Not everyone has the resources of a large business when it comes to maintaining cybersecurity. Small businesses or people working from home often have limited resources to protect themselves. However, they still deserve to have the right tools and knowledge to prevent cyber attacks and other security problems, even with a limited budget.
Two in five SMBs were affected by ransomware in 2020. In one survey, 24% of respondents said that they had to spend money to solve a security breach during the shift to work from home due to the coronavirus pandemic. These statistics show just how important it is for small businesses and home workers to pay attention to cybersecurity and take steps to keep their devices secure. Although you might not have the expensive security solutions or large IT teams that large enterprises have, there are still plenty of things that you can do to maintain security and protect yourself or your business.
Know How to Spot a Phishing Attack
In 2020, business email compromise rose by 14% and even reached up to 80% in some sectors. One of the most important things that any small businesses and home workers need to look out for is phishing attacks. These often come in the form of emails, although they might also include text messages or instant messages. Phishing is a type of attack used to steal data by tricking people to click on a malicious link. Clicking on the link might install malware, launch a ransomware attack, or reveal sensitive information.
To avoid phishing attacks and falling for suspicious emails and messages, it’s essential to be on guard. Firstly, you can automate your protection by using tools that stop malicious emails. The messages could be marked as spam or even automatically deleted to prevent you from opening them. Phishing messages can sometimes be obviously suspicious, but they can also be cleverly disguised as being from trusted senders. They might pretend to be a bank, government entity, or retail business. Knowing how to spot these can help. You can look out for things like URLs that aren’t quite right or misspelled words.
It’s also smart to use two-factor authentication (2FA) on accounts to prevent them from being hacked if you do happen to fall for a phishing scam.
Update Your Software
Vulnerabilities in software and outdated security software can cause big problems for you. Over 75% of applications have security flaws, with 24% of them considered high-severity. These flaws can be exploited by hackers, leaving your devices and networks vulnerable. That’s why it’s essential to keep all of your applications up to date. This includes both security software and any other software that you use for other purposes.
The best thing to do is often to set up automatic updates so that you don’t have to remember to perform them manually. However, you will still sometimes need to manually confirm an update or perform a restart of your device to ensure an update is installed properly. If you have any software that is no longer provided with updates from the vendor, it’s probably time to start researching alternatives so that you can find a more secure option.
Check Website Security
When you’re online, you need to know that the websites you use are secure and trustworthy. There are multiple ways of doing this, and most of them don’t take much time or effort. An average of 30,000 new websites are hacked each day and there are more than 2 million phishing sites registered by Google. It’s essential to check that a site is secure before you use it, especially if you’re going to hand over card details or other sensitive information.
One simple way that you can check the security of a site is to ensure it has an SSL certificate. If the URL begins with HTTPS and there is a padlock in the address bar, it’s using SSL. However, it’s also a smart idea to click on the padlock and examine the details of the certificate. You can see if it’s valid and who it’s registered to. If you have your own website, you should ensure you keep your SSL certificate updated too.
There are other ways to check the trustworthiness of a website. Make sure you’re definitely on the right site and not a fake site used for phishing. Check that the payment process is secure and uses a secure payment gateway and payment options. You can also look for reviews for the site to ensure there are real reviews that you can trust.
Research Before Buying
In relation to making sure that websites are secure, be sure to research any businesses you’ve never bought from before. It can be great to find a new retailer or service that you can try out, but it’s important not to trust everyone straight away. If it’s a brand that you don’t recognise, a little bit of research can go a long way to protecting yourself and your business.
Online reviews can help you to determine whether a business is trustworthy and delivers quality products or services. You could also ask people you know if they have any opinions, whether it’s friends, family, colleagues, or people in your industry.
As a basic precaution, it’s also a good idea to look up the business at Companies House to see if it’s registered. You can take a look at the people behind the business and even their accounts.
Be Careful What You Say
Social media is a hugely useful tool for both business and personal use. However, it can also be dangerous if you’re not careful. Saying the wrong thing on social media could get you in trouble. It’s important to make sure you’re not sharing any secrets or sensitive information when you’re using social media. Whether you’re using your own personal account or you’re managing a business account, you need to watch what information you reveal. Social media is a public forum that will allow a lot of people to see what you share. Even if you have tight security settings, people could still misuse the information that you share.
