Throughout history, whenever technology has advanced, there has always been a concurrent change in the way we live our lives and go about our business. For the most part, this co-evolution has been welcomed and embraced. These advancements have made work simpler, and communication and collaboration across networks seamless.
However, this transition to increased connectivity and quick, seamless, one-click solutions has also given rise to security issues when it comes to the private information held by the institutions leveraging those innovative solutions that optimize business operations.
In their bid to be more connected, businesses have increased the touch points of their organizations across networks, increasing the opportunities cyber criminals have to penetrate: Every time any of us visit Angie’s List, BestAdvisor (U.K.), Yelp or any other review site to decide on what to purchase, then proceed to Amazon, Walmart or other ecommerce store, whipping out our credit cards and making a purchase, we're releasing vital pieces of personal information.
Things only get worse when we fill out a detailed form online. This is fodder for the plethora of hackers seeking ways to penetrate personal and corporate firewalls ,to get to the private information they protect. No wonder so many organizations spend so much on security. No wonder we can't ignore the vital role cyber security plays for businesses and individuals.
While businesses are safeguarding their sensitive data (including customer personal information), you, as a smaller-scale entrepreneur, need to take steps to ensure that you don't become a part of the cyber attack statistics. Here are several of those steps to take:
1. Back up everything offline.
Set up a regular schedule for backing up all your information, whether it's your personal data or company files. This practice should be performed as frequently as possible so that, in the event of a breach, the information loss will be minimal.
If you use a cloud computing service, make sure to set up real-time backup. And then, nothing beats offline backup if you really want solid protection. Move a copy of all the information you hold dear onto a trusty thumb drive or backup drive. In this world of increasing personal digital espionage, offline means "safe."
2. Keep your eyes peeled for unusual financial activity.
Little things like checking your card statement once every few days or once a week may be the only thing that will save you from financial damage if you are hacked. This checking frequency means that you will be able to take action against suspicious account activity within seven days, at the latest. A monthly check leaves fully 30 days between checks -- not a good strategy for stemming damage from a hack.
Also consider setting up a transaction limit on your card and/or bank account. Most banks, credit card companies and other financial institutions understand the implication, and willingly provide real-time alerts whenever activity occurs that contravenes your settings. This helps ensure the authenticity of transactions on your account while decreasing the probability of a successful hack.
3. Develop a degree of security paranoia.
Effective cyber security measures require a bit of paranoia. This means that you double-check whether you logged out your account from a friend's laptop, or whether your password combination is strong enough. Such an attitude toward the security of your information causes you to be proactive.
You should, for instance, make sure that all your passwords are strong enough to give any hacker a tough time. To stay on the safe side, install a reputable internet security software on your devices to protect all your online passwords. Maximize as many internet security solutions as you can, and set up your internet security software to check for the authenticity of those that lack that security protocol.
Also, never give out your personal data to anyone, no matter how convincing that person sounds. Obviously, you shouldn't incorporate any of your personal information into the password, such as your birthday or first name. Instead, your password should be a mixture of multiple elements: small letters and caps, symbols and digits sufficient to dissuade or demotivate intruders.
As much as is possible, ensure that the websites you visit have "https" URLs, since that final "s" denotes security protocols. Finally, keep your operating system, antivirus, network intrusion detection tools and other software updated to take advantage of the most recent security features available.
4. Seek out a cyber-security expert.
You shouldn't wait till all else fails before you hire a security expert, especially if you run a business. You need someone who can analyze your systems, identify any security risks and develop and implement strategies for dealing with them.
In the event of a data breach or compromise, a security expert can be the difference between comprehensive systems breakdown and minimal damage. The benefit of an expert becomes increasingly obvious when your business begins to expand operations and grow your network, leading to a greater number of potential breachable contact points.
It's a no-brainer that it's more cost effective to hire an expert than to recover from the damage a data breach may cause.