How to protect your business from cyber threats

Cyber attacks are increasing. It’s hardly breaking news, but it’s something that we need to be aware of, and acting upon, now.

Many business owners, especially those with smaller businesses, think that they are immune to the cyber threat, and that the warnings we see in the media on an (almost) daily basis don’t apply to them. They do apply. Maybe even more so.

Smaller businesses have less of a budget to spend on cyber security, so they do just that, spend less. This in turn leaves them vulnerable to cyber attacks as it’s easier to get in.

72% of businesses that experience a major data breach shut down within 2 years. So how do you protect your business from cyber threats?

Education
Your staff are your biggest asset, and your biggest risk. Staff training can help eliminate the risk of a cyber threat. If they don’t know what to look out for, what to avoid and what will help then they can be very dangerous for your business.

Lock your computer
An unlocked computer is a gold mine for a would-be scammer. Think about the personal information you store on your computer. Would you give it to an absolute stranger? Didn’t think so!

Mandatory password change 
80% of cyber attacks involve weak passwords. Make sure you and your staff change your passwords at least every 12 weeks. Passwords should be at least 20 characters long and use special characters, uppercase and lowercase letters and numbers. With a $300 graphics card, a hacker can run 420 billion simple 8 letter characters per minute and since 55% of people use the same password for all logins, the results can be catastrophic.

Have a hosted anti-spam / hosted email services
Having an anti-spam filter can seriously decrease your chances of receiving dodgy emails to your inbox. There has been a 125% rise in the number of social media phishing emails since 2012. Make sure you trust the recipient of any email before you click on links and attachments that they contain.

Test your website for vulnerabilities 
What better way to see how susceptible you are to a cyber attack than to test your own website for vulnerabilities? A penetration test will test your website and flag up any weaknesses in your defences, advising you whether they are sufficient and whether any were compromised during the ‘attack’. Performing a penetration test either monthly or quarterly will significantly reduce the threat of a cyber attack to your business.

Keep your defences up to date 
Following on from our last point, and perhaps quite an obvious point, is that you should be keeping your firewall and antivirus system up to date. There is good, free software readily available (such as AVG) so there is no excuse not to have some decent security software on your system.

No devices allowed 
See that nice shiny USB stick you were sent through the post or received at an event? Are you sure you know what’s on it? Unless you are 100% certain you know what is contained in an external device don’t connect any to your system.

Download administration 
We’re going to end where we started, with your staff. Do you know what they’re downloading onto their computers on a daily basis? Set up an administrator password that means you, or a trusted member of staff have to input before a download will commence. This is an easy way to keep tabs on what is going onto every computer on your network.

With the average cyber security threat costing tens of thousands of pounds, an attack can be deadly to a business. Following advice from trusted sources can help reduce the threat, however the best piece of advice is to use your head and follow your instinct.

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