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!

How to Keep Your Business Safe from Ransomware

The recent global ransomware attack known as WannaCry, left thousands of users locked out of the data on their computers. Luckily, thanks to a tech blogger who reverse-engineered samples of the malware, the threat was soon eradicated.

Unfortunately, recovering the data once you are hit with a ransomware attack is not possible. However, there are certain measures you can take to minimize or even completely eliminate the possibility of such an attack

Understanding ransomware, how it works and how to prevent it is an important step towards keeping your business and your data safe.

Know What You’re Dealing With

While many cyber-attacks focus on stealing your data, ransomware works a bit differently. Cybercriminals that use ransomware, a type of malware, are after your money and attempt to blackmail a payment out of you by threatening your data. Hackers either don’t allow you to access your data or claim that your data is at risk and then offer to fix the issue if you pay.

Cryptovirus, cryptoworm or cryptotrojan, as ransomware is also called, can hit anyone from home users to businesses and public institutions. Each target presents different opportunities for cyber criminals.

Home users and public institution employees often don’t have advanced cyber security knowledge. Public institutions may also have valuable information that they cannot afford to lose.Hitting a business could mean big money, and businesses sometimes would rather just pay up than deal with the inconvenience of reporting the attack.

Types of Ransomware

Scareware, also called fraudware and rogue scanner software, is intended to scare you with a pop-up message about malware in the system. There’s no real threat, but the scareware gives the illusion that there is and says that you need to pay a certain amount to remove the malware. Knowing the difference between legitimate and illegitimate sites and programs is instrumental in recognizing scareware.

Locker ransomware is similar to scareware in that it attempts to scare you into paying, except in this case, the pop-up message claims that it has detected illegal activity on your computer. It often has the seal of either the FBI or the U.S. Department of Justice and says that you need to pay to avoid legal trouble. You can safely close and ignore such messages, as no government organization would operate like this.

The worst-case scenario is encrypting ransomware, where the malware actually encrypts your files and cybercriminals demand payment to give you your information back. The problem is that there’s no guarantee they’ll follow through on their end of the bargain if you pay them, and it opens the door for future attacks. For those reasons, cyber security professionals advise against paying.

How to Protect Your Device

  1. Invest in Cyber Security.

The first thing you should do to protect your data is to find a high-quality antivirus program. Ask a cyber-security professional for a recommendation and use the advice to help make your decision.

For complete protection, look for a comprehensive security suite that can handle all kinds of threats, or combine your antivirus program with separate antimalware and antiransomware programs. Antivirus programs typically have free trial periods available, so try out a few to see which one suits you best. Once you’ve found it, it’s a good idea to purchase the full version for superior protection, especially if you often have sensitive data on your device.

  1. Backup, Backup, Backup.

The prices for external hard drives and personal cloud storage seemingly get lower every day. If your business needs to store a lot of data consider cloud backups, there are plenty of excellent cloud storage services on the market. Regardless of which option you prefer, not backing up your data is a crucial mistake.

It can be tedious to backup data, especially if you work with a large amount of it every day. Just remember that taking the time to make a backup is far better than being left with nothing because of a cyber-attack.

If you go with a cloud service, check the encryption and authentication features to ensure that your data will be secure. Remember to physically remove external hard drivers after making the backup so they can’t get infected.

  1. Education Is Power.

The best way to be ready for potential threats is to know what’s out there, and this is much easier thanks to all the useful information available in a couple clicks. Stay up to date by reading tech blogs and by getting in touch with your IT team or cyber security professionals.

Ransomware has been around since the early 2000s, and it doesn’t choose its victims, so even Mac users are no longer safe. Read about what other users did when hit with ransomware in case you find yourself in the same situation, and share your knowledge with the people you know.

  1. Skepticism Pays Off

You can never be too careful about what you see online. Look closely at all your emails, and if you get one from a stranger with an attachment, just delete it. Watch out for shortened links, as you can’t be sure where they will lead. Use online services that can show you the full URL before you click on it.

There are a few suspicious signs to look for with emails you receive, even those that appear to be from a company. These include generic messages that don’t mention your name, a format that looks different from the company’s usual emails and any requests for personal information, which you should never provide over email.

  1. Don’t Pay the Ransom.

How much do cybercriminals try to get with ransomware? It could be anywhere from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars.

A ransom demand is a crime, and if you give in, all you’re doing is encouraging it. Cybercriminals will use ransomware as long as people pay them. And once they get their money, they have no incentive to help you decrypt your files.

A Kaspersky survey supports the strategy of not paying ransom. It found that of the ransomware victims who paid the ransom, one in five didn’t recover their files.

