The more ‘connected’ we become - both personally and in business - the more vulnerable we become to scams, hacks, data loss and other IT unpleasantness.
Some of the consequences can be very unpleasant indeed and in the worst-case scenario, businesses can literally be destroyed financially and reputationally.
Businesses and individuals have been at the receiving end of cyber-related attacks for years; the dangers came to prominence last year with the huge ransomware attacks that targeted many businesses, including the NHS.
Do we have to live with that? Will the bad people always be one step ahead? To a certain extent perhaps, yes.
The bad people are very, very clever indeed and there are no magic IT wands to wave but most of the time, we can be masters of our cyber destiny and protect ourselves and our businesses if we just exercise care, caution and common sense.
Pro-Networks’ customers have less to worry about. We employ one of most qualified, accredited and experienced teams of IT experts in the region. They ensure their customers’ systems operate at an optimal level, that their data is secure and recoverable and that their processes are compliant. And when there are problems, they get them sorted.
Those not so thoroughly protected can still go a long way to reduce their risks. Here’s the Pro-Networks top ten cyber protection tips.
We’ve all heard it before but it’s well worth repeating: make sure your passwords are robust. This is a primary but effective method of reducing your personal and corporate risks.
Don’t base passwords on family names, favourite sports teams or other details that could be gleaned from you in a conversation – or from your social media posts. Some people use passwords with symbols or digits substituted for letters. Sadly, these tricks add nothing to the level of protection you have. Password cracking programs know all the common substitutions and check for them when they are trying to crack passwords. Three random words with symbols or digits between them are much harder to crack, but a lot easier to remember.
Make sure your network is secure from the outside. Use correctly configured firewalls, change the default admin passwords on the device and make sure the firmware is up to date. Close all ports that are not needed, and only open ports when there is a verified business need. And even then, re-direct the port if you can and use unobvious port numbers. Consider two-factor authentication to control remote access.
This isn’t protection, its insurance. If you lose data, you need to know that you can restore it in a timely fashion. Data loss or slow restoration times can slaughter a business. Do trial restores of your backups periodically – make sure your safety net is operational.
It’s not enough for you as the business owner or manager to know about these things: make sure your team is fully up to speed on these dangers and their individual roles in prevention. It’s all about good practice. Do your staff know what to look for, what to be suspicious of and what common tricks are in use right now by cyber attackers? Resolve to train your staff. Make it part of the induction for new-starters.
5. Get wise to the threats. A common form of attack is via the simple medium of email. Learn to spot fraudulent or dangerous emails. These are getting ever more sophisticated. They can look like they came from one of your Directors, to a named individual in accounts, asking that a payment be made to one of your named customers and that it must happen as soon as possible. They look real and they foster a sense of urgency so that staff try to comply quickly. Stop, think and double check. You’ll find the bank details provided in the email belong to the scammers. Learn to spot this type of threat. Pro-Networks regularly share the latest threats on social media channels and give tips on how to identify a scam email.
A common form of attack is via the simple medium of email. Learn to spot fraudulent or dangerous emails. These are getting ever more sophisticated. They can look like they came from one of your Directors, to a named individual in accounts, asking that a payment be made to one of your named customers and that it must happen as soon as possible. They look real and they foster a sense of urgency so that staff try to comply quickly. Stop, think and double check. You’ll find the bank details provided in the email belong to the scammers. Learn to spot this type of threat. Pro-Networks regularly share the latest threats on social media channels and give tips on how to identify a scam email.
Most businesses use Anti-Virus/Anti-Malware software. That’s great, but make sure it is properly licensed and, even more importantly, ensure it is up to date. Don’t allow staff to defer or refuse signature updates. Roll these out automatically. Relying on out of date anti-virus software can make you four times more likely to get infected. That’s never a problem when you are working with a trusted IT support provider such as Pro-Networks.
In the same vein, be aware of and never delay in installing security updates and operating system patches – once your IT provider has checked that the update is not going to introduce operational problems or even exploits.
Always pay attention to your social media settings. Make sure your social networking profiles (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+ etc.) are set to private. Check those security settings, don’t assume you know what the defaults are. Never post sensitive information about yourself or your family online. If the world knows you’re on holiday, the burglars do too.
If you are going to commit personal data to Dropbox, Google drive or any online file sharing service, consider encrypting it before uploading. Microsoft Office applications allow you to encrypt and save with a password. Files from other applications can be compressed into a password protected zip file. It takes no time at all to do, and it uses less of your precious cloud storage into the bargain.
Finally, and this is so often ignored, never store your card details on websites, however secure you feel they may be.
Even better, especially if you’re running a business with clients to care for and employees to look after, think seriously about investing in expert support from a top-flight IT support company.
They can take away so much of the worry by delivering worry-free, hassle-free protection, and it needn’t cost the earth.