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michael geiger unsplash hacker heyday largeThe COVID-19 pandemic forced business leaders to shift their operations online in the span of weeks. And just as this has accelerated digital transformation digital hacking has accelerated at a similar pace.

Some companies have built new e-commerce platforms, while others are upgrading their websites. Of course, they’re creating new digital vulnerabilities at the same time.

If your company has adopted new tech, you must know how to protect yourself from hackers. This guide will help you get started, so you can keep your business safer.

Why is Cybersecurity a Concern?

Before diving into how to protect your business, it helps to understand why you need security.

Even before the pandemic, cybersecurity was on the radar for business leaders. Cybercrime has been rising year over year.

The average cost of dealing with a hack is $3.9 million.

The average cost of dealing with a hack is $3.9 million.

You might have heard about high-profile hacks, such as the Marriott Hotels hack in 2018. Believed to be the largest-ever leak, it compromised some 500 million customer profiles.

In August 2020, Canon reported widespread system issues as multiple sites are being held hostage by a ransomware attack called “Maze.” The hackers claimed they also downloaded 10 terabytes of data and private databases. 

About a month earlier, a ransomware attack called “WastedLocker” crippled Garmin and the company is rumored to have paid a multi-million-dollar ransom to the hackers to get the keys to unencrypt their data.

No Business is Immune

If you only pay attention to the headlines, you might think your business is safe. Recent research shows that even small businesses need protection from hackers. Almost 60 percent of the victims are small businesses.

You might wonder why hackers would bother with a small or mid-sized business. After all, bigger companies have much more data.

They also tend to have bigger budgets and better security. Small and mid-sized businesses are often easier targets – and there are hundreds of thousands of them!

Hackers may steal data and sell it online, but they may also be after other business assets. They might use ransomware to freeze your digital assets and lock down your data until you pay their fee. 

To up the pain, they threaten to start posting decrypted data from your systems online if you don’t pay up by a certain date.

To up the pain, they threaten to start posting decrypted data from your systems online if you don’t pay up by a certain date.

They may also work for your competitors or hope to sell information by stealing trade secrets. Anything is fair game for hackers.

Even a small hack can spell disaster for a business.

Even a small hack can spell disaster for a business. The average cost of a system breach is quite high, which could put you out of business. Paying to have ransomware removed or paying the ransom could harm your cash flow if it doesn’t break you.

Breaches also cost you the confidence of your customers. As a result, you may end up losing business. Even if you recover from the breach, your sales may not.

How to Protect Yourself from Hackers

Now you understand why cybersecurity is so important for your business. Your next step should be learning how to protect against hackers.

The good news is there are plenty of measures you can take to protect your business. Some of these tactics are easy to use, even if you're not the most tech-savvy person at the office. The even better news is that they may not set you back a whole lot either.

So, what can you do to protect yourself from hackers?

Understand the Types of Threats

Today’s hackers don’t need to be expert coders, and they use many different tactics to get into your system. One of the most common methods is social engineering.

Social engineering sees the hacker pose as someone trustworthy to get information.

Social engineering sees the hacker pose as someone trustworthy to get information. Phishing is the most common example. Spear phishing is a more elaborate example, which targets just one person, convincing the person they are someone in the company needing login information or other data they can exploit to hack into internal systems.

Ransomware is another common threat today. These programs often sneak in on downloads or from untrustworthy websites. They might be planted by someone with access to the system.

They then take your systems hostage until you can remove the software or until you pay the hackers. Ransomware may take anything from a single program to an entire system hostage.

Ransomware crime is particularly dangerous as it literally shuts down its victim’s ability to function. Ransomware is pervasive, sophisticated, and hitting businesses, hospitals, and municipalities holding them hostage by encrypting their entire computer network with virtually unbreakable cryptological keys. Garmin, the GPS company, was recently hit and the hackers demanded $10 million to get the keys to unscramble their systems, and reportedly, 41 healthcare providers have been hacked so far in 2020.

Viruses and worms are less common than they used to be, but they do still exist. Malware and spyware are also concerns.

By understanding the various types of threats facing your business, you can better plan to tackle each of them.

Keep Systems and Software Up to Date

Keeping your software and systems up to date is a simple step, and it can offer you protection from hackers. If Microsoft releases a new patch for Windows, you should install it as soon as possible.

