Today’s business landscape is governed by all things online. From the efficiency of cloud computing to the communications of remote teams, we rely heavily on the internet for our business models.
Unfortunately, this reliance has also exposed us to ever-growing security risks. Cybercrime and hacking incidents can rampage entire organizations, affecting the livelihood of thousands of people. Attacks can happen at any time, and can be as simple as phishing or more sophisticated, using software infiltrators intent upon ruining your day, your week or even your year.
What can you do to stave off hackers?
Data breaches, distributed denial of service attacks and other hacking methods can have a significant impact on your bottom line. It’s up to individuals and businesses to protect their identities and employ best practices to stay safe. Here’s a few things you can do to avoid hackers.
#1 Maintain strong passwords
Your passwords for software accounts, social media accounts and other online services should be strong and unique. They should be a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. Common phrases, on the other hand, make it easy for hackers to get into your accounts and steal your information.
Don’t use the same password for all your accounts, either. Many of us are guilty of doing this; 91% of people know reusing the same password across multiple accounts is a security risk, but 66% of us do it anyway.
Large organizations understand the importance of data security, which is why they invest in password management solutions to manage company passwords. Small businesses can also use cost-effective password management software to ensure passwords and data remain secure as well.
Many available solutions offer businesses the added benefit of advanced protection features from customized privacy policies, minimum password standards, Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) integration and more. Users can also turn to password “vaults” that generate, encrypt, store and even retrieving passwords when required.
#2 Set up and use multi-factor authentication
Your online presence might still be vulnerable to threats even after implementing password vaults and managers. Hackers can use password resets or social engineering to get into your social media or business accounts and access to personal information, photos, videos, company data, etc.
Passwords alone are not enough. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) can give you the protection you need. The most common form of MFA is two-factor authentication (also known as 2FA or two-step verification), where you need to verify an authentication code to access the account.
If someone tries to log in to your business account and steal information through an unauthorized account, they won’t be able to do it even if they have your username and password. The authentication code is sent to your smartphone via SMS or email through an approved code-gen app, or a dedicated hardware token. As such, 2FA is a great way to deal with pesky hackers who get a hold of your login credentials through malware or third-party attacks or vulnerabilities and make their way into your business or social accounts.
#3 Be wary of suspicious emails
Professionals check their emails an average of 15 times per day, or every 37 minutes. Businesses and individuals rely on them to send reminders, updates and relevant documents, which makes your inbox the perfect place to launch an attack on your digital identity.
It’s no surprise that emails pose a security risk for businesses through cyberattacks via malicious email campaigns. Hackers may also be phishing for personal information through seemingly harmless emails, which they can exploit later.
To avoid hackers and getting scammed, verify the sender’s address to be sure it’s the intended sender. Check their email address and match it with the domain they’re using to send the email. Also, be sure to check for spelling and grammatical errors—some hackers are bad at putting sentences together.
If it’s an internal email and you’re not sure it’s legitimate, try checking with the sender via alternative means (Teams, for example) to verify whether they meant to send it to you.
If an email seems to be originating from a fake website and is asking you for personal information like bank details, home address, phone and social security numbers, etc., that’s a massive red flag! Block, delete, and ignore are your best options.
As an extra precautionary measure, you can also check the IP address of these emails. Check the IP address displayed in the received email, then Google this IP address to see where it came from.
#4 Don’t open attachments in suspicious emails
Install a network firewall to monitor incoming and outgoing traffic and identify new threats to your business systems.
As a general rule, never open attachments unless you’re absolutely certain of where they came from. Hackers may send emails with attachments that might look alright but are actually hiding viruses and malware. These files even have the usual extensions such as .docx, .pdf, and .exe. Even if one employee opens these attached files, the virus can infiltrate and infects the whole network.
#5 Install security updates for your system as soon as they launch
The regular software and firmware checks ensure that your system is up-to-date and secure from the latest threats (malware, botnets, viruses, ransomware, Trojans and others) developed by hackers.
This is especially important if your computers are still running on obsolete hardware—Windows 7, for example. Since all support for Windows 7 ended on January 14, 2020, it’s not getting security updates or bug fixes. This means that systems still running Windows 7 are susceptible to malware, virus, and ransomware attacks.
Those still using Windows 7 can end up incurring extra costs for something they would otherwise have gotten for free earlier. It is better to upgrade to the newest version to stay protected from the latest cyberattacks.
Be sure to check for the latest patches and fixes recommended by the OS vendor and regularly install them for ongoing protection.
#6 Avoid using public Wi-Fi
If you’re at a coffee shop or restaurant, don’t share public information if you decide to use their Wi-Fi. Whatever you do, do not think about purchasing a plane ticket or checking your bank statement while you’re there.
Hotels and conference centers aren’t safe either. In fact, these networks are often prime targets for hackers due to the amount of traffic they get. Hackers have found ingenious ways to slip through undetected, so there’s no way to tell whether your data is compromised while you use the Wi-Fi at the hotel.
If you have to use Wi-Fi at these places, get a virtual private network (VPN) service to encrypt your traffic, so others on the same Wi-Fi network can’t see your online activity. You can also set up a hotspot for your laptop from your smartphone and use that to access the internet.
Practice due diligence and learn from mistakes
To be truly safe from hack attacks, be diligent when browsing the web, reading emails or doing anything online or on the cloud!
A few parting tips:
- Keep your answers to secret questions to yourself
- Set up an alternate email to retrieve your accounts in case of a mishap
- Back up your computer files on an external encrypted hard drive
- Set up a backup phone number
- Keep your passwords encrypted and stored safely with password vaults
Practice due diligence before you’re exposed to a hack—it’s better safe than sorry! Following some of the above tips, however, should help you get started developing a well-rounded security posture. Contact us if you’re looking for a partner to help you increase cybersecurity for your business or differentiate your security offering.