Top 3 Ways Hackers Will Attack Your Network — And They Are Targeting You RIGHT NOW

You might read the headline of this article and think, “That has to be an exaggeration.” Unfortunately, it’s not. Every single day, small businesses are targeted by cybercriminals. These criminals look for vulnerable victims, then attack.

This is the world we live in today. It’s one where cybercriminals regularly take advantage of small businesses. Why small businesses? They’re the favorite target of hackers, scammers and other cybercriminals because small businesses have a bad habit of NOT investing in cyber security.

Hackers have many methods they use to break into your network, steal data or put you in a position where you have to pay them money to get your data back. They use a combination of software and skill to make it happen. Here are three ways hackers and cybercriminals attack your network in an attempt to get what they want.

  1. THEY GO THROUGH YOUR EMPLOYEES.
  2. That’s right, they’ll use your own employees against you, and your employees might not even realize what’s happening. Let’s say a hacker gets ahold of your internal e-mail list, like the e-mails you have posted on your website or LinkedIn. All the hacker has to do is send an e-mail to everyone at your company.

    The e-mail might be disguised as a message addressed from you asking your employees for a gift card, which is becoming an increasingly common scam. Another e-mail tactic is making a message look like it’s from a fellow employee, asking everyone else to open an attached file, which is likely malware or ransomware. A third
    e-mail scam is directing people to a phishing website, which is a website that scammers have designed to look like popular websites in order to get login information to hack accounts. All it takes is a single click from any employee to let the bad guys into your business.

  3. THEY ATTACK YOUR NETWORK DIRECTLY.
  4. Some hackers aren’t afraid of forced entry. Hackers and cybercriminals have access to black market tools and software that helps them get into networked devices – particularly unprotected networked devices.

    For example, if you have a PC that’s connected to the Internet and your network doesn’t use any firewalls, data encryption or other network protection software, a hacker can break in and steal data from that PC and potentially other devices connected to that PC, such as portable hard drives. This method of entry isn’t necessarily easy for hackers, but the effort can be worth it, especially if they can walk away with sensitive financial information.

  5. THEY HOLD YOUR DATA HOSTAGE.
  6. Hackers are relying on ransomware more and more to get what they want. Hackers rely on e-mail, executable files and fraudulent web ads (such as banner ads and popups) to attack networks with ransomware. It goes back to the first point. All it takes is someone clicking a bad link or file and the next thing you know, you’re locked out of your network.

    This has happened to dozens of businesses and even city governments in the last year alone. The thing is that even if you pay the ransom, there is no guarantee the hacker will restore access. They can take the money and delete everything, leaving your business high and dry! This destroys businesses!

All of these points are why you need to take a hard look at IT security solutions and use them. For instance, if you had all of your data securely backed up to the cloud and a hacker came in and tried to hold your data hostage, you wouldn’t have to worry. They don’t really have your data. You can tell them “no,” then all you’d have to do is work with an IT team to get your network back up and running while scrubbing it of any malware or ransomware.

Then, it would be a simple matter of restoring data from the cloud. Sure, you might be out of commission for a day or two, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s much better than losing your business to these jokers.

Hackers are just looking for easy targets and, sadly, a lot of small businesses fit the bill. Just because you haven’t had any major problems yet doesn’t mean you won’t in the future. The threats are out there and they’re not going to go away. Invest in security, partner with an IT security firm and protect yourself. This is one investment that is truly worth it!

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If You Think Your Business Is Too Small To Be Hacked … You’re A Cybercriminal’s #1 Target

Many cybercriminals look at small businesses like blank checks. More often than not, small businesses just don’t put money into their cyber security, and hackers and cybercriminals love those odds. They can target small businesses at random, and they are all but guaranteed to find a business that has no IT security – or the business does have some security but it isn’t set up correctly.

