenient way to access the Internet on the go, but it isn't secure for viewing sensitive data or carrying out online banking. Most public WI-FI networks aren't encrypted, and this means other people can see what websites you are visiting. Cyber criminals can use tools to snoop your browsing sessions and hijack information. Another tactic used to hack laptops and mobile devices is to set up malicious hotspots. Connecting to these allows criminals to access information and install malicious code on your devices.
5) Inform employees about the risks.
Any staff using company IT equipment should be advised of the risks of cyber crime. An innocent mistake could expose you to an attack. Social media accounts and gaming sites can contain viruses and malware, so employees should have restrictions on access to the Internet. Connecting external devices to company computers also carries risk and should be controlled.
Increased reliance on the Internet and developments in technology mean the threat of cyber attacks will increase over the coming years. Studies indicate that many small businesses aren't prepared for this, and they fail to recognize how vulnerable they are. Taking steps to increase security and raise awareness of cyber threats can prevent your business becoming a crime statistic.