Is Your Home Business Well Protected?

When you’re running a business from home, it can be very easy to fall into the trap of not taking it especially seriously. Now, this doesn’t mean that you don’t put in a huge amount of care and attention to the work that you do or that you don’t rely on the income for your business in order to make a living. Rather, it means that you see your business as somehow not quite as legitimate as a business that might be run from a professional office space. However, there’s one area of your business that you should always treat exactly as seriously as you would if you were running your business out of an office: security. If your business isn’t properly protected, then it could leave you in an incredibly dangerous position, and this is even more true for home business owners than any others. With that in mind, here are three ways to make sure that your home business is properly protected.

Cybersecurity

The assumption that most people make when they think about security and protection for a business is padlocks and security cameras. And sure, those are incredibly important, but in the modern age, there’s another kind of security that has become even more important: cybersecurity. Most business is conducted online these days, and without fully up to date anti-virus, anti-malware, and firewall software in place, your entire system is going to be pretty vulnerable. Make sure that you keep all of these as up to date as possible since that’s really the only thing keeping a lot of dedicated cyber criminals at bay.

Legal Support

When you start running any kind of business, no matter how small, you are going to find yourself dealing with issues of legality that you never had to understand before. This can be pretty overwhelming, but the last thing you want is to end up falling victim to or even accidentally engaging in, any kind of illegal activity. Because of this, it’s crucial that you get in touch with someone like The Law Office of Jaimee C. McDowell. That way you’ve always got someone who can protect you and your business and support you in the event of any illegal activity.

Home security

Of course, as important as cybersecurity is, you should also think about the premises for your business, aka, your home. A lot of intruders will assume that a home business is an easy target because it won’t have as many security features in place as an office. It’s important that you don’t prove them right and have an alarm system in place. After all, not only is this your place of business but it’s also where you live and break in can be incredibly traumatic for you and your family.

Of course, when it comes to some of these things, it’s a good idea to have these in place in your personal life anyway. Far too often we allow ourselves to fall into this false sense of security when we really could use a much greater level of protection than we have.

6 Steps to Starting a Lucrative Home-Based Business

Running a home-based business is the opportunity to work comfortably doing something you enjoy. As your own boss, you set the hours, make the rules, and keep all the profits. You can even make time to spend with the kids. That is why more and more people are considering starting a home business.

However, when starting any type of business, you have to prepare thoroughly: make a business plan, find investors and potential clients, appropriate workspace etc. A home-based business is no different – besides the workspace part, you’ve got that taken care of. In order to make it a successful one, there are steps you need to take before the opening day.

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Make a Wise Decision

There’s a difference between talents and skills. Talents are traits, like creativity. Skills are things you learn, such as coding apps or building fireplaces. It’s the combination of the two that translates to a business.

Use your skills as business ideas, but eliminate anything that’s wrong for your lifestyle, such as spot-welding in the living room. You can also disregard your corporate skills like “office manager” if you’re planning to work on your own.

You will need talents like initiative, innovation, discipline, and a sense of organization. If you can’t work efficiently and overcome obstacles, you won’t be in business for long.

Find the business concept that best fits your abilities. Whatever choice you make, it should be something you feel passionate about: you’ll have to invest a lot of time and energy into making your business a lucrative one, make sure you enjoy that time.

2. Legalize It

While you may have new-found freedom in your work, federal, state, and local authorities still require accountability. Find out what your business requires for proper licenses and permits.

Inquire about your tax obligations. As a sole proprietor, you’re responsible for your company’s taxes and debts. Compliance with tax law, licenses, insurance, and federal or state regulations can be complex. It’s always a good idea to consult with a business attorney to find the right solution for your business model and goals.

3. Set up the Office

Before setting up the home office, check if local ordinances allow you to conduct your business from home. Then, as you start planning, consider the surroundings. If you’ll meet clients there, both you and your house need to make a good impression: wearing clean clothes isn’t enough when you work at home. Your property must be well-maintained, clean and comfortable. A neat workspace tells clients that you will also take care of their business in an organized and dedicated way.

Even if your business is conducted mainly online, you’ll want a dedicated spot to work in. A separate room is best for minimizing distractions. If you don’t have one, set aside ample space in the living room, bedroom, or kitchen. You have to set boundaries with your family members to avoid distractions. A physical barrier is the easiest way to achieve that – if you don’t see each other, it will be easier to resist the need to hang out. In a separate room, you can be completely dedicated to work during working hours and give all your attention to your family when you close the office door.