At the same time, cybercriminals send e-mails to businesses (and all the employees) with links to phishing websites (websites designed to look like familiar and legitimate websites) or links to malware. They hope employees will click on the links and give the criminals the information they want. All it takes is ONE employee to make the click.

Or, if the business doesn’t have any security in place, a cybercriminal may be able to steal all the data they want. If you have computers connected to the Internet and those computers house sensitive business or customer data – and you have NO security – cybercriminals have tools to access these computers and walk away with sensitive data.

It gets worse! There are cybercriminals who have the capability to lock you out of your computer system and hold your data hostage. They may send along a link to ransomware, and if you or an employee clicks the link or downloads a file, your business could be in big trouble. The criminal may request a sum of money in exchange for restoring your PCs or data.

However, as some businesses have learned, it’s not always that simple. There are businesses that have paid the ransom only for the cybercriminal to delete all of their data anyway. The criminal walks away with the money and the business is left to die.

And that’s not an understatement! Once cybercriminals have your data and money, or both, they don’t care what happens to you. Cybercriminals can do more than just major damage to small businesses; their actions can literally destroy a business! We’re talking about the costs of repairing the damage and the cost of losing customers who no longer want to do business with you. You’re looking at a public relations nightmare!

This goes to show just how critical good IT security really is, but business owners still don’t take it seriously. Even as we enter 2020, there are business owners who don’t consider cyber security a high priority — or a priority at all. It’s a mindset that comes from before the age of the Internet, when businesses didn’t face these kinds of threats. And many business owners fall into the habit of complacency. In other words, “It hasn’t happened yet, so it probably isn’t going to happen.” Or “My business isn’t worth attacking.”

Cybercriminals don’t think like this. It’s a numbers game and only a matter of time. Business owners need to adapt to today’s online landscape where just about everything is connected to the Internet. And if something is connected to the Internet, there is always going to be some level of vulnerability.

But you can control your level of vulnerability! You can be cheap or complacent and do the bare minimum, which will put your business and customers at risk. Or you can take it seriously and put IT security measures in place – firewalls, malware protection, secure modems and routers, cyber security insurance and working with a dedicated IT security company. There are so many options available to secure your business.

The reality is that cyber security should be a normal, everyday part of any business. And anyone thinking about starting a business should be having the cyber security talk right from the very beginning: “What are we going to do to protect our business and our customers from outside cyberthreats?”

When it comes down to it, not only do you need good cyber security, but you also need a good cyber security policy to go along with it. It’s something you share with your team, customers, vendors, investors and anyone else who puts their trust in your business. Transparency about your cyber security is a great way to build and
maintain trust with these people. If you don’t have IT security in place, why should anyone trust you?

Think about that question and think about the security you have in place right now. How can you make it better? If you need to reach out to an IT security firm, do it! It will only make your business better and prepare you for the threats that are looming right now. No business is too small or too obscure to be hacked.

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3 Places You Should NEVER Cut Corners With IT

We all know how easy it is to cut corners in business; we’ve all done it somewhere. But we also know we shouldn’t. You’ll eventually have to face the consequences, whether they’re small or large. The same applies to IT. When you cut corners, the consequences to your business can be major. Here are three places where you never want to cut costs.

EQUIPMENT

You want to set up a wireless network at the office, but you don’t want to spend more than $50. So, you spend that $50 and call it good. While this new router may deliver a wireless signal that reaches every employee, you could be making a huge mistake that may cost you dearly.

Routers are a good example of technology you want to put extra thought and money into. You want equipment that not only makes sense for your business’s network needs but will also perform reliably and securely. Cheap routers aren’t known for their security features. You want something that will complement the firewalls or security software you have in place (and you should have them).

This same idea applies to all other equipment, as well as software. When you cut corners, there’s a good chance you’ll be opening your wallet again to fix the problem in the near future. On top of that, it puts your data at risk if you’re buying cheap, potentially faulty equipment. Do research, ask questions and work with an experienced IT company to make sure your equipment is up to snuff.