Most programs have vulnerabilities or weaknesses. If a hacker finds these “holes,” they can exploit them. Software engineers like those at Microsoft offer patches to fix these weaknesses.

You can also check your systems for vulnerabilities. This is often one of the biggest roles an IT security team plays. They conduct scans, then work through the reports addressing the discovered vulnerabilities.

By running these scans and having your team patch vulnerabilities on a regular basis, you may be able to stay one step ahead of the hackers.

Add Encryption

Encryption can keep your data safer from hackers. Whether it’s on your website or a server, encryption makes it harder for hackers to get information.

Encryption encodes the data, making it unreadable to anyone who doesn’t have the “key” to decode it. An example is Secure Socket Layers or SSL. You might recognize it from your website: adding SSL is what switches a URL from “http” to “https.”

Google penalizes sites that don’t use SSL in its search rankings. SSL protects your customers by encrypting any information they share through your site.

If you’re using e-commerce or asking someone to sign up for a newsletter, encryption is key.

You can also change your Wi-Fi settings to encrypt data you send across the network. Encryption can also be used on data on your servers.

This doesn’t stop anyone from stealing the data itself, but it does stop them from being able to do anything useful with it, unless they can decode it.

Use the Right Software

If you’re looking for hacker protection, you can also invest in security software. You may already have an antivirus program, but other security programs go beyond this.

They may also look for malware, ransomware, and spyware. Spam filters on email and websites can also help to protect you. Adding a program to your desktop like Malwarebytes.com will help you by detecting threats and blocking access.

You may also want to install a firewall and a security analyzer. The more data you collect and store, the more important it is to use security software.

The Best Offense is a Good Defense

Start by hiring an outside IT security specialist to configure your system and network so it is hardened against attacks. This is specialized knowledge so look for experienced people with good reviews and references. It’s the best money you’ll spend.

Use a password manager.

Use a password manager. For a few bucks a month, you can have thousands of sites all using different usernames and long complex passwords, yet you only need to remember one master password to access any site. Look at Roboform.com, it synchronizes across all your devices and makes logins one-click easy.

Finally, you may also want to consider hiring an ethical hacker. Ethical hackers use their skills to help protect businesses, instead of harming them.

An ethical hacker will approach your IT setup much the same way other hackers will. They’ll look for vulnerabilities to exploit and try to get around your security.

They can then help you see where the weaknesses are in your system. They may even be able to recommend ways to patch them up. This can be great protection against hackers.

Focus on Your Employees

Social engineering is the most common cybersecurity threat, which means your employees are your weakest link. Hackers will target employees, maybe posing as IT and asking for account information. When the employee turns it over, the hacker gains access to your systems.

One of the best things you can do to protect your business, then, is to train your employees.

One of the best things you can do to protect your business, then, is to train your employees. Train them to recognize social engineering attacks. Ask them to follow certain procedures as well.

You can also create protocols for using devices or accessing the internet. You might ask employees to turn on particular security settings for their smartphones. You might also create lists of approved apps they can use.

Protocols also help employees handle data safely. An example might be an employee working with sensitive data over public Wi-Fi. Ask them to ensure they’re using a private network when handling sensitive data, to use encryption, and to use a firewall.

Even something as simple as having employees create stronger passwords can help. Changing passwords on a regular basis also improves your security.

The right training, along with the right policies and procedures, goes a long way. Your employees can become your biggest asset in improving cybersecurity.

Invest in an Insurance Policy

In the last few years, insurance companies have developed new products around cybersecurity.

The policies cover businesses in the event of a cybersecurity breach.

The policies cover businesses in the event of a cybersecurity breach.

You may want to invest in one of these policies since it could help foot the bill if your business is hacked. Having the insurance company back you up can limit the costs and the financial impact on your business.

Keep in mind that the insurance policy will only cover you if you’re taking steps to protect your business. It shouldn’t be the only security measure you take. Instead, you can invest in it for extra peace of mind.

Protecting Your Business with the Right Advice

Now you know both why and how to protect yourself from hackers. A focus on cybersecurity can help you protect your employees, your customers, and your business.

Businesses like yours are facing plenty of challenges in the current environment. If you’re looking for more advice on how to overcome these hurdles, you’re in the right spot. Learn how your business can thrive, even in these challenging ti

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