Online shopping has become more popular than ever before. In 2020, more than 2 billion people bought products or services online. Whether they’re shopping online because it’s more convenient or they’re avoiding going to brick-and-mortar retailers during the ongoing pandemic, more people are turning to online retailers every day.
It’s not just the convenience or health safety that’s drawing people to shop online; shopping this way has become more secure than ever before. That doesn’t mean all retail websites are created equal when it comes to of safety and security. Hackers and scammers are still out there trying to get your information, but by taking the proper precautions, you have no reason to worry while shopping digitally.
If you plan on buying online this holiday season, here are five tips to ensure your information stays protected.
Use Well-Known And Secure Sites
When looking to purchase a product or service online, you have thousands of options to choose from. To avoid having your personal information stolen, it’s best to use familiar sites such as Amazon, Walmart, or any of the other major retailers. If you search for a product on a search engine, you may be presented with prices that are extremely low. There’s a good chance these are not trustworthy sites. When it comes to online shopping, if it seems too good to be true, something is wrong.
Pay attention to the security of the site where you’re trying to make a purchase. Look for a lock icon in the browser bar. If the website has one, then you should be safe on their site. Another way to tell is by looking at the beginning of the web address. If it begins with “https” instead of “http,” you are in good shape, and you can continue using the site. Secure websites help protect your financial information as well as passwords. Shopping at unsecured sites can put your personal information at risk.
Create Stronger Passwords
A strong password can make all the difference between your information remaining secure and someone stealing it. You need to make your passwords as difficult as possible so that hackers and thieves can’t hack into your accounts. It’s best to use a complex mix of uppercase and lowercase letters while including special characters and numbers. Avoid using common spellings of words and personal information in your passwords because these can be easier to crack.
If you’re worried about not remembering a complex password, use a password manager. This tool will remember the passwords for your accounts while also keeping them protected. Utilizing password managers is the best way to create complex passwords since you w on’t have to personally remember them, and they will still be protected.
Keep Track Of Your Statements
You should always be watching your finances, but it becomes even more important when shopping online. It’s a good habit to form and will help you catch overcharges or purchases that you did not make. It’s also a good idea to only shop with a credit card when shopping online. If someone hacks into your account and steals your debit card information, they will have direct access to your money. Most credit cards have protections in place for fraud, so you won’t be at fault for any errant charges on your account.
Protect Your Information
When entering a new website, you should be wary if they ask for any personal information upfront. No online retailer should ever ask for your Social Security number unless you are applying for a credit card on their site. Be cautious if they ask for your birthday as well. Hackers can use this information in conjunction with your credit card number to wreak havoc on your life.
Don’t Shop On Public WiFi
While it might seem like a good way to keep yourself entertained while enjoying a coffee at a local café, shopping on public WiFi can leave you at risk of being hacked. Public WiFi is often not very secure, and entering your personal information while using it can give hackers easy access. It’s much safer to bookmark the item and wait until you’re home or no longer using WiFi to make the purchase.
Shopping online can be as safe and reliable as shopping in a store – as long as you take the proper precautions. Take some time to ensure that you are following the right security measures before making purchasing or entering any information.
People don’t usually think about small and mid-size businesses when discussing cyber security. The media covers breaches in governmental and big-business security in excess. These entities usually have lucrative targets that attract the attention of hackers but are often backed up with an extremely protective network security system that’s difficult to crack. When hackers can’t break the big system, they turn their attention to easier targets.
While most hackers want the opportunity to crack a high-risk target, these situations are few and far between. Instead, they turn their attention toward much lower-hanging fruit. This is where small businesses come in; they still have access to money and data but have much lower defense than a governmental entity. Luckily, many average cyber security strategies can keep the would-be hackers away. Their methods are always changing, though, and it helps to be one step ahead of the game.
These are the best current cyber security strategies you can put into place.
Cloud security is the protection of data stored online via cloud computing platforms from theft, leakage, and deletion. As more and more businesses switch from hard-drive data storage to remote databases, this practice is becoming more and more commonplace. Methods of providing cloud security include firewalls, penetration testing, and virtual private networks (VPN), to name a few. While many people feel that their data and information are better stored on a hard drive on their own network, data stored in the cloud may actually be more secure, depending on the system’s defense strategy. Be wary, though: not all cloud securities are made the same. Do your research and pick one that will best protect your data.
Network security is the protection of the underlying networking infrastructure from unauthorized access, misuse, or theft. This is what your network administrator will need to put into place in order to keep your devices and data secure. The best approach to protecting your network is to create a strong WiFi password. Random numbers and letters work best for a small business since nobody but those who need it will be able to guess the password. In addition to a strong password, you’ll also have to anticipate any type of internal attack.
