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Hackproofing: How to prevent hacking for your Small Business

Hacking threats come in all shapes and sizes. To protect yourself and your business you need to take a multi-dimensional approach.

Backup

First and foremost, you must have reliable backups. Even the most secured corporations and organizations in the world are hacked. When they are, backup is used to restore what is lost or damaged. There are many different kinds of solutions to choose from, but whatever you select, it must be dependable and comprehensive. And, whatever the option, you must be able to restore from it. See: The Importance of Off-Site Backup.

Secure the Perimeter

Second, without sounding too militaristic, you must establish a secure perimeter. To do this you want to be sure you have the following security measures in place at the very minimum:

Firewall

A firewall is literally the door between you and the internet. Without one, it would be like removing front door from your house leaving an open portal for passersby to not only look in but to walk right into your living room unobstructed. You can choose a wooden door or vault door, but everyone should at least have a door to protect themselves.

Mail Filtering

Mail filtering has become an essential tool in preventing hacks. Mail filtering defends and blocks dangerous threats before they ever reach your computer or your network. With mail filtering, your mail is routed and passes through a third-party service that inspects the mail for malicious content. When it finds something bad, it blocks and dumps it. Good mail is passed right on through. An added benefit to mail filtering is that it also weeds out spam messages that can clutter your inbox. Spam may be harmless, but it is a nuisance.

WIFI Security

WIFI security is another critical component to protecting your data. We recommend that business establish multiple WIFI networks: one (or more) for employees and one (or more) for guests. Most guests typically don’t need access to your company network and data; they simply need access to the internet. So create a separate network that isolates your data yet gives guests what they need. Securing your WIFI networks is also multi-faceted. You can choose encryption levels and visibility options. For example, you may hide your business network and use a stronger level of encryption but choose to make your guest network visible. To get a sense of how vulnerable WIFI networks can be, simply use your mobile device to scan WIFI networks in range. In New York City, it is easy to pick up twenty or more networks all within range of where you are standing. Look to see how many are unsecured. Guess how many of the secured networks have predictable and simple passwords, this is what hackers will do. A good hacker can pretty much access a handful of WIFI networks in range at any given time in the city. It’s important to secure your WIFI.

Anti-Malware / Anti-Virus software

The previous three security measures provide protection at the perimeter. Installing software on your computer to protect it is also crucial. But why is it necessary if the perimeter is secure? Well… we browse the internet. We can infect ourselves through internet browsing. Let’s say we are looking to stream the latest track from Beyoncé. Our search results take us to the stream that looks seemingly legitimate. We click, and a series of pop-ups ensue. We are now infecting out computer and quite possibly the entire network. Computer protection software like McAfee or Kaspersky actively runs on your computer monitoring processes and activity. When it finds something problematic, it handles it. This is “smart” software that is continuously and automatically updated with the latest malware and virus definitions. Our innocent browsing had consequence. Anti-Malware software can stop things from running that we the user ran. The system protection software is not infallible, but is very effective in shielding your machines. It’s essential.

Access Control

Access control is central to your security. It means a number of things, but in short you must effectively control access to your computers, mobile devices, networks, email, online services and shared data. For as much hassle as it can be, all of these items (and more) must have “user-level” security where users are defined with a user name and a password at least and enhanced further by establishing security roles. Key to access control is using:

Strong and Unique Passwords

Weak passwords are a hackers most vulnerable target. Don’t take shortcuts. Use strong passwords for all of your devices and accounts. Be sure to use a unique password for each account as well, i.e. don’t use your Facebook password for your bank account or for your company login. Each password must be unique.

Be Smart

Finally, pay attention and be smart. Hacking will forever prey on the individual. Whether it is the pop-up notice that we carelessly/routinely click-through or the email that seemingly comes from a friend or business associate, hackers target our haste and innocence. On numerous occasions. we’ve even seen very carefully and specially crafted individualized hacks where hackers have spoofed a company president’s email address and sent an email as the company president to the company controller requesting a wire transfer. The hacker did their homework and targeted the individuals. There was little reason for the controller to suspect the wire transfer was a forgery. This is where you need to employ smart business procedures and policies so that when these targeted hacks come through they are blatantly identifiable as outside of procedure. All requests for anything financial or sensitive, must be confirmed through a separate process even if it is just a phone call.

Thwart Hackers

Hackers hack. They will continue to look for ways to steal or disrupt. We can expect that we will need to revise and update security measures with each new hacking scheme. We hope that this information helps you to understand some of the ways you can protect your business from hacking and why.