A few years ago, most business was conducted within the walls of their own office. Important documents were typed up, printed, and filed away in a safe place at the company. However, in the past few years, it seems that you can not run a business without using the internet.

Important information is being stored in computer databases, and many things are even being uploaded to a virtual cloud so that the files can be accessed from any computer within the company.

Having everything accessible by your network means that if one computer becomes compromised, all of the data that you are trying to keep safe within the company’s network can become vulnerable to an attack, as well.

Rise of Data Breaches and Identity Theft in 2017

Cyber attacks are on the rise because of this increased use of technology; in fact, there have been over 30 major incidents already in 2017 that have affected companies and their customers or people who are in some way associated with the company that was compromised.

Since many companies that we deal with have our personal information on file, this means that your name, phone number, your credit card information, and even your social security number could be leaked to the hackers. Let’s take a look at a few recent hacks.

Worst Data Breach Ever

Your business does not need to be the target of the breach. For example, the Equifax breach that occurred recently is considered to be one of the worst breaches of our time because it affected 143 million American consumers that had ties with this credit agency. This attack compromised the most information including social security numbers, drivers license numbers, and credit card numbers.

Gmail Cyber Attack

Many of us use Gmail accounts for our personal email as well as our business, so when a phishing scam targeted Gmail users earlier this year, Google put a stop to it in merely an hour, but many still clicked on the link and about one million users became compromised.

4 Tips to Keep Yourself Safe

Most people in this highly advanced technological world work on their laptop, which means that the device and all of the information that you use at work also goes home with you.

Of course, you may not access your work files while you are at home, but do you open up your laptop at night to browse the web, chat on Facebook, or simply check out Youtube videos that you may have an interest in? Most of us do, which is why the employees of a company are where the network is the most vulnerable. How can you protect yourself?

1. Create Strong Passwords

The point of your password is to keep others from gaining access to your account, which means that you should not select a password that is easy to guess like your name.

You should also never use something simple like the word password, the letters ABCDEFG, or the numbers 123456. Sadly, these are commonly used passwords, and as a result, these are the most vulnerable accounts.

Passwords should be unique for each account. If one account becomes vulnerable, using the same password makes all of your accounts accessible to the hacker. To avoid this, you can create a base password with capital letters, lowercase letters, and numbers.

A good way to create a base password is to think of a sentence like “I have two cats named Boots and Fluffy” and use the first letter of each word. Ih2cnBaF would be the base password, then add the first two consonants and the first two vowels of the account to the end.

If this is your Gmail account, the password would be Ih2cnBaFGmai. For Verizon, it would be Ih2cnBaFVrei. This allows you to create endless passwords that you can easily remember.

2. Use Two-Step Authorization

Two-step authorization is a way to give you a double layer of protection on an account. When you put in your password, the system will automatically send you a message on your cell phone that gives you a code that you need to input as well before gaining access to the account. So, if someone figures out your password, they still will not have the additional confirmation code unless they have your cell phone as well. Some companies use physical keys to give access codes, but many are simply utilizing a device that you already have.

3. Be Wary of Phishing Emails

Phishing is designed to get you to open an email so that the hacker has access to your personal information. Phishing can also be done through social media platforms as well. This is one of the most common ways that identity theft occurs, so protect yourself from phishing by:

  • Not opening emails from unknown senders
  • Disregarding emails that are not personalized
  • Never following unknown websites

4. Keep Software Up-to-Date

Software updates are often released to the public to help close a security gap that was discovered in the programming. To make sure that your information is always secure, update your software whenever you see that there is a new update available. Many applications can be set to automatically update on your devices.

4 Tips to Keep Your Business Safe

If you own a business, you need to protect it from hackers to keep your network safe as well as your customer’s information. Many of the steps that you can take to protect yourself apply to your business as well, but here are some additional tips that you can use to safeguard your business:

1. Train Your Employees

Your employees are the number one way hackers infiltrate your business. So cyber security training for your employees can be the first line of defense for your company. Start at the top and make sure that your senior employees are just as aware of how to prevent breaches in the company as the new employees are.

Do you know that over 80 percent of most employees in a company use their private emails to send out files containing sensitive information? If you can improve the awareness of your employees, a targeted individual will be less likely to affect the entire network.

2. Install an Antivirus

An antivirus is a great way to detect when a computer has been infected quickly. It can detect malware as well as viruses that may be on the system, but if your employees use their own devices, then it may be a bit less secure, but you can encourage your employees to install a specific software package so that you know everyone is protected.

3. Keep Software Up-to-Date

We already talked about how keeping software on your personal computer up-to-date is important, but the same is true of a business. Whether you have 10 employees or 100, you need to make sure that any software or applications that they need to complete their daily tasks are updated.

A great way to do this is to set the network in your office to scan for new updates on a nightly basis. That way, if an update is released that is designed to protect against a security leak, your entire network will be protected in the morning. If your employees bring their own laptops, then initiate an update search in the morning when they connect to the network.

4. Look Into Cyber Security Insurance

Cyber Security insurance is a form of protection that you can have as a business owner that protects you if an attack on your company does occur. A business that has been hacked can experience a lot of loss, especially when personal information is stolen, so having insurance is a great way to cover any loses that occurred while you are trying to recover from a compromised state.

Final Thoughts

Keeping your business protected from cyber attacks is crucial in the technological world that we live in, so if you own a business, start protecting yourself and your customers from these attacks. Your employees can be the first line of defense to keeping your business safe and eliminating vulnerabilities within your company’s infrastructure. Hopefully, you have learned how to keep your business safe from hackers, but if you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them below.

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Steve Orowitz
Steve Orowitz is a recently retired small business operator and is now a consultant. He is passionate about entrepreneurship, travel, and technology. When he isn't consulting, you can usually find him out on the river with his fly rod, or hiking in the hills near his home in Fort Collins Colorado.

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