GROWTH OF YOUR BUSINESS

Whether you’re just getting started or you’ve been in the business for a while now, you always want to invest in hardware and software that will scale with your business. It’s safe to say that most businesses want to grow, which means adding more customers and more employees. When that’s the plan, scalability becomes a big deal.

Part of it comes back to the first point: cheap equipment isn’t typically designed with scalability in mind. It’s a quick-fix investment. It’s not made for the long haul. Where do you plan on being in five years? What are your growth goals? You have to ask these kinds of questions to determine what kind of investment you need to make, whether it’s in billing software, customer service software, workstations or your network infrastructure.

If you don’t think about scalability, as soon as you start really growing, you’ll be hit by growing pains. You’ll have to reinvest in technology, and you’ll be spending far more than you needed to, once for the first investment (on non- scalable tech) and once for the second investment (to catch up with your growth). But because your business has grown since that initial investment, you’ll be left with a hefty bill – for much more than you paid the first time. Don’t make this mistake!

DATA SECURITY

Just because your data is locked away in the back room doesn’t mean it’s safe. For one, small businesses are the biggest targets for cybercriminals because most small businesses skimp on data security, making it easy for cybercriminals to steal data and cause a lot of problems.

To make matters worse, if you get hit with a cyber-attack or data breach, it can be incredibly difficult to recover, and many small businesses don’t ever recover. They struggle for a few months before finally closing their doors.

You need to invest in firewalls, malware protection, data encryption, data backups, password managers and, as mentioned above, good equipment that is designed with reliability and security in mind. And no, you don’t have to figure it out by yourself. It can be a lot, and as you dive into the topic of data security, you’ll have questions.

This is exactly why you want to pair up with an experienced IT company that specializes in security. It is very hard to run a business and try to be a data security expert at the same time. Thankfully, you don’t have to do that. You can get the most out of your equipment, you can be prepared for future growth and you can be ready for the threats to your data! You just have to make that first investment.

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Top Strategies I Learned To Fight Off Complacency And Get Out Of My Comfort Zone

Jesse Itzler is a man of many talents. He spoke at a recent conference this past fall and brought a lot of great business insight with him. Itzler got his start as a rapper in the early ’90s. He worked with artists including Tone Lōc, wrote a song that made it to the Billboard Hot 100 (“Shake It Like A White Girl”) and wrote and sang the New York Knicks theme song, “Go NY Go.” He then went on to write the theme songs for over 50 other professional sports teams.

But it turned out that as much as he loved the music business, it wasn’t his true passion. Itzler was an entrepreneur at heart. He had a lot of ideas he wanted to turn into reality. One of those ideas stemmed from his short music career. In 1996, he founded Alphabet City Sports Records with a friend. The business served pro sports teams and remixed songs for their use. In 1998, Itzler and his friend sold the company.

Then in 2001, Itzler moved on to his next major venture: Marquis Jet. This company would quickly become one of the biggest and best-known private jet companies ever. They offered prepaid access to private jets, and it became wildly popular. In fact, in 2009, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway bought Marquis Jet (Berkshire Hathaway is also the parent company of NetJets, which offers fractional ownership in private jets).

Itzler didn’t stop there. He founded 100 Mile Group, a brand incubator. He partnered with ZICO Coconut Water, which exploded in popularity and was acquired by Coca- Cola. And to top it all off, he lived with a former Navy SEAL and wrote a book about the experience: Living With A SEAL: 31 Days Training With The Toughest Man On The Planet. All these accomplishments only scratch the surface of Itzler’s professional life.

Itzler accomplished all of this over the last 30 years because he wasn’t complacent. He routinely pushed himself out of his comfort zone and made choices to get to the next level. It’s not an easy thing to do, but he knew that if he wanted to be successful, he had to push himself. It’s something we all have to do.

