Clear Signs You’re About To Get Hacked … And What To Do NOW To Prevent It

Do you use the same password for everything? If you do, you’re not alone. We all have bad cyber habits, whether it’s reusing passwords or connecting to unsecured WiFi. These habits can make it easy for hackers to steal our personal information and use it for their own purposes – or they can sell it on the dark web for an easy profit.

These are habits you have to stop right now – and habits your employees need to stop too. After all, good cyber security practices are a group effort! But using the same password for everything or using simple passwords aren’t the only things that are going to get you into trouble. Here are three more clear signs you’re setting yourself up for a breach.

Sharing Your E-mail

Countless websites want your e-mail address. Sometimes it’s not a big deal if you’re sharing it with a vendor or ecommerce site. You want to ensure you receive invoices and shipping confirmation. But other websites just want you to sign up for special offers, notifications, e-mail newsletters and other inbox clutter. It sounds mostly harmless, but what they fail to tell you is the fact that they’re going to sell your email address to advertisers and other third parties.

To make matters worse, you have no idea where your e-mail address will end up – or if it will fall into the wrong hands. Hackers are constantly on the lookout for e-mail addresses they can take advantage of. They use e-mail for several different kinds of cyberscams – most notably phishing scams. Hackers can even make it look like an e-mail is coming from a legitimate source to get you to open it.

Whenever possible, avoid using your work or personal email. If you need to sign up for something and you don’t completely trust the source (or just want to avoid spam), create a “burner” e-mail address you can use. It should be something different from your work or personal e-mail and not associated with business or banking.

Not Using HTTPS

Most of us are familiar with HTTP. It’s short for Hypertext Transfer Protocol and is a part of every web address. These days, however, many websites are using HTTPS – the S standing for “secure.” Some web browsers, like Google Chrome, even open HTTPS websites automatically, giving you a more secure connection. Of course, this only works if the website was made with an HTTPS option.

Why is visiting an unsecured HTTP website dangerous? Any data you share with an unsecured website, such as date of birth, passwords or any financial information, may not be securely stored. You have no way of knowing that your private data won’t end up in the hands of a third party, whether that’s an advertiser or a hacker. It isn’t worth the risk.

“Many password managers are designed to suggest new passwords to you when it’s time to update your old passwords.”

When visiting any website, look in the address bar. There should be a little padlock. If the padlock is closed or green, you are on a secure website. If it’s open or red, the website is not secure. You can also click the padlock to verify the website’s security credentials. It’s best practice to immediately leave any website that is not secured. And never share your personal information on a webpage that is not secure.

Saving Your Passwords In Your Web Browser

Web browsers make life so easy. You can save your favorite websites at the click of a button. You can customize them to your needs using extensions and addons. And you can save all your usernames and passwords in one place! But as convenient as it is, saving passwords in your browser comes with a price: low security.

If a hacker gets into your saved passwords, it’s like opening a treasure chest full of gold. They have everything they could ever want. Sure, web browsers require a password or PIN to see saved passwords, but a skilled hacker can force their way past this hurdle if given the chance.

Use a password manager instead. These apps keep all of your passwords in one place, but they come with serious security. Even better, many password managers are designed to suggest new passwords to you when it’s time to update your old passwords. LastPass, 1Password and Keeper Security Password Manager are all good options. Find one that suits your needs and the needs of your business.

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5 Signs You’re About To Get Hacked – And What You Can Do To Prevent It

Hackers love to go after small businesses. There are many businesses to choose from, and many don’t invest in good IT security. Plus, many business owners and their employees have bad cyber security habits. They do things that increase their risk of a malware attack or a cyber-attack. Here are five bad habits that can lead to a hack and what you can do to reduce your risk.

  1. Giving out your e-mail Just about every website wants your e-mail address. If you share it with a vendor or e- commerce site, it’s usually not a big deal (though it varies by site – some are more than happy to sell your e-mail to advertisers). The point is that when you share your e-mail, you have no idea where it will end up – including in the hands of hackers and scammers. The more often you share your e-mail, the more you’re at risk and liable to start getting suspicious e-mails in your inbox.

    If you don’t recognize the sender, then don’t click it. Even if you do recognize the sender but aren’t expecting anything from them and do click it, then DO NOT click links or attachments. There’s always a chance it’s malware. If you still aren’t sure, confirm with the sender over the phone or in person before clicking anything.

  2. Not deleting cookies Cookies are digital trackers. They are used to save website settings and to track your behavior. For example, if you click a product, cookies are logged in your browser and shared with ad networks. This allows for targeted advertising.

    There’s no good way to tell who is tracking online. But you can use more secure web browsers, like Firefox and Safari. These browsers make it easy to control who is tracking you.

    In Firefox, for example, click the three lines in the upper right corner, go into the Options menu and set your Privacy & Security preferences. Plus, every web browser has the option to delete cookies – which you should do constantly. In Chrome, simply click History, then choose “Clear Browsing Data.” Done. You can also use ad-blocking extensions, like uBlock Origin, for a safe web-browsing experience.

  3. Not checking for HTTPS Most of us know HTTP – Hypertext Transfer Protocol. It’s a part of every web address. However, most websites now use HTTPS, with the S meaning “secure.” Most browsers now automatically open HTTPS websites, giving you a more secure connection, but not all sites use it.

    If you visit an unsecured HTTP website, any data you share with that site, including date of birth or financial information, is not secure. You don’t know if your private data will end up in the hands of a third party, whether that be an advertiser (most common) or a hacker. Always look in the address bar of every site you visit. Look for the padlock icon. If the padlock is closed or green, you’re secure. If it’s open or red, you’re not secure.

    You should immediately leave any website that isn’t secure.

  4. “Good IT security can be the best investment you can make for the future of your business.”

  5. Saving passwords in your web browser Browsers can save passwords at the click of a button. Makes things easy, right? Unfortunately, this method of saving passwords is not the most secure. If a hacker gets your saved passwords, they have everything they could ever want. Most web browsers require a password or PIN to see saved passwords, but a skilled hacker can force their way past this if given the chance.

    Protect yourself with a dedicated password manager! These apps keep passwords in one place and come with serious security. Password managers can also suggest new passwords when it’s time to update old passwords (and they remind you to change your passwords!). LastPass, 1Password and Keeper Security Password Manager are good options. Find one that suits your needs and the needs of your business.

  6. You believe it will never happen to you This is the worst mentality to have when it comes to cyber security. It means you aren’t prepared for what can happen. Business owners who think hackers won’t target them are MORE likely to get hit with a data breach or malware attack. If they think they are in the clear, they are less likely to invest in good security and education for their employees.

    The best thing you can do is accept that you are at risk. All small businesses are at risk. But you can lower your risk by investing in good network security, backing up all your data to a secure cloud network, using strong passwords, educating your team about cyberthreats and working with a dedicated IT company. Good IT security can be the best investment you make for the future of your business.

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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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