VPNs And Firewalls
A VPN can help protect your security by masking your IP address. This essentially means that you’ll be connected through a different server, making it much harder for the government or websites to pinpoint your location. It also encrypts all network data by creating a secure tunnel. A firewall is simply a shield that protects your computer from the Internet. Firewalls can help restrict access to sites that could be damaging to your network. Both of these tools can be highly effective when used properly, but they do not protect against all threats.
Updates And Upgrades
While it might seem simple, consistently updating and upgrading your technology tools can keep you much more secure. The developers of many of these tools are constantly looking for new threats that pose a risk to their program. They’ll issue patches to make sure any holes are filled. You just need to make sure that all of your tools are updated in a timely manner and verify that the updates are installing.
You should always have multiple backups of your business’s data. You never know when a power surge or some type of natural disaster might cause your current files to be deleted. You can prevent this issue by regularly backing up your data.
It’s important to limit employee access to systems and data owned by your company. Not everyone needs to have access, so only give it to those who can’t work without it. There should also be some type of security training for all employees. Phishing schemes and weak passwords create just as many issues as hackers do. Finally, you should make sure everyone in your workplace is security-conscious. A single breach could critically hurt your business. Your employees need to understand this so they can be proactive as well.
No matter which route you take, the most important thing you can do for your small business is protect its network. Governmental entities and big businesses do not suffer from security lapses nearly as bad as small businesses. A security lapse could even stop your business dead in its tracks.
Data is everything to a small business in this day and age – which means if you lose access or control of your data, you lose everything.
As dramatic as that might sound, the data backs that up. According to several sources, 93% of companies, no matter how big they are, are out of business within one year if they suffer a major data disaster without having first formulated a strategy for combating it. And since 68% of businesses don’t have any sort of plan for that worst-case scenario, that means losing data would be a death knell for most of the businesses in the country.
Fortunately, your business does not have to be one of them. By taking the following steps, you can ensure that you have a rock-solid disaster recovery plan in place.
Step 1: Know How A Disaster Recovery Plan Is Different From A Business Continuity Plan
The main difference between these two types of plans is that while business continuity plans are proactive, disaster recovery plans are reactive.
More specifically, a business continuity plan is a strategy by which a business ensures that, no matter what disaster befalls it, it can continue to operate and provide products and services to its customers. A disaster recovery plan, on the flip side, is a strategy by which businesses can backup and recover critical data should it get lost or held for ransom.
So, now that we have a clear, concise understanding of what constitutes a disaster recovery plan, we can dive into the steps necessary to create one.
Step 2: Gather Information And Support
In order to get the ball rolling on your disaster recovery plan, start with executive buy-in. This means that everyone, from the CEO to the entry-level employees, needs to be brought in on executing the plan in case your company suffers a data disaster. When everyone is aware of the possibility of a data disaster, it allows for cross-functional collaboration in the creation process – a necessary step if you want to prevent breaches in all parts of your systems.
You need to account for all elements in your tech systems when you’re putting together your disaster recovery plan, including your systems, applications, and data. Be sure to account for any issues involving the physical security of your servers as well as physical access to your systems. You’ll need a plan in case those are compromised.
In the end, you’ll need to figure out which processes are absolutely necessary to keep up and running during a worst-case scenario when your capability is limited.
Step 3: Actually Create Your Strategy
When everyone is on board with the disaster recovery plan and they understand their systems’ vulnerabilities, as well as which systems need to stay up and running even in a worst-case scenario, it’s time to actually put together the game plan. In order to do that, you’ll need to have a good grip on your budget, resources, tools, and partners.
If you’re a small business, you might want to consider your budget and the timeline for the recovery process. These are good starting points for putting together your plan, and doing so will also give you an idea of what you can tell your customers to expect while you get your business back up to full operating capacity.
Step 4: Test The Plan
Even if you complete the first two steps, you’ll never know that you’re prepared until you actually test out your disaster recovery plan. Running through all the steps with your employees helps them familiarize themselves with the steps they’ll need to take in the event of a real emergency, and it will help you detect any areas of your plan that need improvement. By the time an actual data disaster befalls your business, your systems and employees will easily know how to spring into action.
So, to review, these are the quick actions that you and your employees will need to take in order to make a successful, robust disaster recovery plan:
• Get executive buy-in for the plan.
• Research and analyze the different systems in your business to understand how they could be impacted.
• Prioritize systems that are absolutely necessary to the functioning of your business.
• Test your disaster recovery plan to evaluate its effectiveness.
Complete these steps, and you can ensure that your business will survive any data disaster that comes your way.
Heat and technology don’t mix. We’re talking about things like PCs, servers, and everything inside of them. A lot of manufacturers try to make sure the heat generated by hardware has a way to escape, but it’s not always enough. And what about heat from the outside? This is where problems can really get out of control.