4. Mind the Security

Don’t assume that homeowner’s insurance is enough to cover your business assets. You may need a separate policy rider for designated business assets.

To secure these assets, consider burglar alarms and surveillance cameras. You should always have a home-wired smoke alarm and fire extinguisher in your office. If you’re expecting to receive packages, a post office box might be a better idea to reduce the risk of theft.

Digital security measures should include firewalls, anti-malware, encrypted messaging and data storage, and strong passwords. Be sure to back up critical data regularly to devices like external hard drives or flash drives in the event of power outages or computer viruses.

5. Get Acquainted with Technology

In addition to security, you should become familiar with business technologies. Every task you can automate or streamline improves productivity. For example, stick to digital documents rather than paper ones to reduce office expenses, wasted effort, and clutter.

An effective technical strategy might include cloud services, business software and apps. You’ll find free online storage, but you can also invest in affordable paid apps that provide more features. Expense-tracking apps will help you keep organized records. Some include features like identity theft protection and data breach alerts.

You should also have a company website that serves your customers 24/7. Take the time to find the web hosting, site layout, and content that works best with your brand and your market. Consider using apps to track your social media efforts so you can determine which platforms and posts are working best for you.

Take advantage of VoIP (voice over internet protocol) solutions as a cheaper, higher-quality alternative to traditional phone exchanges. You should be able to add useful features like video chat, audio recordings, and automated menus to improve customer interaction.

6. Develop a Work-at-Home Attitude

In some ways running your own business is harder than working for someone else. It takes self-discipline. For instance, it’s harder to get up and start work each morning when you always have the option of sleeping late.

Regard running your home business as you would working for another company. Try to keep to a productive work schedule and ask family and friends to respect it. Establish priorities and keep a daily to-do list. But allow yourself some time to unwind or your stress levels will keep climbing.

In conclusion, a home-based business could be a great opportunity. Just be sure you have the right business idea to suit your particular skills and talents. It’s important that you can stay motivated and be productive. While there are a lot of elements required to start and manage a business, working profitably from home is possible through thoughtful planning and developing good work habits.

 

Author Bio:

michelle_lauryMichelle Laurey is a freelance writer who enjoys fitness, relaxing in the fresh air, trying to live a healthy life and daydreaming about visiting new places (and actually visiting them). Her best ideas and problem solutions appear while she’s riding her bicycle. You can reach her via Twitter.

Turn Your Online Business Into A Fortress

The internet has made it possible for so many people to build businesses from their own home; it saves them on paying rent for a premises, it makes it cheaper for them to advertise their products and services, and it gives them a wider customer base to buy their products. Unfortunately, no one really considers that online businesses have a few vulnerabilities that aren’t usually seen in physical stores. Whether you’re conducting your business part-time, or you depend on it as your sole source of income, here are a few vulnerabilities that could affect your business, and how you can protect it like a fortress.

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Cyber safety

Since 2016, there has been an increase in reports of online businesses being targeted and held to ransom by cyber-criminals. Experts are warning that small businesses are fast becoming their favorite target because most of them are woefully unprepared for hacks to their online domain. Don’t make your business a weak target for cyber-criminals – this is your livelihood, so protect it like a fortress. Invest in antivirus and encryption software that automatically updates to patch vulnerable spots in your security, blocks spam, and detects spyware. Companies that sell this type of software include McAfee, Norton, AVG and Avira. Cyber criminals also look for exploits in WordPress and popular plugins, so it’s vital you keep them up to date if you’re using this to host your website.

Get insurance

Depending on the kind of service you offer, you might want to consider professional indemnity insurance; this will protect you if a client accuses you of providing  inadequate advice, services or designs that resulted in a financial loss. You can get professional indemnity insurance to cover both defence costs and any liability found owing in the event of a claim up to the limit of indemnity. There are different kinds of insurance for different services, so make sure you do your research to ensure you’re properly covered.

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Secure payments

If you’re selling something online, enabling mobile payments such as PayPal can increase your sales by allowing more impulsive purchases. You’ll also receive prompt payments rather than dealing with a billing or invoicing system. A good merchant service provider can sort you out with an online payment system for your eCommerce store. But more importantly, they can help you set up secure payments. The minute your customers enter their card details into your system, they are vulnerable to cyber attacks. You need excellent encryption software and top of the line credit card security to keep these details safe from cyber thieves. No one will use your store again if they’re worried about their details being stolen.

