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Listen in! Pick up some expert advice to a reader's question that we selected from CyberSchmooz.

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A Business Owner Guide To Protecting Yourself from Cyber Attacks

 

The internet has brought many great things to society, but it also brings one major problem: cyberattacks. These happen to individuals, businesses, and governments. The massive attacks make headlines, but the small business attack is also threatening.

The large firms do offer a greater payoff, but they also have much bigger security budgets. Small businesses still have important data, and sometimes they're even used as a link to attack the bigger companies (through contractors).

To protect your business, your employees, and your customers, what can you do against cyberattacks?

 

Encrypt your data

The first and most important thing to do is encrypt your data. That is your business data, your employee data, and any communications. You should encrypt your machines and your networks. This way, even if hackers are able to break into your databases, they will only get useless scrambled data; if they are able to monitor your communications, they only get useless scrambled data.

Encryption is not difficult, and you don't need an entire IT team to do it. But it is a great tool for defending your business.

 

Lock and separate networks

If your office is run from WiFi, which is extremely common for small offices these days, the network should be locked. Having an open network is a beacon yelling "look at me! look at my traffic!" And if you offer WiFi to customers, keep it separate from your employee WiFi.

 

It isn't as important, but WiFi available to customers should also be locked. You can show the receipt in-store or print it on receipts, but keeping it locked is a good way to avoid malicious actors utilizing your network for malicious purposes. It might not help you directly, but you help the community, which indirectly helps you. 

 

Back up everything

Make backups of your information periodically. Ransomware has gained popularity in recent years, and this type of attack encrypts all your data until you pay. And then even after you pay (usually with a cryptocurrency), the hackers may not be willing, or even able, to unlock your data. The tool of encryption is great if you know the key, but if you don't, you have data that's as useless and scrambled as the encrypted data a hacker may have stolen.

 

This defense has the additional benefit of protecting against non-malicious hardware failure, like if your server dies or an employee accidentally deletes live information.

 

Educate your employees

Defense is only as strong as its weakest point. If your employees are cavalier in browsing the internet or sending confidential data over unencrypted messaging services, they will likely be the point of attack. A good way to get your employees on board is to show them how their own data can be compromised.

 

Show them how easy it is to steal credit cards or how phishing websites can be used to steal credentials - your business's or the employee's bank login details. Encourage employees to use your company VPN and encrypted email to avoid network traffic sniffing.         

 

Cyberattacks are here to stay. They are lucrative, and, due to the rapid expansion of information technology, many businesses are ill-prepared, making cyberattacks against some companies a low-hanging but high-payoff attack. Protecting yourself, your customers, and your employees is never 100% guaranteed, but you can make yourself a much less desirable - and therefore less likely - target.

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