Keep sensitive information and ideas to yourself. If you have a small business, you might even have guidelines about what can and can’t be shared on social media. By doing this, you can prevent people from stealing ideas or using information that they shouldn’t have for malicious purposes. Anyone from business competitors to scammers could get hold of information that you share.
Ensure Strong Passwords
Strong passwords are a must if you want to keep yourself safe online. It’s easy to get lazy with passwords because you have so many of them to manage, but weak passwords can cause all kinds of problems. 81% of the total number of security breaches in 2020 leveraged stolen passwords, according to the 2020 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report. Each week, a million passwords are stolen, using a variety of methods. These include keyloggers, social engineering, dictionary attacks, brute force attacks, and rainbow attacks.
Creating strong passwords and taking steps to protect your passwords will help to prevent these security breaches. A strong password should ideally not resemble any actual words or phrases. Most experts recommend a string of random characters for a secure password, combining capital and small letters, numbers, and symbols. Create strong passwords for all of your accounts, even if they’re not anything that important. If someone can get into one of your accounts, they’re likely to be able to get some of your personal information, even if it’s only basic info.
Of course, trying to remember these types of passwords can be tough. When it can be hard to remember a password that actually means something, keeping track of one that has no meaning is even harder. That’s where a password manager can come in, helping you to keep track of your passwords but still keep them secure.
Even if you don’t use a unique, randomised password for every account, you can still avoid some big mistakes. Don’t use easily guessable passwords like consecutive numbers or “password”. Short passwords are easier to guess, so make yours longer to make them more secure. It’s best to avoid common substitutes for letters, such as replacing letters with numbers (e.g. 3 instead of E). Common keypaths, such as qwerty, are also best avoided.
Adjust Your Privacy Settings
When you’re using social media sites and apps, turn on your privacy settings to keep your account locked up. This is mostly important for personal accounts when you most need to prevent information from getting into the wrong hands. Business accounts usually need to be more public, except on the occasion when you might keep access to a professional social media account limited to people you know.
You can change privacy settings so that only people who follow you can see what you post. These settings can allow you to hide certain information from everyone too, from your location to your contact information.
Using the right browser will allow you to adjust your privacy settings and stay safe online too. You can change settings to create more privacy, with options such as the ability to turn on and off usage statistics, URL prediction, and other things. Different browsers offer different options for privacy settings and controlling your privacy on different devices.
Keep Your Internet Connection Secure
Ensuring you have a secure internet connection is a key part of staying safe online. If your internet connection isn’t secure, you could be vulnerable to being hacked and your private information could be seen by others. It’s always best to use a private connection when you can. If using your home or business WiFi, make sure it’s password-protected so that no one else can access it.
If you do use a public WiFi connection, you need to keep your device secure. Whether you’re using a phone, tablet, or laptop, using a VPN (virtual private network) can help you to stay safe. Connecting to a public WiFi connection is easy, which makes it attractive for hackers. When you use a VPN, your data will be encrypted so even if a hacker gets onto your connection, you will still have a level of protection. According to Kaspersky, one in four WiFi hotspots is unsecured and could be hacked, putting users’ personal data at risk. A VPN is an effective way to combat this. You can also use a VPN at home or work for added protection.
Be Careful with Mobile Devices
The use of mobile devices has grown a lot in recent years. There are 6.4 billionsmartphone users worldwide, and there are other mobile devices that people use too. One study found that 25% of mobile apps had a high-risk security flaw and that more than 50% of Android devices tested were running an outdated version of the operating system. Mobile devices can leave you open to security breaches too, so it’s vital that any mobile device that you use is as secure as your home office computer.
Two things that you can do are to ensure your operating system is up to date and that apps are up to date too. Carry out all updates to keep your mobile devices secure and help make sure they’re not left vulnerable to hacking.
Finally, you should keep educating yourself on matters of online security. Things can change, so it’s important to stay up to date on the latest advice. There are often new scams and new techniques that hackers will use. Being aware of these can help you to prevent phishing attacks and other problems that you might face. It’s also good to refresh your knowledge now and then to remind yourself of what you should be doing to stay safe online. Even if you know it all, you can let your standards slip, and it’s helpful to do a security audit now and then.