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How to protect your business against a cyber attack

Whether you’ve had any issues so far with cyber-attacks or not, one thing can’t be denied: they pose a big risk to the security of your business. And, unfortunately, they’re also more likely to happen to you than you may think

So, the question is: how protected is your online business? If you’re reading this and thinking,

“This can’t happen to me”, or

“I have a very small business. What thief would even find out about it?”

Well, you might be very, very wrong.

The state of cyber-security

In fact, a survey from PWC conducted last year on the state of global economic crime, found that cyber-crime is now the 2nd most reported economic crime and that it is affecting 32% of organizations.

These numbers will only continue to grow as Internet user numbers grow – and as too many people and organizations online aren’t taking the necessary precautions to protect themselves.

If we look at the numbers, it’s easy to see the big increases in attacks on a yearly basis. Just in 2017, ransomware attacks have increased by 36%. The hacker then asks for money to leave them alone – kind of like old mafia movies – and a whopping 64% of Americans (and 34% of people globally) are willing to pay the necessary “fee”.

The thing is, a lot of business owners mistakenly assume it can’t happen to them; some might even assume that because we only really hear on the news about the big hacks, like the Sony debacle, or celebrity hacks, that only big organizations can have this happen to them.

In reality, however, it’s often the other way around; big organizations are very clear on the dangers of cybercrime, and usually, have top-notch in-house security to protect themselves. Plus, these cases are also more mediatized – which means that the risk is far greater for the hacker/s.

Smaller businesses, on the other hand, don’t always have the best security, either because they don’t think they need it, or because they don’t want to spend the money. In fact, in the United Kingdom, studies say that HALF of SMBs can be hacked in under an hour. And as we saw earlier, they’re also quite likely to pay the ransom.

All of this makes businesses extremely vulnerable to an attack; just because it hasn’t happened to you or any of the people you know yet, doesn’t mean that it can’t happen in the future. In fact, all signs show that cybercrime is on the rise, and will most likely continue to be so in the future.

But, no need to panic just yet – however, you do need to do everything you can to protect yourself and your business, and the sooner you get started, the better.

Here’s what to do to protect your business online:

1. Educate your team

One of the first things that you should do protect your business, is to educate your whole team on cybercrime, what it means, how they can spot on attack, and how they can prevent it.

In many cases, a cyber attack could start with a seemingly inoffensive email – something that could easily be prevented, if only your team knew what to look for.

Attacks from your business could come from outside sources, or even from the inside – your own employees.

There are all kinds of attacks that could happen, some of the most popular ones being:

  • Hacking
  • Phishing
  • Viruses
  • Malware

Take the time to educate everyone on your team on these dangers, and if necessary, get a security expert to train your team. Create different security protocols (from how to spot cyberattacks to the best way to respond to them) and make sure your employees and colleagues know how important it is to stick to them.

It might be an extra investment that you don’t really want to make, but businesses need to face the reality of the imminence of an attack. And just like with your own health, prevention is better than treatment.

And the good news is, a lot of these attacks can be prevented with the right knowledge and software.

2. Back up all your data regularly

This is one of those things that should be a part of your business culture at this point; any file, any data, should be carefully backed up to a secure location, on a regular basis.

While you might be able to recoup all of your files in case of an attack, there’s also a big chance that you might lose or damage some of them.

This is exactly what happens with ransomware attacks, which are some of the most common cyber attacks on businesses. Hackers get access to your important files, which they then encrypt and only release if you pay the ransom. Unfortunately, there’s a big risk that even if the police manage to catch them, your files could still be damaged or lost.

This can have a big negative effect on your business, particularly if we’re talking about important client information.

3. Protect your business with an SSL certificate

SSL certificates are a must for any business with an online presence, particularly if you take any payments on your website.

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, and it allows you to share information with customers online in a safe way. Without this layer of security, anyone in the world can see your important and very sensitive information (well, anyone with the knowledge), including credit card information and passwords.

The SSL certificate encrypts all of this information, so that it is unreadable to any other server or computer than the one you’re sending the information to.

You can set up an SSL certificate with a number of different tools; just google “ssl certificates for business” to see all your options, as there are a plethora of tools that can do this.

4. Use better passwords

Passwords might not be the most effective gate that you could put between you and hackers, but why make things even easier for the criminal?

Every member of your team should be educated on the importance of setting strong passwords, as well as changing them regularly.

Only a few years ago, studies showed that among the most popular passwords in the world were “123456”, “password”, “qwerty”, “12345”, and “12345678”.

What’s more, 73% of online accounts use duplicated passwords. What this means is that not only are people using some of the simplest passwords possible, but they are also using them for multiple accounts.

And I know, it’s a pain to create so many new passwords, especially when they also have to be complex:

  • No more pet names, names of old towns you lived in, or dates of birth; basically, stop putting any favourite or important numbers as passwords, as well as any names of people, pets, or places you know and/or love
  • Always use a combination of characters: numbers, letters, and signs and don’t forget to capitalize some letters here and there
  • Use 2-step authentication where possible (such as with email providers and on your social media)
  • Basically, the less sense your password makes, the better! Kind of like this: z]swYzv8-yE,ScyU

To keep track of these passwords, use a secure password manager, like Password Manager Pro or Robo Form.

Conclusion

There’s no need to be scared of cyber attacks, but it is important to be aware of their possibility and do everything you can to protect yourself.

The first step in protection is education and prevention. You can save a lot of money (and a lot of potential headaches) simply by taking a few simple precautions, as outlined in this blog post, and by educating the whole team on what the dangers are, and how they can spot and prevent them.

By Lilach Bullock

Lilach Bullock is highly regarded on the world speaker circuit, Lilach has graced Forbes and Number 10 Downing Street. She’s a hugely connected and highly influential entrepreneur. Listed in Forbes as one of the top 20 women social media power influencers and was crowned the Social Influencer of Europe by Oracle. She is listed as the number one Influencer in the UK by Career Experts and is a recipient of a Global Women Champions Award for her outstanding contribution and leadership in business. Check out her site Lilach Bullock or connect with her on LinkedIn

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