It has become a necessity for every business, big or small, to have an online presence alongside their brick and mortar store. Nowadays, online businesses are flourishing with the help of digital tools and technologies. Seeing the popularity of e-commerce businesses, it is hard to imagine that just 25 years ago, online shopping hadn't even originated.
With every business going digital, you have to remember that there is an enemy lurking in the shadows. Although the digital world provides copious benefits to businesses, it also comes with a lot of threats.
The security threat for online businesses is increasing every day, and these potential cybersecurity threats are making businesses vulnerable. Recent statistics suggest that more than 60% of businesses have reported encounters with cyber-attacks in the past 12 months.
Online Security Stats and Figures
Let's have a look at a few stats to understand cyber-attacks on online businesses:
- More than 60% of companies have experienced web-based attacks.
- 62% of online businesses have experienced phishing and attacks on social engineering.
- Since the COVID-19 outbreak, a 300% increase in reported cybercrimes has been reported by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Given these threats, it is important for online businesses to have a well-thought-out strategy of not only how to market their business online, but also how to protect it from cyber attackers. Startup owners, often don’t know how to protect their businesses from cyber-attacks and include no budget/strategy to keep their data protected. Research shows that 83% of startups and small businesses report that despite having little expertise, they handle the cybersecurity of their company themselves. Not a good idea!
No wonder businesses ended up losing more than $200,000 on average to cyberattacks, which put many of them out of business. Therefore, it is essential to develop a cybersecurity plan and protect yourself from digital threats.
Below are 9 security tips to keep your business protected from cyber attackers.
1. Choose a Secure Web Hosting Service Provider
Affordable hosting service is a necessity of every online business, but that doesn't mean that you compromise the security of your website by choosing an unreliable host. You must get a reliable web hosting service for your e-commerce solutions. If you choose the wrong hosting company, you are putting your website's security at risk.
Here are a few things to look for when choosing a hosting service:
- Choose a service that provides you a dedicated server. Server sharing is cost-effective, but it increases the risk of data breaches.
- Choose a host that offers technical assistance during cyberattacks and provides a data backup option.
2. Follow Best Practices for Email Security
Multiple emails are sent and received daily, and cyber attackers take advantage of this by inserting malicious content in emails and marking the content as important. The emails received could be potential security threats.
These emails include links and attachments that could contain a virus or lead you to malicious websites that could be harmful to your data and personal computers. It is important to establish guidelines about email security best practices:
- Do not subscribe to unreliable mailing lists.
- Stay wary when opening or sending links in emails, especially those to social media accounts/pages or unfamiliar websites.
- Never open links without verifying their authenticity. Email services such as Gmail have their own scanners; they may notify you if an email seems fishy. You may also use a third-party software, such as hunter.io or routee.net, to verify email addresses.
3. Set Strong Passwords
Strong passwords are hard to crack for cyber attackers, which is why it is advised that you follow the suggested guidelines of creating a strong password that is not easily guessed. So don’t use your full name or “password”.
Use an alpha-numeric password with lowercase and uppercase letters/numbers along with special characters.
Consider the following examples of weak and strong passwords:
Weak Password: Whiskers123
Strong Password: PnCtkap74**!
You should also enable two-way authentication for better security too. This means security questions and verification code to your email or phone. Yes, it’s a pain, but worth it. Also, if possible change your password every 30-90 days for the ultimate protection.
4. Protect Your Computer Network
Protection of computer networks is essential, which is why you must invest in good antivirus and threat protection services. Antivirus software helps in website penetration testing and malware cleanup, indicating which websites are suspicious and harmful to your systems.
Some best practices to protect your computer network are:
- Update your software frequently, as obsolete software protocols increase the risk of cybercrimes.
- Clear up your email regularly and use antivirus software. Bitdefender Antivirus Plus and Norton Antivirus are among the best and highly recommended.
- Password-protect your network and don't give unknown users access to your network.
5. Maintain Wi-Fi Network Security
Wi-Fi networks are used everywhere, but not every Wi-Fi connection is safe. Make sure that your Wi-Fi network is encrypted to avoid any potential threat. Avoid using public wifi connections, for example, coffee shops and hotels.
If you have to use public Wi-Fi, using a VPN can help you stay protected from potential threats. At times, businesses integrate multiple third-party software to manage their workflow. Refrain from adding unreliable add-ins. Only integrate trusted and encrypted software by trusted vendors.
6. Get a Virtual Mailbox
If you’re worried about your important business information being unprotected, use a virtual mailbox to protect your mail and online data.
VirtualPostMail (VPM) is a registered Commercial Mail Receiving Agent (CMRA) authorized by the United States Postal Service to process and handle mail on your behalf. The following are some of the security benefits of choosing to make your snail mail digital:
- VPM encrypts your data through SSL encryption, which means that no unauthorized personnel can access your data.
- VPM protects your financial information. All online transactions are password-protected and encrypted to ensure maximum security.
- VPM protects your home address from showing up online without hindering your operations.
7. Backup Frequently
Having backups can help you secure your data in case of theft or any cyber-attack. Regularly backing up your data is essential, and you must keep the files stored safely so you can recover your data in case it is lost or attacked. Apart from keeping data stored in the cloud, you should also keep them downloaded and secured in your system or hard drive for security purposes.
8. Be Smart About Smartphones
The reckless use of smartphones and tablets is also quite harmful and dangerous from a security perspective. The separation of work and personal phones and devices is extremely important. Malware can also enter through people's personal devices, which are less protected compared to professional ones.
To avoid security risks that piggy bank on your personal devices, do the following:
- Do not link your personal smart devices to your work system. Maintain a separate smartphone for work and personal use. Similarly, maintain a separate laptop.
- Use two-way authentication on all smart devices.
- Protect your devices and systems through passwords, encrypting whole-disks, and locking-and wiping apps remotely. These steps are essential for devices that are being used at work.
9. Educate Yourself on Cyber Safety
Most of all, you must educate yourself about cyber safety and the protection of data and information. It is essential that you follow the basic rules of data protection to avoid any potential security risks.
Takeaway - Cybersecurity Must Be a Priority
In conclusion, online businesses cannot afford to ignore cybersecurity. You must take the correct measures to keep your business safe and secure from malicious hackers.
Hackers are ruthless and petty criminals. They will hack everything you have and ransom your sensitive information any chance they get. Therefore, it's up to you to be the hero and protect your valuable information by following the practices mentioned above to mitigate potential risks.
You can fight off hackers by choosing a secure web hosting provider, strong passwords, and using antivirus software and firewalls. Also, be sure to not open suspicious emails and be reckless with smart devices. Always, back up your data frequently and use a VPN for un-secure Wi-Fi networks and get a virtual mailbox to protect your mail. Lastly, educate yourself about cybersecurity. These are some of the ways through which you can eliminate the risk of online enemies.
See More Ways You Can Protect Yourself?
Did you know that if you use your home address for your online business you’re risking your privacy? There are instances when listing your home address is a valid choice, however, for most online businesses using your home address can make you seem unreliable and unprofessional to customers. In a worst-case scenario, it can even lead to privacy breaches (i.e. our enemy the hackers). To avoid this risk use a virtual mailbox.