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How to Protect Yourself and Your Business from Online Criminals Don't let the hackers get you. Follow these steps to online security.

By Amy Osmond Cook

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Today's online criminals have the ability to move faster and more covertly than ever before. They're out to get you, and they're exploiting every vulnerability. Whether you're a business owner or a consumer, here are four ways to protect yourself.

Related: 6 Security Measures Every Startup Should Take in 2017

1. Double check your purchases online.

Fraud has moved online. Back in 2015, the U.S. started using EMV microchip cards. Even though it's annoying to insert the card instead of swipe, it does make it more difficult for criminals to copy or counterfeit your card. But the hackers moved online to exploit the still-vulnerable credit card numbers. The domestic fraud rate spiked in 2016, nearly doubling and reaching a peak of $4.98 at risk per $100 of sales in Q4 2016 -- compared to $2.7 in 2015.

Keep your credit card statement handy, and make friends with your online banker. You're going to want to double check those credit card purchases.

2. Adapt your payment methods to global community preferences.

Retailers, beware. International orders are still 62.4 percent riskier than domestic ones. But before you decide to stop selling internationally, try adapting your payment methods to suit the preferences of different countries.

Related: How Do Google, Apple and Others Stack Up When it Comes to Protecting Your Privacy?

According to Michael Reitblat, CEO of Forter and the Merchant Risk Council (MRC), it's all about approaching it with the right mindset. "If you expect Australian customers to behave exactly the same as U.S. ones, you're going to get it wrong," Reitblat said. "You'll let through fraudsters and block good customers. Every country has different behavioral norms online, just like every country has a different culture. Fraud prevention systems and teams need to analyze their data from this standpoint and work out how their customers from around the world differ, and how to adapt their system to each nationality."

3. Increase your network security, especially if you're in the apparel industry.

The attack rate for apparel websites has gone up an astonishing 69.9 percent. Online criminals used to target luxury sites and steal the most expensive items. But when the luxury industry increased its network security, criminals moved to buying the same luxury items that were also listed on apparel sites -- think Michael Kors handbags.

Apparel and other sites now need to follow suit. One promising new trend is security delivered from the cloud. Security-as-a-service companies, like Opaq Networks, give sites the ability to tighten security control and improve business agility from a centralized dashboard. This plug-and-play option makes it very easy to increase security without a lot of cost or hassle.

Related: The Worst Hacks of 2017 -- So Far

4. Change your passwords.

Cyberhacks have made big headlines in recent months, from the alleged Russian hack of the DNC and Yahoo revealing more than a billion accounts were compromised to Amazon S3 going down and affecting millions of the largest websites. According to Wall Street Journal's personal tech columnist Joanna Stern, "If you haven't been hacked yet, the chances are even greater in 2017."

Despite these widespread security breaches, a shocking 55 percent of people use the same password for most, if not all, sites. Another 26 percent use easy-to-remember -- and easy to guess -- passwords like birthdays and children's names.

If you want to avoid becoming one of the billions of people who have been hacked, use strong passwords everywhere. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, It takes only 10 minutes to crack a lowercase password that is six characters long. Add two extra letters and a few uppercase letters and that number jumps to 3 years. Add just one more character and some numbers and symbols and it will take 44,530 years to crack. You should also use difficult security questions, and don't reuse password information.

Don't become a statistic, but don't let the hackers scare you away from online commerce. Use these tips to help your business stay safe.

Amy Osmond Cook

VP, Marketing & Creative Services, Simplus; Founder, Osmond Marketing

Amy Osmond Cook, Ph.D., is the VP of marketing at Simplus, director of Simplus Creative Services, and founder of Osmond Marketing. She enjoys reading business books, playing the violin and trying new restaurants with her husband and five children. Follow her at @amyocook.

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