Right now, we’re in the dog days of summer. The temperatures are high and air conditioners are running at full capacity in an attempt to keep us cool. As you run your business, your technology is running and generating its own heat, as well. If it can’t keep cool, the end result can be disastrous.
Why Every Business Should Take Heat Seriously
Smaller devices like laptops, tablets, and more compact desktop computers are especially susceptible to heat damage simply because they are not as efficient at removing heat internally. As they heat up, their performance degrades. If they get hot enough, it can cause irreparable damage. Most devices will automatically shut down if they get too hot – you want to avoid getting to that point as much as you can.
Overheating can also cause damage to specific components. There have been reports of graphics cards catching on fire due to heat and heat-caused electrical issues. Heat can also destroy CPUs. While CPUs are designed to withstand the high temperatures created by processing data, they have their limits. If the computer is forced to overwork as it tries to stay cool, the end result can be a melted CPU!
To make matters worse, as heat intrudes on your devices, they will struggle to function correctly. For example, you may even start to notice slowdowns when using your laptop. Programs may take forever to load, and they may even freeze, leaving you without a way to work!
For any business, this can be devastating. When you’re dealing with clients and customers, the last thing you need is for your systems to fail. Suddenly, productivity falls through the floor, and you’re left scrambling as you try to figure out what to do next. It can bring your business to a standstill.
But it doesn’t end there! If your systems overheat – either due to internal issues (such as inadequate heat dissipation), external issues (summer temperatures), or a combination of both – you could lose valuable data. Heat is a common cause of data loss. Heat can damage hard drives and solid-state disk drives. If you don’t have an off-site backup (whether it’s local or cloud-based), that data may be lost forever.
And if you lose that data, it can be incredibly costly to get your business back up and running. It’s not only data lost, but also it’s time and money lost. It can be as devastating as a data breach or cyber-attack and can leave you with few options.
What Can You Do?
First, it’s important to assess your cooling needs. Does your business have adequate air conditioning? If you have a data or server room, does that have adequate air conditioning? Look at individual devices – do they have adequate cooling or do they need to be supplemented?
Second, assess your data security needs. Do you keep all of your data on-site? In the event of an emergency, and if your data is compromised, do you have a contingency plan? Do you regularly backup your data?
There are a lot of questions to consider, but they’re all important. Your data and the health of your business is top priority. If you have questions about your technology cooling needs – as well as data protection and backup – consider partnering with a managed services provider (MSP) or an experienced IT services firm. Like US! We can help you solve all of these problems and get you through the dog days of summer like it’s nothing!
Your employees are your first line of defense when it comes to protecting your business from cyberthreats. Human error is one of the single biggest culprits behind cyber-attacks. It comes down to someone falling for a phishing scam, clicking an unknown link or downloading a file without realizing that it’s malicious.
Because your team is so critical to protecting your business from cyberthreats, it’s just as critical to keep your team informed and on top of today’s dangers. One way to do that is to weave cyber security into your existing company culture.
How Do You Do That?
For many employees, cyber security is rarely an engaging topic. In truth, it can be dry at times, especially for people outside of the cyber security industry, but it can boil down to presentation. That isn’t to say you need to make cyber security “fun,” but make it interesting or engaging. It should be accessible and a normal part of the workday.
Bring It Home For Your Team. One of the reasons why people are often disconnected from topics related to cyber security is simply because they don’t have firsthand experience with it. This is also one reason why many small businesses don’t invest in cyber security in the first place – it hasn’t happened to them, so they don’t think it will. Following that logic, why invest in it at all?
The thing is that it will eventually happen. It’s never a question of if, but when. Cyberthreats are more common than ever. Of course, this also means it’s easier to find examples you can share with your team. Many major companies have been attacked. Millions of people have had their personal data stolen. Look for examples that employees can relate to, names they are familiar with, and discuss the damage that’s been done.
If possible, bring in personal examples. Maybe you or someone you know has been the victim of a cyberattack, such as ransomware or a data breach. The closer you can bring it home to your employees, the more they can relate, which means they’re listening.
Collaborate With Your Employees. Ask what your team needs from you in terms of cyber security. Maybe they have zero knowledge about data security and they could benefit from training. Or maybe they need access to better tools and resources. Make it a regular conversation with employees and respond to their concerns.
Part of that can include transparency with employees. If Julie in accounting received a phishing e-mail, talk about it. Bring it up in the next weekly huddle or all-company meeting. Talk about what was in the e-mail and point out its identifying features. Do this every time phishing e-mails reach your employees.