One major piece of advice he offered to the Producers Club crowd was to differentiate. He used a great analogy: “Your brownies have to be different from all of the other brownies on the market.” This was in reference to a brownie business he worked on in college. You must ask yourself how you’re going to stand out in the market, because chances are there’s another guy out there offering the same thing you are. You have to set yourself apart. This is why Itzler got out of the rap game and started producing music for sports teams – he set himself apart.

Another strategy to fight complacency that he recommends is this: You need to put yourself in a position where luck will find you. You have to put yourself out there. Early in his career, Itzler was cold-calling all the way to the top. He’d cold-call CEOs to get their attention when he was working on his music career. Later, when he was running Marquis Jet, he was getting himself in front of celebrities like Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. He took major risks getting his name and company in front of influential people, but by being willing to take those risks, luck, as he put it, found him.

Another of his strategies that really stood out to me was when you have momentum, you have to double down and “hit the gas.” For instance, when you accomplish a goal, go after even bigger goals. Complacency is what happens when you don’t hit the gas. On top of that, you can’t negotiate your goals and change them because you don’t want to put the effort into doubling down. It’s okay if how you get to the goal changes, but the final goal shouldn’t change. After all, you set goals for a reason – you do want to push yourself; you just have to put in the effort.

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Cybercriminals Are Taking Aim At Your Business … Is Your Network Protected?

Cybercriminals love to test your defenses. They love to see how far they can get into the networks ofbusinesses all over the globe. Cybercriminals really love going after small businesses because they can all too often sneak onto a network, copy data and move on. Through the use of ransomware, they can hold your data hostage and refuse to cooperate until you pay them some amount of dollars – and if you don’t pay up, they threaten to delete all your data.

But protecting yourself is not as hard as you might think. While cybercriminals and hackers are an everyday threat to businesses, you can take steps to significantly reduce that threat and take that target off your back. The first thing you need to do is understand why cybercriminals target small businesses and what makes your particular business vulnerable. There are many things small businesses do and don’t do that open them to attack and data theft. These may include not having enough (or any) security in place or not training employees on security protocols.

Realistically speaking, the biggest threat to your business does, in fact, come from your own employees. This doesn’t mean they are intentionally harming your business or leaving your network exposed to outside threats. It means they don’t have the proper training and knowledge to protect your business from a cyberthreat.

For instance, your team needs to be trained to use strong passwords, and those passwords must be changed periodically (every three months is a good rule of thumb). A lot of people push back on strong, complicated passwords or use the same password for everything, but this is just asking for trouble and should not be allowed at your company.

Once strong passwords are in place, enable two-factor authentication (2FA) on everything you possibly can, from network access to every account you and your employees use. This is an additional layer of security on top of standard password protection. This feature is generally tied to a mobile number or secondary e-mail, or it may be in the form of a PIN. For example, when 2FA is enabled, after you’ve put in your password, you will be prompted for your PIN for the associated account.

Another thing you must do to get that target off your back is to get anti-malware software installed. Every workstation or device should have some form of this protection. Not sure what to use? This is when working with a dedicated IT company can come in handy. They can help you get the right software that will meet your specific needs without slowing you down. They will install software that is compatible with your PCs and

“You can take steps to significantly reduce that threat and take that target off your back.”

other networked equipment. Plus, they will make sure anti-malware software is working and is regularly updated.

On top of this, you want to have an active firewall in place. Every business should have its network protected by a firewall; like anti-malware software, firewall security comes with a number of different settings, and you can customize it to fit the needs of your network. Firewalls help keep attackers and malicious software off your network. When paired with a good anti-malware software, your layers of security are multiplied. The more layers, the better protected you are.

Finally, with all of this in place, your employees need to know what it all means. Keep your team up-to-date on your business’s security protocols. This includes items like your password policy, malware protection policy and proper e-mail and web-surfing etiquette.The bad guys are never going to stop attacking, but you have the power to protect your business from
those attacks.

