As a business owner, you've probably been focused on shifting your business to accommodate the world crisis. You may even be spending most of your time finding ways to retain customers and generate new cash flow. Like most small business owners, you've probably barely had time to think about cyber security and protecting your data.

While you've been focused on sales and customer retention, hackers are finding new ways into your IT network. What are they looking for? Important data and passwords that could compromise your clients' private information and even demand large ransoms. With so many of these happening now, you may have even been a victim yourself.

By 2021, cyber-crime is expected to cost $6 trillion, and hackers are now doing more damage than ever before. They prey on people's vulnerability, stress and fear. Regardless of the type of business, it is virtually inevitable that that your business will be targeted by cyber-attackers. The true question is, will you be part of the 81% that get attacked or will you take the right measures to prevent these attacks?

Most attacks occur to small and medium-sized businesses, but the risk of these very attacks can be reduced by up to 97% with the help of outsourcing cyber-security services and implementing recommended security practices, both in your local business environment and at home if you handle any business work from your home network and devices.

Most of these attacks occur because of unsuspecting employees and weak, insufficient and outdated IT systems which does not block the hazardous attacks such as data breach, ransomware or business email compromise that may also lead to litigation against the business. As small businesses are more prone to these attacks,  however there are few tested ways to combat cyber-criminals and protect your business.

1. Guard Your Inbox.

With the stress of the pandemic, business owners aren't paying attention as they usually do. This makes it perfect for cyber-attackers to send emails with dangerous malware, worms and viruses. Equally dangerous are spear-phishing attempts personalized to lull you into a false sense of security.  It's important to carefully inspect each email received and make sure you know the sender before opening it.

Here are two more tips:

  • Check the email address to make sure it matches the domain of the sender. Example, if the email is coming from PayPal, be sure that the email contains ____@paypal.com, not a random email address like 3dav849dab9h@id.paypal.co. Even if an email address seems to come from the main provider, be sure to check online if there are other reports of spam or cryber-crimes. When unsure, it's best to take safety measures rather than not.
  • Avoid clicking links in the email unless it's extremely clear where they go. If you're already unsure about the sender, then definitely do not click on any links. Also, don't download any attachments unless you know who sent it and what it is.

While it takes a few extra seconds, double check by doing these steps. Better safe than sorry. Make sure you communicate these safeguards to everyone on your team, especially if they are working from home.

2. Secure Your Company-Based Technologies.

During crises like this one, your passwords are a critical first line of defense. Don’t wait for your company’s finance data to be compromised. Reevaluate your passwords and direct your team to create stronger passwords. If necessary, force stronger passwords through software and tools that allow this for your online website. Too many employees are guilty of using the same password across multiple applications.  This makes your business vulnerable and easy to hack into.

Using a unique password for every single application will help reduce your vulnerability. Even if a single password is compromised, your other applications will not be at risk.  Remember:  password123 and password456 aren't really unique.  Having unique, long passwords slows a hacker down.  Brute force cracking isn't really effective in this scenario.

Another thing to keep in mind is password saving tools. Most people tend to save their passwords in their web browser. DON'T DO THIS! A skilled hacker can easily bypass the PIN required to access your saved passwords. Once they have the password or PIN, they can steal as much as they want – credit card information, customers’ private data and more.

We recommend our clients use a password manager, like LastPass or Dashlane. It’s convenient, but more importantly, it’s far more secure.

3. Secure Your Home-Based Technologies.

With the corona virus pandemic, far more businesses are encouraging their employees to work from home. That means a lot of people are working from the living room or kitchen without giving a second thought to security. This negligence is an invitation to new cybercrimes.

Make your remote employees aware of these type of security threats and simple ways to ensure their network and data is secure:

  • Use work computers. Make sure your employees and contractors are not using their home computers or devices when they are working from home. If they "must" use home computers, remind them to:
    • Use unique passwords for every application
    • Keep work files separate from personal files. Only use company approved online services for transferring or storing company files.  Do not use a personal account with an online service like Google Drive or DropBox to store corporate data.
    • Keep all software up to date.
    • Strengthen their home network with a strong, unique password and a VPN.
  • Include firewall. Add a firewall to ALL computers and devices that will be utilized at home.
  • Consider a VPN service. Your network and data are not truly secure unless your employees utilize a VPN (virtual private network).

While this coronavirus scare has negatively affected countless businesses, don't let your computer and network security slide. You don't need any more problems added to everything happening now. It is time to invest some time in securing your important data before it costs you your business!

We would be happy to help you improve or create your the work from home environment for your organization. If you need additional security advice or would like to have a consultation to discuss how to keep your data safe or how we can help you work more effectively, connect with us today.