Final Thoughts

A ransomware attack that results in your sensitive data being encrypted could be devastating for your business. However, being proactive instead of reactive is crucial. Following the information outlined in this article can help you secure your data. Just remember to back up everything so even if you’re hit with an attack, you can get your data back yourself.

About the Author

Lisa Michaels is a freelance writer, editor and a striving content marketing consultant from Portland. Being self-employed, she does her best to stay on top of the current trends in the business world. Feel free to connect with her on Twitter @LisaBMichaels.

 

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

Casting the Net Wider: Reach More People Today

If your business has a core group of customers but struggles to reach people further afield, you have a clear problem. It’s impossible to grow and expand a business when it’s stuck in a very tight niche. You need to find ways of casting the net wider and reaching more people if you want to make your business bigger and better. When you do this, you mustn’t forget your core customers who provide the business with its base.

Broaden the Scope of Your Brand

The very first thing to do is broaden the overall scope of your brand. If people see your business as only being for a certain kind of consumer, they will be unlikely to even listen to what you have to say. That’s why you need to actively demonstrate how the business is changing and why this matters to your customers. Set up a marketing campaign that is directly aimed at people who have never used your business before. Confound their expectations and brand your business differently. On top of that, you will have to start selling things that have a broader appeal.

Be More Open and Communicative

Being open and communicative about your business is really important at times when you are trying to branch out and reach new people. If your business is closed off and not open to new people, it’s unlikely to do very well at all. So, to ensure your business doesn’t fall behind and lost traction, you should make sure your business has a presence in social media. And when you interact with people on these platforms, make sure you’re open and willing to be humorous. When you do that, more people will see the human side of your business.

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Improve Your Website and Make Sure Content is Optimized

You’ll need to build a new website for your company if you want to make sure that it has the online presence required of modern businesses. If you run a construction company, this is just as true as if you run a tech startup. People often forget that all kinds of businesses need this strong online presence. There are companies that offer general contractor website design services if you do run that kind of business. But no matter what type of business you run, make sure the website is modern, easy to find and easy to use. You should also post content on there that is fully optimized to improve your SEO ranking.

Build Trust Over Time

Trust is important when it comes to the relationships between customers and businesses. If people don’t trust your brand, they won’t trust what it says or what it offers. So, it’s really important that you aim to build trust over time and don’t take customers for granted. It will be a slow process, so don’t expect to see instant results overnight. It simply won’t happen like that. Be prepared to prove your business is changing and appealing to more people. Eventually, the change will happen and people will begin to recognize it as well.

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Small Business & Theft: Where Does It All Go Wrong?

When you run a small business, it’s hard to imagine that your company could be a target for thieves. After all, why would they be interested in a tiny, small business – what could you possibly have that they want? Well, the truth is that as a small business, you are at a significant amount of risk from theft. And, it can come from almost any direction. In today’s guide, I thought we would take a look at the areas of your business that need protection from thieves. Let’s crack on and start reducing the risks of theft to your company.

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Mundo Resnik

The opportunist

Burglars are opportunistic in the vast majority of cases. They might spot an open window from a distance, and be in and out of your premises in a matter of minutes. You won’t even notice until you realize half your equipment is missing. While alarm systems and cameras can help, they won’t reduce your risk from theft entirely. You also need to make staff aware of their responsibilities. Windows should be kept closed whenever anyone leaves a room. And it’s the same principle for doors – lock them up if they aren’t in use. Finally, make sure employees know to report any sightings of strangers or suspicious activity.

The copycat

Whether you are a musician or a content creator, what you produce should be yours by law. Sadly, piracy, copyright issues, and intellectual property theft are rife these days. Your best bet to protect yourself is to be proactive rather than reactive. Use a professional service that can help you identify issues as soon as they occur. According to DMCA Takedown, you need fast, comprehensive and efficient counter-strikes against copyright infringement.

The insider

An astonishing amount of thefts from businesses are inside jobs. So, while you might trust your employees implicitly, it’s still important to perform checks every once in awhile. Don’t leave temptation lying around, either. The sight of money, for example, can be incredibly enticing for any employee who is going through financial hardship. Debt problems can also lead to people making desperate decisions – and they may even fall victim of blackmailers.

The Cyberthief

Of course, these days your business will have a lot of valuable information about your customers, either onsite or in an external server. Don’t underestimate how enticing this data is to hackers and thieves. Personal details, financial information and anything else you store as data can be used in a multitude of wicked ways. And the truth is that even with the highest security, and an experienced hacker can break into your system. The trick is to make it as hard as possible, and hope they will give up and find a weaker target. Make sure all your systems are locked down enough to deter all but the most determined cybercriminal.

The shady customer

Finally, it’s also important to know who you are dealing with. Fraud, embezzlement, forgery, counterfeiting – all are big problems in business. Make sure you are aware of all these issues and learn how to spot them as best you can.