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The Top 4 Tricks And Sneaky Schemes They Use To Hack Your Computer Network

Most cybercriminals love their jobs. They get to put their hacking skills to the test. In fact, many of them “compete” against one another to see who can hack into a network the fastest or who can steal the most data. They don’t care who gets hurt along the way. And in most cases, it’s smallbusiness owners who are getting hurt.

Cybercriminals will do anything to get what they want. Some want to create chaos. Some want to steal data. And others want to get straight to the money. These are the people who willnhold your data hostage until you pay up. They install ransomware on your computers, and if you don’t pay, they threaten to delete your data. This is one of the many reasons why backing up ALL of your data is so important!

So, how do the bad guys get your data? How do they work their way into your network and find exactly what they’re looking for? Well, it’s much easier than you might think.

They count on you to have no security. This is why cybercriminals go after small businesses. They know most small-business owners don’t invest in security or invest very little. Even if the business does have security, it’s generally easy for a hacker to break through.

Then, all the hacker has to do is steal or destroy data, install malware on the computers and then wait. Because there are so many small businesses around the world, it’s just a numbers game for cybercriminals. When you attack every business, you are guaranteed to eventually succeed in the attack.

They let your employees do the work for them. Most cybercriminals aren’t going to “hack” into your network or computer. They’ll let your employees do it for them. All the cybercriminal needs to do is get hold of your company’s email list and then e-mail your employees.

This phishing e-mail may include a link or an attached file. The e-mail may be disguised as a message from a bank or retailer – or another source your employees are familiar with. The problem is that it’s all fake. The cybercriminal wants your employees to click the link or open the file, which will likely install malware on their computer. Once the malware is there, the cybercriminal may gain access to your network and be able to steal critical data.

They exploit outdated hardware and software. If you haven’t updated your equipment in years, you leave it open to attack. This is a huge problem in the health care industry right now. Many hospital-based computers are still running Windows XP. Microsoft ended support for Windows XP in 2014, which means the operating system isn’t getting any security patches, leaving users
vulnerable.

“Most cybercriminals aren’t going to ‘hack’ into your network or computer. They’ll let your employees do it for them.”

Hackers spend a lot of time looking for vulnerabilities in different types of hardware and software. When they find them, it opens up the general public to those vulnerabilities. In many cases, hardware and software developers work to fix these vulnerabilities and get updates out to users. But these updates only work if YOU update your equipment. If your equipment is no longer supported by the developers or manufacturers, that’s a good indication that it’s time to update. While the upfront cost can be high, it doesn’t compare to the cost you’ll face if hackers get into your network.

They try every password. Many cybercriminals use password-cracking software to get past your password defenses. The weaker your password, the easier it is to break. In fact, hackers can often break simple passwords in a matter of seconds. This is why it’s so important to have strong passwords. Not only that, but all your passwords MUST be changed every three months.

Here’s why you need to constantly update your passwords: cybercriminals aren’t just going after you. They’re going after everybody, including the services you use as a business. If those businesses get hacked, criminals can gain access to countless passwords, including yours. Hackers then can either attempt to useyour passwords or sell them for profit. Either way, if you never change your password, you make yourself a target.

Use these four points to your advantage! It is possible to protect yourself and your business from the bad guys. Do everything you can to implement stronger overall security. Prioritize stronger passwords. Keep your equipment updated. And most of all, educate your team about cyberthreats to your business!

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4 Things You Should Absolutely Demand From Your IT Services Firm

How much do you rely on your IT services provider? It’s startling to think that a lot of small businesses outsource their IT (which is a good thing), only to get little to nothing out of that relationship.

Why is that?

Well, some businesses just aren’t proactive. They only rely on their IT services company when something goes horribly wrong. If there’s a network failure or their website gets hacked, they’ll make the call to their IT people, but that’s the extent of the relationship.