Or, maybe Jared received a mysterious e-mail and made the mistake of clicking the link within that e-mail. Talk about that with everyone, as well. It’s not about calling out Jared. It’s about having a conversation and not placing blame. The focus should be on educating and filling in the gaps. Keep the conversation going and make it a normal part of your company’s routine. The more you talk about it and the more open you are, the more it becomes a part of the company culture.
Keep Things Positive. Coming from that last point, you want employees to feel safe in bringing their concerns to their supervisors or managers. While there are many cyberthreats that can do serious damage to your business (and this should be stressed to employees), you want to create an environment where employees are willing to ask for help and are encouraged to learn more about these issues.
Basically, employees should know they won’t get into trouble if something happens. Now, if an employee is blatantly not following your company’s IT rules, that’s a different matter. But for the day-to-day activities, creating a positive, educational, collaborative environment is the best way to make cyber security a normal part of your company culture.
Plus, taking this approach builds trust, and when you and your team have that trust, it becomes easier to tackle issues of data and network security – and to have necessary conversations.
Need help creating a cyber security company culture that’s positive? Don’t hesitate to reach out to your managed services provider or IT partner! They can help you lay the foundation for educating your team and ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to today’s constant cyberthreats.
We all want to protect our Bay Area businesses. They’re a big part of who we are, and it would be terrible if anything bad happened — like an unexpected cyber-attack. But it happens. Bay Area businesses are attacked every day. Some businesses are left in ruin. Some can pick up the pieces, but at a huge cost. Then there are the businesses that are back up and running in a matter of hours, almost as if nothing happened at all.
These are businesses that said “yes” to managed IT services and made the commitment to protect their business, employees, and customers. If your business lacks managed IT services and you haven’t yet embraced total IT security, it’s time to say “YES!” and give your business the top-notch IT support it needs to protect it from the countless IT threats that exist in the world today.
Managed services essentially offer complete IT support without the need to hire dedicated in-house IT support staff. You get full-time access to network and technology experts without having to pay a full-time team. In other words, you save money and you have someone keeping a close eye on your network. The good news is that the IT company you already work with may already offer managed services — you just have to ask for it! (If you don’t work with an IT support company or managed services provider, it’s highly recommended that you do!)
Here Are A Few Reasons Why Managed Services Should Not Be Ignored:
It’s A Proactive Service You Can’t Find Anywhere Else. Proactive IT support is HUGE. You have to be proactive because, guess what? Hackers and cybercriminals are proactive. They’re smart people and they’re relentless. Managed services will give you access to your own outside team of exceptionally smart people and systems that can identify IT problems before they actually become problems.
On top of that, proactive managed services ensure your network – and everything connected to your network – receives regular updates, security patches and routine maintenance. Basically, they help keep your business protected while minimizing downtime that can cut into your bottom line.
It Helps You Save Money – And You Know How Much You’ll Be Spending Month To Month. Hiring in-house IT experts is expensive. It’s one of the most common reasons why many small- to medium-sized businesses don’t invest in good IT support. The sticker shock is too much. But managed services take away the sticker shock.
Instead, you get the exact support you need, and you pay a set fee every month. It makes it MUCH easier to set a quarterly or yearly budget. And because managed services are customizable, you can put together a specific plan for your business and pay only for those specifics — there are no fluff or padded fees. Managed IT is also scalable, so as your business grows or changes, your managed IT services can change as well.
It Protects You In Many Different Ways. You can count on your MSP to minimize malware, spyware, ransomware, phishing scams and other exploitative hacks. You’re protected by advanced software, hardware and old-fashioned human
knowledge and experience. But the protection doesn’t stop there – far from it! Managed services providers can also protect you against potential natural disasters, such as fire or flood, or hardware failures – things that are impossible to predict yet possible to prepare for.
They can also protect you when it comes to compliance. There are many industries where compliance is a big deal, from banking to health care. If you operate in one of these industries, you know how important this is. Having managed IT services means your network is up-to-date with all the fine print. You don’t have to worry about anything slipping through the cracks or breaking compliance, which can lead to all kinds of costly headaches.
It Gives You TIME. This is the most precious commodity of all. If you’re running around dealing with network issues yourself – or trying to – you’re spending a lot of time doing everything you DIDN’T want to be doing when you started your business. Wouldn’t you rather be focused on taking care of the things you intended to focus on, like growing your business and taking care of customers?
When you bring managed IT into the fold, you have so much less to worry about. No, it’s not set-it-and-forget-it, but it’s close. Your MSP handles your IT, while you handle your business — and you collaborate when you need to. You can rest assured that someone is keeping a close eye on your network and that your MSP is a quick phone call or e-mail away (should you have any questions or concerns).
These few points only scratch the surface of why managed services are so important. Stop putting it off and make the phone call. Tell your IT company you want managed services and you’re ready to protect the future of your business!