Online security basics your business needs to know

Thank you to Matt Powell from Broadband Genie for submitting this article.

The Online Security Basics You Need To Know

The internet is vital for modern businesses but there are risks associated with the online world that everyone needs to consider. It’s important to protect the services and resources you use to run your company, and safeguard any confidential data that could be damaging if it fell into the wrong hands. No matter how big or small your business failing to take precautions can have major repercussions, so here are a few things to consider to improve your online safety and security.

Password security

One of the most important and effective steps you can take is bolstering password security.

The basic requirement is that all passwords – whether it’s to login to your laptop or access your website admin – are unique and complex. Never use the same password more than once, and ensure that every password is comprised of a mix of letters and numbers and not something that could be worked out with a little knowledge (so no football teams or pet’s names).

It’s also helpful to use a password management tool like Lastpass. These encrypt and store logins and automatically enter them when required on web pages and applications. Not only is it a time saver but it means you only need to remember a single master password, so all other logins can be as long and complex as you like.

Some password managers offer business features which can be used to grant access to employees without revealing the actual password, and control access rights so you can revoke permission when an employee leaves.

Protecting private data

Any private information, whether it’s customer data or your financial records, should be appropriately protected. This is easy to achieve using free software such as AxCrypt or 7-Zip, which can password protect files and folders and make them very impervious to criminals (so long as your password is strong, of course).

Don’t neglect backups either. Anything not backed up should be considered disposable, and there’s no excuse when it is now so cheap. Inexpensive external hard drives can be used to make local copies, but it’s also sensible to have an offsite backup in case your equipment is damaged or stolen. A cloud backup service such as Crashplan or Backblaze offer unlimited storage on affordable annual subscriptions and these fire-and-forget solutions can simply sit in the background, uploading everything to a remote server for safe keeping.

Security software and staff awareness

Common sense and awareness of the risks will go a long way to keeping your business secure online.

A favourite method for criminals to spread viruses is email. They can target businesses with seemingly genuine messages containing urgent invoices or tax information, which once opened can cause all sorts of havoc. You and any staff should be extremely wary of emails, even if they seem to come from someone you know.

Anti-virus software is a must. Use it to monitor your system for any threats, and scan files before opening them to ensure they don’t contain dangerous payloads. It’s also vital to protect web browsers, as this is another preferred vector for dangerous software.

Many anti-virus applications will extend protection to the web, but you can further improve security through the use of browser add-ons which block scripting (NoScript for Firefox is a popular choice) and by ensuring that your internet connection is only used for valid work purposes. The risk of picking up a virus from a web site is much greater if certain types of sites – like file sharing services – are used.

Keeping software up to date is extremely important too. Everything from individual applications to browser plugins to the operating system itself should be set to automatically update if possible. Doing so will help to keep you safe from the latest exploits, as well as keeping things running smoothly.

Call our helpdesk for more help with common online risks.