On the other side of the same coin, there are a lot of IT companies that wait around for that phone call. They don’t work with their clients as closely as they should. Both of these reasons are downright irresponsible.

First and foremost, business owners should work closely with their IT pros. They should have the staff and resources to not only address your IT emergencies but also to keep your business safe and secure to minimize those emergencies. Here are four things you should ask of your IT services provider.

“Keep my business safe!” Your IT company should make sure your network security, firewalls, malware protection, etc., are installed, operating and up-to-date. They should be working with you to do everything to keep your business’s data secure and make sure it can be restored in the rare event that data loss does occur.

Keeping your customer data secure should be a top priority. Don’t take unnecessary risks, because when you do, the consequences can be devastating.

“Help me keep costs down!” You outsourced your IT to save money. Hiring an internal IT person or staff is a massive expense (plus, many small businesses simply don’t have the revenue to sustain IT personnel). However, your IT company should be working to maintain your network and associated hardware and software. They are there to help you avoid costly disasters like data loss or network downtime. If you do a lot of e-commerce, your IT company can be an invaluable asset. You literally pay them to save money.

“Help me stay proactive!” An experienced IT company can often spot an issue before it becomes an issue. They keep your network updated and maintained, and they can help you avoid unnecessary downtime. Working closely with your IT company means you aren’t skimping on security, and this alone puts you ahead of so many other businesses that do. And make sure you have an open line of communication between your business and your IT team, even if that means scheduling regular calls. You should regularly talk about security and know about the issues that may impact your business, whether it’s an equipment concern or a hacker threat. On top of that, tell your customers you care about the security of your business and their data. They will appreciate it – seriously!

“Waiting until something breaks is a dangerous – and costly – way to do business.”

“Keep my network up-to-date!” This covers a lot of ground. Your outsourced IT should be keeping your security updated, from your firewall to your malware protection, but they should also be keeping your network tech updated too. Hackers look for weaknesses in network tech every day – weak spots that allow them to capture data from your network. Sometimes they exploit the firmware, and sometimes it’s the hardware. Regardless, you should always rest assured that your IT company is doing everything they can within the budget you set to keep your network as updated as possible.

If your IT company isn’t doing any of these things, you need to get on the phone with them NOW! Don’t put your business at risk because you only make the call after the worst-case scenario has occurred. Waiting until something breaks is a dangerous – and costly – way to do business. It’s time to be proactive and get the most out of the relationship you have with your IT company.

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Don’t Let Your IT Company Make This One Mistake With Your Computer Network

Your IT services company is one quick phone call away. This is true of a lot of businesses that outsource their IT needs through an IT services provider.

While having an outsourced IT company on standby is great, a lot of the time they stay on standby. That is to say, they only get a phone call when something goes absolutely wrong – networks crash, hardware fails, data is stolen or erased and so on.

This is a major mistake.

Your IT company is capable (and willing) to do so much more than react to a catastrophic failure. When you save the phone call for emergencies, you’re leaving a lot of expertise on the table. Your IT company can make a huge difference in the way your business operates day-to-day – and for the better!

CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING:

You reduce your risk greatly. Do you know if your systems and processes are compliant with current standards? Is your network security up to par? Do you want to risk it and assume everything is up to snuff? Your IT company is there to make sure your business is secure before something happens, whether it’s a minor network outage or a catastrophic security breach. If you’re storing your customers’ financial details (or, really, any sensitive data) on a local server, this is HUGE.

You have one less thing to worry about. When you delegate and rely on your IT services company, this frees you up to work on what really matters: your business itself. Your IT company helps make sure you don’t spread yourself too thin. And when it comes to delegation, make sure your employees can contact your IT team as needed. After all, your employees are on the frontlines and may experience an issue that needs resolving. They shouldn’t need to bug you about it. They should be able to submit a ticket directly to your IT. Simple!

