By Grace Yu
In the digital economy, data is the new currency. Wherever information is collected, processed, and stored, there’s always a risk of data being stolen and used by criminals for their advantage.
Details of our digital presence can be taken from anywhere—whether we’ve posted about our latest project on social media or simply signing up for a promo on a little-known shopping website.
But why would anyone care about our most ordinary actions online? Like when we last used the company credit card to order pizza for our team? Or whether we logged into a shopping app using our company mobile phone? Or about who we connect with on social media?
The fact is, everything we do online—especially those involving our everyday business activities—can serve as an entry point for cybercriminals to gain control over our personal and corporate data. Yes, even that seemingly harmless celebrity gossip article you clicked on at work may not be safe.
Why Cybersecurity is Essential to Businesses
Cybercriminals today are becoming more cunning when it comes to using social engineering attacks to lure people into becoming their unwitting accomplices.
Social engineering attacks are designed to look innocent or a part of our everyday routine at work, but they trick people into clicking links, downloading files, or entering information that gives criminals backdoor access to data systems, if not enable them to steal money outright from their victims.
Cybersecurity is thus a major concern for all organizations, no matter their scale or industry. For this reason, learning pro tips for cyber protection is now becoming more crucial than ever.
By 2021, cybercrimes worldwide are predicted to cost organizations a staggering US$6 trillion. The attacks are only going to keep growing, with an annual cost of US$10.5 trillion in the next five years.
Small businesses are a favorite target of cybercriminals. A security report from Verizon estimates that 43% of attacks are directed against small-scale ventures. Those with remote workers are even more vulnerable without proper cybersecurity training in place.
They aren’t the only targets, however. With much of the world going digital-first in 2020, fledgling businesses in the online retail space can easily fall for the ploys of hackers and identity thieves. This is why experts are always looking for ways to enhance cybersecurity for e-commerce.
How can businesses fend off cyber-attacks? Here are practical tips for enhancing cybersecurity:
1) Boost your defenses
Start with installing a firewall, one of your baseline defenses against intruders to your network, as it is the “guardhouse of your IT.” This form of protection can also be used to prevent employees from accessing malicious websites.
Second, install antivirus software to easily detect and destroy malicious software, including viruses, phishing scams, spambots, ransomware, and spyware. Antivirus software should help to weed out and reset a computer after an infection. But with the wide range of malware being created nowadays, antivirus users will have to regularly update their library of known attacks to keep their defenses up.
2) Back up your data across multiple secure platforms
Choose multiple data storage solutions that are secured and can be accessed offline and offsite (as in the case of removable storage). In the event of a ransomware attack, for example, in which a cybercriminal locks the company out of its own system, having a backup will enable the business to continue operating while the IT department works to secure the network once again.
3) Encrypt your data
Corporate and personal data are a goldmine for cybercriminals who make money off stolen identities and credentials. But what if data is rewritten as a cipher? Encryption is the process of converting data into complex codes that can only be “decoded” and read by someone who has the right decryption key. It’s similar to passing secret messages to another person that cannot be cracked by an interloper.
4) Set up a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is one form of technology that encrypts data during an exchange. It works like a tunnel between the company’s network and the device accessing it. Instead of transmitting data from a computer, for example, the VPN routes the connection through a secure private network, thereby acting as a smokescreen against intruders and spies.
5) Increase password strength
The strategy of using a strong alphanumeric password is one of the oldest in the cybersecurity rulebook. Yet, out of more than 275 million passwords analyzed in 2020, 56% weren’t even unique. In this day and age, the most commonly used password is still “123456”. One solution is to get a password manager for staff that consolidates access to different accounts using a single and unique code to log in.
6) Use multi-factor authentication
Apart from getting staff to use a strong password, businesses should also enforce multi-factor authentication (MFA) when logging into accounts. That means using two or more security requirements for the system to grant access to a user. Examples of MFA are biometric scans, such as iris or fingerprint scans, and physical tokens such as access keys or cards.
7) Train employees how to spot cyberattacks
No matter how secure your network protocols are, failure to train your employees about cybersecurity best practices can spell disaster for any organization. Invest in their training—this will increase their chances of spotting a malicious attack even before cybercriminals gain a foothold in your data system.
8) Update software and hardware regularly
Outdated apps, as well as the firmware in your device, may contain loopholes that hackers can exploit. Make sure to check for updates and patches to vulnerabilities regularly. If your hardware is difficult to replace, consider updating the firmware or programming of your physical devices.
9) Assess your network frequently
Always conduct an audit of your IT infrastructure, management, security, processes, and performance. A network assessment gives organizations a comprehensive look into their current security framework and improves their strategies.
Even with advances in digital technology, cybersecurity will remain a challenge for businesses of any size if they continue to ignore the threat of cybercrimes. However, by keeping their network, applications, and devices secure and their employees aware of such dangers, they can be one-step ahead of hackers, data thieves, and fraudsters.
Grace Yu is a Client Success Manager for BlackPoint IT Services. She has been in the industry for over three years. She is passionate about providing excellent customer service. In her spare time, she enjoys reading books and attending business leadership events.