Is your business safe? 9 cyber security tips to protect your company
It seems as though not a day goes by at the moment without cyber security hitting the headlines. Companies and organisations large and small, including British Airways and the NHS, are being continuously targeted by hackers, with some success. You might think that as a small business you are safe – that you are under the radar. But you are just as much at risk and the impact of an attack could be paralysing for your business.
You may presume that having anti-virus software installed on your machines is enough – especially if you use software from well-known suppliers such as McAfee or Norton. But experts generally agree that with the increasing sophistication of hackers that is no longer enough to keep your business safe. So how can you protect yourself?
Here we talk to IT expert Martin Horswood from All Your Computers about his top tips to stay safe:
- People are your biggest risk factor. If you work with others – be it permanent members of staff or outsourced assistants which have access to your systems, ensure you have gone through security basics with them. If you do have permanent staff members, you should have a Security Policy document that states what each person is responsible for.
- Make sure you have ‘paid for’ anti-virus software installed. There are many free versions available for people to try, but they do not get the updates as quickly as paid for solutions. Also, never assume that just because something was supplied with your computer that it is the best software available. Anti-virus companies pay a lot of money to hardware suppliers to have their software pre-installed on the computers they sell.
- Keep Windows up to date. Many of the most successful recent hacks have exploited known weaknesses in the Windows operating systems, that patches had been issued to rectify. The machines that had not been updated were left vulnerable to attack. Microsoft issues updates on a monthly schedule, normally on the 2nd Tuesday of the month often referred to as “Patch Tuesday”. Sadly this has also lead to “Exploit Wednesday” being coined for the day when hackers start to issue virus and malware to take advantage of these new known security holes.
- Make sure that you keep all your software up to date. Vulnerabilities can occur in any software package i.e. Java, Adobe Acrobat, Google Chrome etc. Therefore keeping these up to date is important too. Many IT suppliers are now able to offer 3rd party software updating as part of their services. People also often over-look their websites. If you are running WordPress or similar, this software is also vulnerable and should be updated regularly to prevent your site from being hacked.
- Be diligent with your emails. Do not open attachments or click on links in emails if you do not recognise the person who sent you the email or if you were not expecting an attachment from the sender. There is a current scam targeting business owners about companies trying to register domain names similar to yours in China. It doesn’t ask you to click a link, but does ask you to reply to the email about whether you object to the company registering the names or not. As a business owner of course you want to protect your Intellectual Property, but in this case if you reply you will get drawn into a scam to extort money from you.
- Ensure you have a working firewall. Without a firewall your business is basically operating an open door policy to hackers and viruses on the internet. Bank account information, passwords, client data is at risk if your firewall is not protecting you.
- Ensure that all your passwords are secure and “complex” – i.e. not just a word but containing non-alpha numeric characters i.e. !£$%^ etc. Passwords should never be written down or stored insecurely i.e. in a spreadsheet. If you need a way to remember your passwords there are solutions available to do this safely, such as Dashlane or LastPass.
- Be aware of the Wifi you use. Being able to access the internet when you are on the move, in coffee shops or at hotels and meeting facilities can be really useful. But you need to be aware that these are not always secure networks and may be making data visible to others that you need to keep private.
- Have a back-up plan. Consider what you would do if affected by an attack. How would you continue to run your business? Ensure you have IT contacts who would be ready to help if needed, or choose to pay for an ongoing protection and monitoring service which can flag any issues and keep risks at bay.”
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