Your business stays ahead of the curve. This comes down to proactivity. An experienced IT company knows IT like no one else; they can, in some cases, catch a problem before it becomes a problem. They are there to keep your network updated and maintained, and, should an issue arise, they can address it ASAP to ensure your business avoids any downtime or outages. Plus, this gives you a competitive advantage. A lot of medium and small businesses skimp on security. They spend as little as possible on security and network management. You know who doesn’t skimp? The bigger companies. You can get on their level and blow past your competition.

Waiting until something goes wrong is a dangerous and ineffective approach to IT. It puts your business at serious risk …

This is something your own customers would love to hear.

You keep costs down. Business owners love to save money where they can. Outsourcing your IT and relying on your IT company helps you do this. First, you don’t have to hire a dedicated, in-house IT team. This can be very costly. A qualified IT staff can come with a serious price tag because they’re in such demand. Second, because you have an outside IT company maintaining your network, they can help you avoid costly disasters, such as a network failure or data loss.

Waiting until something goes wrong is a dangerous and ineffective approach to IT. It puts your business at serious risk, both internally and externally. Let your IT company do what they do best: managing your systems! They help keep things running smoothly. You never have to worry if your firewall is up and running (and up-to-date). Don’t keep them at arm’s length. Let them do their job.

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3 Ways To Prevent Your Employees From Leaking Confidential Information

A lot of businesses need to come to terms with the fact that their employees are their greatest IT threat. As a business owner, you may be aware of cyberthreats to your business, but your employees might not be. They might not know about the threat of cyber-attacks or malware. They might use unsecured WiFi on company equipment. As a result, your employees may be putting your business at serious risk.

What can you do to change that?

1. IT ALL STARTS WITH EDUCATION. One of the biggest reasons why employees put their employer at risk simply comes down to a lack of education. They don’t know about the threats targeting businesses or that small businesses are a major target of hackers and scammers.

You need to do everything you can to train your employees. Give them the education and resources to be a line of defense rather than a risk. Develop a consistent training regimen. If you need to bring in IT professionals to help, do it. Don’t make assumptions about critical IT security training if you aren’t sure. Professionals can answer your questions and make sure you and your employees have everything you need to know to keep your business secure.

Another important thing is to hold this training regularly. Threats evolve, and you need to stay ahead of the curve. Keep IT security on the minds of your employees. When they forget about it, that’s when the risk is highest.

2. SAY NO TO UNSECURED, PUBLIC WIFI. This is a big problem for businesses with remote employees, employees who work from home or employees who use company technology outside of the business walls. According to a Spiceworks study, 61% of employees said they have connected to unsecured WiFi while working remotely.

This is cause for concern. Connecting to public WiFi is like leaving the front door of your home wide-open while posting on social media that you’re going to be out of town for a week. You never know who is going to let themselves in and snoop around. Hackers use public hot spots to circulate malware and steal data. Sometimes they even set up fake hot spots with the same name as a legitimate hot spot to trick users into connecting to their WiFi, which makes data theft even easier.

Discouraging your employees from using unsecured, public WiFi is a good step to take, but don’t be afraid to take it further. Don’t let them connect company equipment to unsecured WiFi at all. And place a bigger focus on endpoint security – make sure your equipment has up-to-date software, malware protection, local firewalls, as well as a VPN (virtual private network). The more layers of security, the better.

“It’s all about understanding the threats and taking a proactive approach to security.”

3. PROTECT ALL OF YOUR DATA. Your employees should never save personal or business data on portable/external hard drives, USB drives or even as printed material – and then take that data out of the office. The theft of these types of devices is a real threat. An external hard drive is a tempting target for thieves because they will search the drive for sensitive data, such as financial or customer information that they can use or sell.

If you have remote employees who need to access company data, put a method in place to do just that (it should be discussed as part of your regular company IT security training). They need to know how to properly access the data, save the data or delete it, if necessary. Many businesses go with a secure cloud option, but you need to determine what makes the most sense for your business and its security.