Reputation

The best kind of protection you can provide for your business is building up a solid reputation. Establish yourself as a reliable salesperson, a provider of good quality products, and someone who responds well to customer feedback. Customers are usually very trusting of online businesses, but once they hear of any hacking incidents or lawsuits, they are less likely to return.

Secure Your Business and Protect Your Data

Unless you’ve been living in the Arctic Circle or the International Space Station for the past few years, you can’t fail to have noticed that a lot of business, many of them very prominent, have had their data hacked and stolen in recent years.

This is, in part, due to the fact that data in itself has become big business, as has conducting one’s business online, and partly because hackers have never been more skilled than they are right now. What this means for you is, if you run a business, which stores data and which is connected in any way to the internet, you need to step up your game to secure your business and protect your data. Here are a few things that will help you with that:

Access to Excellent IT Support

If you have a good IT Support team on your side, then you’ve already won half of the battle because they will be able to look at your current IT infrastructure and practices and tell you what you’re doing right and what needs to be improved. What’s more, they’ll be able to ensure that any measures you take, are implemented correctly, so that your systems really are safe.

Brief Your Staff

Often, it is the unwise actions of an employee, such as opening an unsolicited attachment or logging onto a suspect site, that cause company networks to be hacked and infected with malware and viruses that steal data and put them at risk. That’s why, if you want to avoid having your sensitive data held to ransom of your business being forced to stop, you need to brief your employees on all the things they shouldn’t be doing (opening attachments, sharing passwords, visiting non-approved websites) that could prove disastrous.

Use Strong Passwords

It’s also important that anyone who has access to your network is compelled to use a strong password, which consists of a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols, and which is random enough that it won’t be easily guessed. They should also change these passwords on a monthly basis to avoid data breaches, and they should really not write their passwords down, where they could be found either.

Encrypt Everything

Encryption is probably the best tool you have to secure your business and protect your data. Once your files are encrypted, they will be almost impossible to access by anyone who doesn’t have the key.

Back It Up

If you don’t want to lose your important data -the data that keeps your business running successfully -then you simply must back it up, preferably off-site at a location run by professionals. The cost of lost data and run into the hundreds of thousands, depending on the size of your business, so don’t let it happen!

Install Antivirus on Every Device

Last, but definitely not least, you should install antivirus and malware protection on every single device any of your employees may use to connect to your network and conduct business, including their personal smartphones and tablets. If you don’t do this, it could be so easy for a hacker to steal your data.

Securing your data will cost you time, and you will need to invest some money into it, but if you don’t do at least the things outline above, well, it could be very expensive and completely disastrous to your business!

3 Ways You’re Jeopardizing Your Business’s Security

As a business owner, you entrust your employees with sensitive and valuable data numerous times and in various ways each day. Your customers, likewise, entrust you with their data and personal details.

While you might think that the entire system is set up to work flawlessly, the reality is that data security in your business may not be quite as effective and perfect as you might think. In fact, you may face numerous risks and issues with data security on a daily basis that you may not be aware of and that may even put your customer’s vital data at risk.

When you understand more about these potential risks, you can take action to improve data security in your company.

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Photo Credit: Pexels.com

1. Employees Lack Education and Training

According to a 2015 survey performed by Insider Risk Report, as many as 93-percent of valued employees surveyed, who had access to a company’s vital or sensitive data, stated that they used a high-risk activity that put that data at risk. This could have included something as simple as using a weak password or not changing a password frequently enough or sharing a password with someone who they shouldn’t have shared it with. While these may have been unintentional or seemingly harmless risks, they were nonetheless risks to the company.

As an employer, you must observe and understand what your employers are doing wrong in the area of data security. In addition to observing risk factors in this area, you must take the additional step to correct the behavior and to adequately train them in the proper data security methods.

You should be aware that most of your employees are not maliciously trying to circumvent safety and security protocols, and most of your team usually wants to take the proper steps to keep data secure. However, they may not be aware of what the right steps are. It is up to you to properly train them and to provide them with the tools to keep data secure in the most time-efficient ways possible.

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Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

2. Outdated Technology

At times, new technology is introduced rapidly, and it can be challenging to keep up with all of the changes and innovations as they occur. More than that, some business owners have a false conception that security hinders business growth. This type of thinking actually carries a certain risk because it does not promote the use of new and more advanced security features that may currently be available and that may be most effective for the business owner to use.

