You’ve most likely heard the stories of Fortune 500 companies like Target, Walmart, Sony, T-Mobile and Home Depot being hacked. Even government agencies like the State Department and the White House have fallen victim to data breaches just within the past couple of years. But what about small businesses?
You don’t hear many stories of small business data breaches hitting the National News, though it is happening way more than you think. In fact, according to the 2015 Verizon Cyber Crime Survey, 62% of cyber-attacks are aimed at small businesses. Another research study conducted by the Poneman Institute indicated that 50% of small to mid-sized businesses experienced at least 1 data breach during its existence.
Staggering statistics like these are enough to make any small business consider implementing additional cyber security measures. Luckily, there are cost-effective solutions you can implement to strengthen your defenses against such attacks. First, let’s discuss what these hackers are looking for.
What do these hackers want, anyway?
The chart to the left was created by breachlevelindex.com in 2015. It breaks down the number of breach incidents by type. Despite popular belief, the majority of hackers on the internet are not just looking to steal your bank information. They want to steal your identity! Other threats include account access, existential data, or just plain nuisance to the user.
How Hackers Attack
Hackers attack from many different angles. It may come in the form of an email attachment, a malicious website, a phone call, or even a friend request. It’s important that you understand first what you are up against so you can identify warning signs and take the proper precautions. Below is a list of the more common threats that are known to cause major issues for businesses online.
Malware is considered any software that is created with the intent of damaging or disabling computer systems. Many times malware comes in the form of a download either directly from the internet, or sent to you as an attachment in an email. You could also visit a malicious website that requires you to click on a link that looks legitimate, but actually downloads a virus.
There are a variety of malware programs such as Spyware, Ransomware, Trojans, and Scareware just to name a few. Once downloaded, these programs wreak havoc on your computer systems by slowing your system down, changing your settings, and stealing personal information. Your computer may even lock up and be rendered unusable.
Hackers who manipulate users to give up their personal information by posing as someone else is called Social Engineering. Some examples are emails asking you to donate to a charity, or claiming that you won a prize. You might even receive a phone call or voicemail stating there is something wrong with your customer account and that you need to contact them right away. Some hackers will even try to bait you on social media by posing as a friend, or contact you through a chat trying to gather as much information as possible to use against you.
Spam has been around for quite some time, and it doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. Spammers are continuously coming up with new gimmicks to get you to join their email lists, or buy their products. Spam is not usually a direct threat to the email user, though it is sometimes used as a way to distribute malware. Luckily, most email providers have implemented stricter security features to help protect and filter your emails.
Unsecured Wi-Fi is an open door for hackers. If you do not set a secure password for your Wi-Fi connection, hackers can connect to your computer or mobile devices and steal your personal information. This is especially true when it comes to Wi-Fi or hot spots used in public places. Most of these connections are unsecured and open your devices up to possible attacks.
Protect Your Small Business from Attack
So what can we do to keep our businesses safe from potential attacks? The first step is education. Educate yourself and your employees on what to do and what not to do online. Implement a cyber security policy for users to follow. Then, regularly enforce and update these policies to stay secure.
Use Strong Passwords and Keep them Private
I know you’ve heard this one before…Create strong passwords. Don’t use your dog’s name, your birthdate, or your home address, just to name a few. Here’s why. Personal information about yourself could be easily accessed by hackers looking to gain control of your computer.
For example: You have pictures all over social media of your beloved dog Fido and have your birthdate of June 2, 1975 listed in your public profile. Then you use use Fido6275 as your password to get into your online banking site. How secure do you think your bank information is with this password?
Create strong passwords that contain upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Be sure not write your passwords on sticky notes that are posted to your computer monitor. Set passwords for all your mobile devices and keep them locked when unattended.
Configure Your Router and Firewall
Both your firewall and router control the information that is passed back and forth through your computer and the internet. Securing your router and configuring your firewall software adds extra levels of security to your internet connection. And as mentioned above, creating strong passwords for each is highly recommended.
Install Anti-malware Software
Anti-malware software, such as Webroot and AVG, work to detect possible malware threats on an ongoing basis. It’s important to get a paid version of anti-malware software to ensure you have access to all the features of the software. Most free versions only give you partial protection. Once installed, the software will alert you if any threats are found, then remove them to avoid infection. This software will periodically update to include new threats so it can keep your computers virus free in real time.
Regularly Apply Software Updates
Your operating system and other software will often come out with software updates and patches to fix security flaws or holes in the original software. Patches and updates are created by the software manufacturer to fix them and are made available to the user for free at the time of its release. It’s important to apply these updates as they are made available to keep your software secure and up to date.
Backup Your Data
Even though we have some great options to safeguard our data, nothing is 100% secure. For this reason, implementing a backup plan to secure your data is essential. A backup will copy and archive your computer data so that it may be restored in the unfortunate event of an attack. Many small businesses realize the importance of data backups after an attack occurs and it’s too late.
If you need help with implementing any of these security features, Cleartech Group offers a variety of security solutions for your business. Our expertise in IT support and management has earned the trust of clients in the Leominster and surrounding areas.
Call us today at 978-466-1938, and one of our service technicians will be happy to help you with your IT needs.