While these three tips are great, nothing beats helping your employees develop a positive IT security mindset. It’s all about understanding the threats and taking a proactive approach to security. Proactivity reduces risk. But you don’t have to go it alone. Working with experienced IT security professionals is the best way to cover all your bases – and to ensure your employees have everything they need to protect your business.

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Employees Keeping Your Data Safe? … Don’t Count On It

In any business, big or small, employees can be your biggest IT threat, and they might not even realize it. Businesses already face countless cyberthreats, like data breaches, cyber-attacks, online viruses and malicious e-mails. But despite all these outside threats, the real problem can come from the inside.

One of the biggest threats to your business’s security is simply a lack of awareness on the part of your employees. It comes down to this: your employees just aren’t aware of current threats or how to safely navigate e-mails and the web. They might not be aware when they connect to an unsecured WiFi network or if they’re using a firewall. They may be haphazard in all things IT. There are a lot of variables.

Your best defence, in this case, is training. Get all of your employees on the same page. Look at your current training and find the gaps, or start putting together training if you don’t have it. You want a training program that covers all your bases and gives your employees the knowledge and tools they need to keep themselves and your business secure. (Don’t know where to begin? Work with professional IT specialists. They know what your employees NEED to know!)

Another major security threat is phishing e-mails. On any given day, you and your employees can be on the receiving end of dozens, if not hundreds, of fraudulent e-mails. Data from Symantec shows that 71% of targeted cyber-attacks stem from phishing e-mails. While awareness regarding phishing scams is better than ever, it’s still far from perfect. And it doesn’t help that phishing e-mails have gotten more advanced.

Phishing e-mails are typically disguised as messages from a legitimate source, such as a colleague, a bank or an online retailer. They try to trick recipients into clicking a link or opening a file (which you should NEVER do if you are not 100% sure about the source). But there are easy ways to identify scam e-mails:

  1. They’re impersonal. They may be addressed to “customer,” “to whom it may concern” or “my friend.” But be careful – sometimes they are addressed properly and use your name.
  2. They’re full of spelling and grammar errors. Not every phishing e-mail will have these errors, but it’s good to read e-mails word for word rather than just glancing over them. Unusual errors often mean a scam is lurking.
  3. The “from” e-mail address is unfamiliar. This is one of the easiest ways to pinpoint a scam e-mail. Look at the sender, and if the address is filled with numbers, letters, misspelled words or is weirdly long, there’s a good chance it’s from a scammer.

The other major issue facing your business is your employees connecting to unsecured WiFi hot spots. It is such an easy mistake to make. Whether it’s a remote employee or an employee working during lunch at a corner café, you never know when they might connect to unsecured WiFi (it doesn’t help that it’s everywhere these days). One Spiceworks study found that upward of 61% of employees connect to unsecured public WiFi while working remotely.

The problem is, you never know who is watching or if the public WiFi is really the network you intend to connect to. Hackers can easily set up a “fake” network to divert traffic to their hot spot to circulate malware and steal data.

Another WiFi threat might be right at home. If you have employees who work from home, you need to make sure their home WiFi connection is secure. Too often, homeowners leave their WiFi wide-open because it’s home. They think no one’s going to sneak onto their WiFi or they keep it unsecure because it’s easier to connect a lot of devices.

While it might be easier to connect to, it can cause huge problems. For one, WiFi signals can reach hundreds of feet. It’s easy to sit outside of an apartment or out on the street and find dozens of WiFi signals. If any of these signals are unsecure, a hacker can sit outside undisturbed and go to work accessing data and planting malware.

It all comes back to this: Work with your employees to establish IT best practices. Educate them on threats and how to protect themselves and your company. Help them develop a positive IT security mindset at the office, at home or anywhere they work, whether they’re using company equipment or their own.

Don’t know where to start? Don’t worry – one phone call and we can help get you started. Don’t wait. Let’s secure your business today.

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