As a business owner, it is important that you stay updated as much as possible with the latest innovations available in the marketplace. You should always ensure that your hardware and software products are properly supported and compatible with the security features that you are using. Spend ample time learning as much as you can about authorized access to data, taking screenshots, analytics, forwarding data files and more before implementing the use of new technology and security features. This will help you to make full and ample use of security features without concern of negative impacts associated with its use.

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Photo Credit: Pexels.com

  1. Keeping Sensitive Data

The unfortunate reality is that all businesses have sensitive data that malicious sources may want to target. Regardless of the size of your business or the type of business that you run, there is a possibility that your business may be targeted through a ransomware attack.

For example, a public institution, such as a hospital, police office, school or government office, may have access to a huge number of public records. This could include public records that contain profiles on the general public and that could be breached for malicious purposes. Another example involves e-commerce businesses, such as luxurious brands. A ransomware attack could target the high-end customers of a luxury brand so that the customers’ personal information and, with that, material possessions are at stake.

Any time a customer’s vital and sensitive data is jeopardized, the person stands to lose a considerable amount of money, and fraud is always a concern as well. Your primary goal should be to protect the privacy of your customers. Therefore, you should avoid collecting data that you do not need, and you should not store data that you do not need for too long.

More than that, you should encrypt all data that you have possession of in the most secure fashion possible. Generally, this involves the use of SSL certificates or other highly secure formats. Remember that a data breach can impact your business’s reputation as well. Customers may no longer trust your business if you cannot safeguard their vital and sensitive data. This could have a long-term and negative effect on your business.

To Recap…

Business security is of vital importance regardless of the niche or industry that you work in. You need to focus on all aspects of business security, and you must take steps to safeguard data at all levels. While you need to train your employees about data security and how to properly safeguard and encrypt data at all levels, you also need to take steps to prevent ransomware attacks and use SSL certificates with vital customer data. Now is the ideal time to take a closer look at your data security efforts and to make upgrades and enhancements. If you notice any areas that need to be improved and enhanced, now is the time to do so.

Jasmine Williams covers the good and the bad of today’s business and marketing. She was rummaging through her grandma’s clothes before it was cool and she’s usually hunched over a book or dancing in the kitchen, trying hard to maintain rhythm, but delivering some fine cooking (her family says so). Tweet her @JazzyWilliams88.

 

Is Your Social Media Profile Secure?

With people spending more and more of their lives online – it can be difficult to know where to draw the line. Sharing almost every aspect of your life might have been commonplace – but you could also be putting yourself at risk.

While social media has become a great place to share and communicate with friends and family – it has also become a place where criminals target the unsuspecting. This is becoming a growing problem. People who came to the internet late in their lives might already have a sense of reluctance to share absolutely everything – but those who have grown up with it might not be aware that they could be sharing too much. We’re going to look at a few simple security tips that should make your social media profile more secure.

1. Don’t share too much

Sharing parts of your life can be great fun – but some people take things too far. Do you really want people knowing where you are all the time? Leave a bit of mystery in your life – it could actually protect you. Simply advertising when you’re not at home or even making it really obvious where you live or work are not the greatest ideas. Use some common sense. By all means, share photos and enjoy yourself – but try and keep some things private in your life.

Remember when you need to reset a password because you lost it? Oftentimes they’ll ask you when your birthday is or what your pet’s name is. This is the sort of information people freely share on social media. That means you’re giving this secure information away for free. Don’t do it.

2. Make sure you know all your “friends”

Having as long a friend list as possible has almost become a competition between some people. It makes you seem popular – but that’s not really the reality. Try and rise above this sort of behaviour. Only accept someone as a “friend” if you really know who they are. This means what you share should only be seen by people you know.

Of course, you can’t control how your friends use their accounts, so make sure you really only have people you can rely on in real life. A good question to ask yourself is – would you stop and talk to that person if you saw them in real life? If not – why are they on your friend list? You’ve got to get away from the desire to have thousands of friends and realise that some things (like your security) are more important.

3. Don’t share access of your account

Some people share their password and let their friends log in for them. This is a huge mistake and could be asking for trouble. Make sure it’s only you that has access to your account. You should also log out when you’ve finished – especially on public computers like those in libraries or at college.

4. Vary your passwords

Some people use the same password for everything. While this can make things easier to remember – it also means losing access to one account could spell disaster. Make sure you vary your passwords and change them regularly. Don’t write them down, either.

