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Business Security

Business Security: The Key Cyber Security Threats to Your Business

Cyber security has become one of the most pressing concerns business owners face, as ineffective practices can have drastic consequences for your company. As the world goes digital, new threats and problems have emerged, and keeping on top of them is imperative if you want to protect your data. Each year, many businesses big and small will be impacted by cyber security issues—here are the ones you really need to look out for, and how to avoid them.

Malware is something that all computer users should be wary of, but it’s particularly important for business owners. Viruses, spyware, and trojans can mean trouble for your company, with cyber criminals finding ways to plant programs on your computer that will be used maliciously to get credit card numbers, bank details, passwords, and other things that you’ll want to protect. There are many ways malware can get into your computer, from bad websites to email attachments, but defending against it is relatively straightforward. Upgrading your operating system regularly and running anti-virus software, like Norton, is important for data protection, and will block out most malicious malware.

A more extreme version of malware is ransomware, which will usually arrive via email. Ransomware will lock your computer down and demand that you pay ransom in return, usually in a digital currency like Bitcoin. If you’re given a ransom, it’s very important that you do not pay it—you’ll be left vulnerable to further attacks, and payment in no way guarantees that your computer will be unlocked. If this happens, remain calm and contact an IT professional to assist. It’s important to make sure that you back-up important company files to external hard-drives and cloud services, like Dropbox, so that if the worst happens you can still access your files from another computer. If you’re performing back-ups at least weekly, losses from malicious attacks will hopefully never be catastrophic.

Phishing and scam emails of all kinds can be deceptive and are looking more real all the time. It’s not just the obviously fake emails from Nigerian princes you need to watch out for now—phishing emails have gotten good at looking exactly like they’re from PayPal, Netflix, ATO, banks, and other companies. Never click on sign-in links through emails, especially if the email address (not just the contact name) looks suspicious—odds are the links are fake, and someone is after your password. If you get an email from a bank or payment site about a purchase you have not made, exit the email and visit the appropriate site from the correct URL to check your accounts.

Requests for money, account changes, suspicious attachments, and requests for password changes should all be treated with caution, and links and attachments should not be clicked or downloaded unless you are absolutely positive of the email's validity. There are many ways for cyber criminals to get into your accounts, which can spell disaster for your business.

There are several ways you can practice good cyber safety. It’s a good idea, if possible, to set up automatic software updates and automatic back-ups across all your computers for the end of each work day to better secure your information and files. It's also worth setting up multi-factor authentication for any accounts associated with your business. This way, anyone with a password still won't be able to access your files--they might need a special code that will be SMSed to a phone number of your choosing, for instance, or the answer to a secret question. It's even possible to implement systems that require physical card swipes to access data for large-scale companies.

It’s important to make sure that systems are in place to keep former employees out of your systems, and that employees are using strong passwords that cannot be easily guessed. The longer or more complex, the better: a password like “Fdh!!$1” might seem complex, but a dedicated cyber criminal will be able to crack it within a few days. Alternatively, using a longer phrase like “The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain!!” as a password makes it all but impossible to crack.

Cyber security is largely a matter of keeping your computer software up to date, exercising caution with emails, and making sure that you run virus protection software to perform regular sweeps on your network. A single malicious invasion can cost your business a lot of time and money and can be quite embarrassing to boot. Practicing caution and implementing good security strategies can protect you from even the most sophisticated cyber-attack.

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