10 Ways To Protect Your Small Business From Cyber Hackers

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Computer hacking Charging $500 for a pair of pants couldn’t buy Neiman Marcus Internet security. Nor could America’s 3rd largest retailer – Target - keep from getting its customer information ripped off.

So, if heavyweights like these corporations can be compromised, what’s to stop an enterprising hacker from getting into your small business’ systems and wreaking havoc for you, your employees and your customers? Well, nothing really. But taking all ten of these precautions can make it a heck of a lot more difficult.
 

Change default passwords as soon as you install anything.

While changing from the default password on new software is one of the simplest, most obvious things you can do to protect every piece of information you have, you’d be surprised how many people don’t do it. You know who’s NOT surprised? Hackers. And making your new password “Password,” - with a ‘CAPITAL P’ - isn’t fooling anybody either. Which brings us to my next point…

Make sure your passwords include a variety of characters, and change them frequently.

Forbes suggests changing passwords every two months. Yes, it may result in you forgetting your passwords and feverishly entering the birthdays of all six of your cats - with both hyphens AND dashes - until you get it right. And yes, your employees will complain about it when you’re not around. Both are preferable to large-scale data theft.

Encrypt your data.

When your data is just sitting there, watching reruns of “ALF” or whatever data does when it’s not being transmitted over the Internet, it needs to be encrypted or a hacker can just waltz right in and read it. Almost every computer’s got encryption software standard (Bitlockers on PCs, FileVault on Macs) and all you need to do is activate it. The programs only work when you’re logged out of the system, though, so make sure you and your employees log out every time. A good way to ensure this….

Train your employees extensively.

Unfortunately, employees don’t always put as much effort into protecting your company’s data as they do protecting their incriminating photos on Facebook. This might be why negligent employees are the #1 cause of security breaches, according to the Small Business Administration. To make sure they know everything necessary to protect proprietary information, have regular training sessions detailing everything they need to do to keep the company safe.

Lock your network.

There are hackers who spend their days driving around commercial areas looking for unsecured wireless networks to join. Because once they’re in, it’s just a hop, skip and a jump to all your valuable data. The best way to defend against this is to keep your network completely wired, but if that’s not practical you can turn off the service set identifier (SSID). This makes it invisible to network searches, and only those with the exact name of the network can join.

Protect hardware.

Office break-ins are a reality. And even if the stolen hardware is insured the information ON that hardware isn’t. So lock everything down like it’s a chair in a prison cafeteria: Put locks on desktops, cable servers to permanent fixtures, and do anything else you can do to make the process of taking something that much harder. Thieves don’t have much time and will move on to easier prey.

Protect company smartphones.

You know that panic you feel when you lose your phone, because you think some stranger might see all the pictures of, um…..puppies and Easter baskets you’ve got on there? Go ahead and multiply that by a billion when it has confidential company data. Your best protection is a password, plus a system to deactivate the phone if it’s lost or stolen. Also, use Anti-Virus software. Whenever you get a new phone, purge the entire memory on your old one before tossing it away.

Use a dedicated computer for banking.

That adorable viral video of a 4-year-old dancing to “Single Ladies” that got sent around your office? Yeah, hackers used that to get into your system. So, since even seemingly innocuous, non-financial websites can be used to compromise your security, Forbes suggests having one dedicated computer for all finances. But when you’re done with it…

Erase all your hard drives completely.

You thought just because you had the Office Depot guys haul away your old copy machine - with a hard drive full of every document you ever printed, scanned or copied - the information is gone? Think again. All that can be pretty easily retrieved. So you can either A) delete everything before you get rid of your hardware or B) have a little fun and go all “Office Space” on the stuff in an abandoned field somewhere.

Outsource payment.

When you accept Visa, MasterCard, Amex, Discover, Diners Club or any other credit card, those companies set out a big nasty set of rules to ensure security that can be prohibitively expensive. PayPal will do all that for you and customers still consider it a perfectly viable method of payment.

Image courtesy of hyena reality / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Matt Meltzer

Matt Meltzer is a professor of business communication at the University of Miami. He is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and holds a bachelors degree in business administration from UM, as well as a Masters of Mass Communication from the University of Florida.

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