Cybersecurity 101: How Do You Keep Client Data Safe?
Over the past few years, there’s been a sharp uptick in the number of reported corporate hackings across the United States. Cybersecurity is growing industry, but so is hacking—and not the ethical kind. Hackers are increasingly targeting not only larger corporations, but smaller businesses and entrepreneurial companies as well. Just want you wanted to hear, right?
Just in 2017 alone, 61 percent of small businesses reported having their financial data breached.
In the internet age, you expose yourself and your business to a plethora of new digital opportunities. By doing so, you also unwittingly expose yourself to new dangers.
How can you keep your small business’ financial data out of the wrong hands?
Why Target Small Businesses?
You might assume that small businesses would receive less attention than their corporate cousins. Corporations, after all, have broader consumer audiences—and therefore, much more data.
However, large corporations usually have the advantage of large security teams. Smaller businesses are, typically, much less fortified.
Hackers target small businesses like yours to gather information about a particular audience. This information can include credit card numbers, transaction records, bank accounts, phone numbers, and more.
What kind of hacking scams should you be on the lookout for these days?
1. Beware of Phishers
Everyone’s heard the joke about the Nigerian prince emailing to offer you his wealth. But business-email-compromise scams (BEC) are more common and much more subtle than you might think.
Notice an email in your inbox from an unrecognized sender—or these days, even a recognized one? Any email that prompts you to log in to an unfamiliar website or download an unexpected file could be a phishing attempt.
Business-level phishers have gotten clever with their approach. If you click on any attachments or links, you may find yourself on a malware-warped website, or find your files held captive by ransomware.
2. Stay Aware at the Watering Hole
On occasion, hacked sites can become poisoned wells for “watering hole” attacks. These sites might have legitimate addresses and be sites that you visit daily—and if a hacker embedded specific malware to target your particular industry, you may not notice until it’s too late.
If you notice a familiar website now encouraging you to download files, provide unnecessary information, or click on blinking links, then your reliable site may have become a watering hole designed to trap unsuspecting users.
The Basics of Small Business Cybersecurity
Before you fall victim to a cybersecurity scam, take some steps to protect your technology:
- Update your software: Out-of-date software has security holes that hackers can exploit with ease.
- Cycle your passwords: Try to change your work passwords on a bi-monthly basis. Alternatively, have a supervisor or IT manager create a password for you that combines symbols, uppercase and lowercase letters, and numbers.
- Check Your Sources: If Best Buy sends an email from [email protected], chances are good that Best Buy didn’t actually send it. Similarly, always check for https:// links to ensure you’re clicking on a secure site.
- Use a VPN: Virtual private networks encrypt your online behavior, preventing any of your personal data from leaving a webpage legibly.
- Make multiple copies: As a small business owner, the last thing you want to do is lose your data. Keep a copy of financial records, client information, and transaction histories on a hard drive or in the cloud.
Predictions say that, come 2021, cybercrime and hacking will cost small businesses around the world up to $6 trillion. Do what you can now to protect your business’ data, and your consumer audience (as well as your budget) will thank you.
Image attribution: Tierney – stock.adobe.com