We are in a computerized world, and that comes with all kinds of pros and cons. And, one of those cons involves privacy and security in a world where cyber criminals spend every waking minute seeking ways to benefit from any vulnerability in your online systems. So, today, let’s discuss how to improve your cybersecurity.
Internet fraudsters get smarter and more creative every day. They even share secrets for scamming consumers, gaining access to sensitive data, encrypting your data to deny access to legitimate businesses until they pay a ransom, or otherwise disrupt your business on the dark web. Sign onto sites using the dark web browser Tors (or any of several other browsers designed for users who have evil on their minds), and you find subroutines and entire programs that save evil doers the time and trouble of writing their own code to aid their nefarious actions. An entire industry of criminals exists for the sole purpose of finding ways to get into your system. Once they gain access to your system, they know everything about your clients and customers (including stored information such as credit card numbers), your money (including bank account data), and all the information they need to damage your business and reputation. With this in mind, it’s more important than ever that you continuously update your systems, optimize your cybersecurity, and train employees on proper security measures.
Improve your cybersecurity
To combat the array of hackers trying to damage your business for their own gain, you need to improve your cybersecurity. A wide range of actions keeps you one step ahead of criminals.
Protect your passwords
It seems a simple activity, but passwords represent a serious threat and create a vulnerability that even the most unsophisticated criminal might exploit. Here are some actions to take related to your password:
- Choose strong passwords that combine numbers, letters, and special characters. Longer and more varied combinations are much harder to guess even with password cracking software that generates a brute force attack on a system (BTW, a search for password cracking software on Google generated over 38 million hits). It goes without saying that you shouldn’t use passwords that anyone can guess, such as birthdays, kid’s or spouse’s names, or birthplace. Yes, I know it’s hard to remember all those passwords, but the alternative leaves you open to criminals.
- Never use the same password on multiple platforms.
- Change your password frequently.
- Never stay logged on to a device once you step away. Even if you only plan to leave for a few minutes, take the time to log off unless you leave the device in a secure location, such as a locked office.
- Set your devices and websites to time out after a short period of inactivity.
- Don’t let someone see you enter your password or pin.
- Never, and I mean never, write down your passwords
Phishing involves sending spam emails with invalid links or sending emails that pretend they’re from colleagues or companies you do business with when, in fact, they’re from scammers. Even the Hillary Clinton campaign fell victim to a phishing scheme that damaged her election.
Phishing scams sneak in, often undetected, because they look innocent or legitimate. And if you accidentally click the wrong link because you’re distracted or think the link is authentic, you could compromise your whole business. Using a virtual assistant helps to reduce the chances you’ll fall prey to phishing, as they monitor everything on your behalf and have experience looking for fraudulent links that made it passed your email server.
In addition to gaining access to your passwords, phishing attacks may embed a trojan horse into your system. This is a common way that firms get infected with malware. Although a trojan horse gains access through phishing attacks, it might also enter the computer by finding a back door.
Train employees to improve your cybersecurity
Training your staff in data security also helps tighten the seals around your company. Ensure employees only have access to data necessary for their jobs, force employees to change passwords frequently, and require strong passwords. Take a page from some of the most secure federal agencies by eliminating the use of thumb drives and other external storage devices, require employees to access data through company computers or via the firm’s internet (see the section on VPNs below), and train employees to recognize phishing.
If you can’t afford your own cybersecurity team, you can outsource this function to another firm to ensure everyone understands the role they play in keeping business and client information secure. Visit spectrumwise.com to help understand how this training could work for you.
A company like this also assesses other aspects of your IT security to ensure you’re fully protected. They will highlight any areas of vulnerability before a criminal find them.
Secure your devices
As criminals become savvier, developers find ways to plug the holes that allowed criminals access to your system and produce patches. You must install these updates immediately to protect your system. A few years ago, criminals discovered a vulnerability in computers running a version of Windows that was 2-3 generations old. The scammers installed ransomware on the systems that encrypted the data until the ransom was paid – in untraceable Bitcoin. This means you need to regularly update all your firmware, software, and anti-malware. When a new version comes out – hit install.
Firewalls and VPN
You should always use a firewall to protect your systems and set up a log so you can trace attempts to access your systems. The Security Incident and Event Management (or SIEM) system, for instance, gives you a detailed analysis of issues that occur. Using this information, you can understand where you are most vulnerable. Make sure you encrypt all your data files, too – regardless of where you store them as this helps protect the information on your computer, in your cloud, or on your smartphone.
Similarly, a VPN or virtual private network protects you by running all your data through a remote network using a secure connection. Not only does this protect you when using public (and therefore suspicious) WIFI, it also allows employees to work remotely without threatening your security.
With the digital world evolving as fast as it does today, understanding the latest trends and ensuring you are protected helps you avoid any crises. It protects you, your staff, and your clients.
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