One of the worst fears for any business, is that they will fall prey to hacking or an online scam, and as a result, lose their precious data and potentially have their entire operation compromised beyond repair.
The digital Internet age has brought an extraordinary number of benefits and has forever transformed the way in which we do business. Now, for the first time in history, even small-sized businesses can operate across the globe, and can handle complicated logistical matters at the click of a button.
But with these benefits, has come a whole array of new ways in which we may fall prey to predatory forces and activities. Data theft is no small thing. If your business is hacked, transactions can be carried out on your behalf, you can be locked out of your accounts, the security of your customers and clients can be majorly jeopardized, and your reputation in your industry can suffer enormous and irreparable damage.
Keeping all of that in mind, it’s not much of a stretch to suggest that protecting your digital data is one of the most essential things for you to do as a small business owner, or entrepreneur in general.
Here are some tips for safeguarding your data from malicious outside forces.
Get Your Most Precious Info Off The Cloud
“The cloud” refers to a system of storing data across various servers and syncing it across devices, via the Internet, instead of storing it locally on your own servers, or hard drives.
Cloud storage is increasingly popular in many different types of business. Apps dealing with things such as personal finance will use cloud syncing, in order to make it easier for you to track your expenses on the go – via your phone, your tablet, or any number of computers you might use throughout the day.
Likewise, apps such as MyFitnessPal, which are focused around nutrition, health and fitness, sync to the cloud in order to facilitate the same “always accessible” mode of operation.
Clearly, cloud data storage can streamline all sorts of tools, software programs, and business experiences. But it would be a mistake to think that storage in the cloud was the ideal solution for every issue.
By its very nature, the cloud is vulnerable to certain attacks. The most reputable and secure companies will have all sorts of mechanisms in place to prevent their cloud services from being hacked. Nonetheless, hacks do still occur, and it’s hard to say for certain that your priceless data will be impervious against any creative hacker who might have a go at cracking it.
A good rule of thumb might be to keep things on the cloud that you are not staking the entire survival of your business on, and to keep your most precious data secured in non-cloud locations. Extra points if those non-cloud storage locations are also rarely, or perhaps never, connected to the Internet.
Activate Two-Factor Authentication
The problem with passwords is that they can be cracked, and once they are cracked, a hacker often has the ability to violate your privacy and exploit your data at their leisure, before you become aware that something has gone wrong.
One effective solution which is being applied more and more these days, is the use of what is known as “two-factor authentication.” What two-factor authentication is, in essence, is a way of introducing a “second password” for use with logging into your various accounts.
The interesting, and defining feature of two-factor authentication, however, is that this “second factor” is not a static password at all. Rather, you will either be texted a new code by the company each time you attempt to login, or your use an app such as Authy to sign in with a rapidly expiring random code.
Two-factor authentication is the way of the future when it comes to password security. It means that even if your password is broken, you still have a very effective security barrier in place, before your data is laid bare.
Always Double Check And Confirm Any Suspicious Communications Before Following Up On Them
When it comes to answering the question of how to protect your data most effectively, you will hear all kinds of arguments about the best tools to use, the most secure web hosts, the ideal data storage system, and so on.
And yet, for all that, much data theft still happens as a result of people replying to – and sending private information to — scam emails and messages.
Banking services are now in the habit of warning their customers that they never ask for sensitive details such as pin numbers over the phone, or via email. The reason they display this disclaimer, is because many scammers have been successful in sending emails which appear to be from a given bank, requesting that kind of sensitive information.
Then, you even hear stories of people being scammed into giving up sensitive details to people who are posing as their bosses at work, or other close colleagues. Simply glancing at the name attached to an email that has been sent out is not always a reliable way of making sure that you’re not being scammed.
You should also look at the web address carefully, and most importantly of all, you should confirm any suspicious communication through a second line of contact, before acting on it. So, for example, if you get a suspicious email from your bank – phone up the number on the back of your card and confirm whether or not the message was genuine.
Change Your Passwords Regularly And Avoid Using The Same Password For Everything
Humans are creatures of habit, and one of the habits we all too often subject ourselves to is to use a “comfortable password” for absolutely all of our online accounts, subscriptions, chat programs, and so on.
Of course, it’s only natural for people to use passwords that incorporate memorable and personal elements from their own private lives. A childhood phone number, the name of a first pet, the name of a favorite book, and so on. All of this makes for a pretty secure password if it’s only used once or twice. But, if every single password you use for any given service, is the same – or at least contains the same elements – you’re putting yourself in a pretty insecure situation.
Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that passwords do get cracked from time to time, and this is bad enough in and of itself. But, if a hacker has managed to steal or guess a password to one service or account of yours, the damage is at least somewhat contained.
If, on the other hand, the hacker has access to all of your data, from all conceivable sources, as a result of cracking that one password, you’re in real trouble and your whole life – and certainly your business – can effectively unravel overnight as a result.
And this isn’t as rare as you might hope. Hackers know about our propensity to use the same password over and over again, and so, when a password is cracked for one account, or in one location, it will typically be tried rapidly on various other accounts, too.
Have A Decent Antivirus System In Place
These days, there are an immense array of antivirus systems available to people, and all of these boast some pretty remarkable benefits. Where once upon a time, an antivirus tool was simply a program that conducted a rudimentary scan, and identified malicious software, the antivirus programs of today can maintain a set of good security parameters, and achieve many different tasks at the same time.
It’s not uncommon for an antivirus system to be regularly self-updating, and to contribute to, and draw information from, a large central database which keeps it up to date on all the latest virus threats. This is important, as computer viruses and other malicious programs written by hackers are constantly evolving, and taking on newer, more ominous forms.
Antivirus software will also typically weed out malware – software programs that are not necessarily an immediate threat to the integrity of your computer, but which nonetheless create weak spots, and perform tasks such as data mining for advertising.
Then, many of the cutting-edge antivirus programs will also perform functions such as scanning emails, offering warnings when you wander onto questionable websites, automatically scanning portable information storage devices that you plug into your computer – such as external hard drives and memory sticks, et cetera.
From time to time, you hear stories about computer virus epidemics that have caused an immense amount of damage to various people’s well-being. And “epidemic” really is the right way to think about this, just as “virus” is the perfect metaphor for these malicious programs.
In order to protect yourself from this most fundamental line of attack, you should have a reputable antivirus system installed, and should ensure that it can meet the demands of your business model, and address some of the primary risks in your industry.