About the author

Keith has a strong background in advising people on security issues. He’s been writing about tech and social media for a number of years. In his spare time, he also writes for a private tuition service based in Singapore.

5 Social Media Security Risks for Your Business

People love social media. Social networks provide limitless opportunities to have fun and communicate with other people. Unfortunately, social media has also become the focus of an increasing number of cyber attacks. Knowing that so many employees use social media while at work, hackers have had success attacking companies by compromising their data and harming their reputation.

Although cybercriminals routinely infiltrate popular social networks with fake accounts and malicious software, social media users often represent their most valuable asset. Regardless, you must accept responsibility to secure your company from all online threats. Learn about the following five social media security concerns so you can improve your business’ security.

1. Information Leakage

Employees can choose to use the same social media platforms at work that they use at home. Using familiar tools and a familiar interface in order to work together and share files makes sense to many employees. Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, however, can convey a false sense of intimacy that can result in the sharing of sensitive information that businesses owners and managers would prefer to keep secure.

Sharing and chatting on social media for business can cause substantial damage to organizations, especially when personal accounts are used. Social media sites do not have the same security features, such as access control, that project management software has. As a result, information shared on social media can often fall into the hands of distant “friends of friends” or public users who can attempt to profit from it.

If your company wants to prevent information leakage, it must implement and enforce acceptable use policies that prohibit the use of social media for internal business processes. Such a simple precaution can prevent the loss of trade secrets and reputation damage. Similarly, businesses should also enact guidelines and provide tools that encourage communications and file sharing using secure tools.

2. Social Scams and Phishing Attacks

Phishing attacks use messages that appear to originate from a familiar person. Users believe they can trust the sender and open the messages, allowing hackers, scammers and other malicious users to obtain login credentials for various websites, including social networks. The scammers use those credentials to gain access to victims’ accounts and then attack more people by sending them spurious messages with enticing subject lines.

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Social platforms saw the number of phishing attacks on their users more than double in 2015. Hackers use the compromised accounts to post scams that install malware or perform other nefarious tasks. These cyber criminals can then direct their efforts at your company by attacking your customers or by impersonating your customer service agents. Some scams can offer long-term reputation damage and also compromise confidential information.

3. Malicious Apps

So-called “bring your own device” policies in the workplace have opened the door to business data networks via malicious software. This type of attack works because companies often have insufficient control over employee-owned devices. Although cyber criminals have had limited success with virus distribution via social media, they can easily hack the smartphone social media apps, converting them to act as gateways to your network and the data it hosts.

4. Malware Attacks and Hacks

Malware can enter business networks via social media sites and thereby give hackers access to customer and trade data. Malware can also modify user information and corrupt databases to deny employees access to vital applications and data.

Sometimes cybercriminals post security disinformation online and thereby mislead social media users into compromising their accounts. As a result, well-meaning employees can unwittingly release confidential information and harm the reputation of your firm.

5. Uneducated Employees 

Employees continue to rank near the top of business security threats. Dissatisfied workers who have access to vital business secrets can post sensitive information to social media and thereby cause irreparable damage to your company. When employees get bored or want to get revenge on a co-worker, they also can, for either fun or spite, release inappropriate information via social media sites without understanding the repercussions of their behavior.

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Employees who have never been educated and trained in proper security practices can easily click on phishing links or reveal information to a fake social media account without realizing that they have compromised security.

Get the best protection for your business by training your entire labor force to understand the importance of data security. As part of the process, make sure either you or your IT manager teaches your employees how to recognize malware, malicious applications, phishing attacks and other social-media-based threats. You should also prohibit your employees from using unauthorized software to do their job.

Recognizing the above five social media security threats will boost your awareness of threats that can harm your business. The online landscape continually changes, so you should monitor technology news to stay forward of new cybersecurity developments. You should also ensure that you have the latest internet security software installed on your workstations as well as on employee-owned devices.

Educating yourself and your staff will continue to play a vital role in securing your business. Begin the process by publishing guidelines for the use of social media in your company and holding periodic training sessions that help employees recognize threats. Taking control over social media in your biz will do much to safeguard your company’s data and your brand.

Author byline:

Josh McAllister is a freelance technology journalist with years of experience in the IT sector. He is passionate about helping small business owners understand how technology can save them time and money. Find him on Twitter @josh8mcallister