You own a small business, and sometimes it feels exhausting to keep up with all the demands. From payroll to staffing to marketing, the whole load weighs heavily on your weary shoulders. But when you follow our online safety tips, you can lessen your burden just a little bit. You’ll know you are doing your best to lock out hackers.

You are likely aware that cybercrimes are on the rise and are reaching epidemic proportions. And, you might even have heard some of the scary terms that float around the internet.

Malware. Ransomware. Spyware. They sound ominous, and they are.
A brush with any one of these can wreak havoc on your business, cost you a lot of money, and expose your customers to risks.

Today, we are going to explain to you the meaning of each of those previously mentioned terms along with several other everyday hacks. Of course, we will also share the remedies that will improve your online safety, helping you keep hackers at bay.

Malware:

The term malware arises from a contraction of two descriptors and can accurately portray the danger. MALicious and softWARE = malware.

In a nutshell, it is code or a file that a hacker introduces into your network. From there, it infects and corrupts your files and might even send data back to the hacker.

They are delivered via spam emails or infected files that they trick you into downloading.

But, the term malware is a comprehensive term. It has several manifestations you may have heard of, including:

Viruses:

These attack the data on your network, smartphone, or computer. They activate when you open an infected email or file. They damage your data and continue to spread. Hence, the name virus. In the worst of cases, they can even wipe out all data across your network.

Trojans:

We’re all familiar with the famous legend of the Greek warriors who hid their army inside a wooden horse, entered the city of Troy, and attacked them.

The Trojan operates much in the same way. You get this by downloading what you think is a legit app onto your system. Once you’ve downloaded, the Trojan rises up and wages battle on your network.

Hackers program them to do anything from malicious mischief to wiping files clean to stealing data to sell on the dark web.

Ransomware:

Hackers use ransomware attacks with the sole purpose of collecting data from your files and encrypts it so you cannot use it. Then, they hold that data hostage until you (or the person whose data they’ve stolen) pays a “ransom” or fee to buy back your records.

Ransomware usually enters your system as a Trojan.

Worms:

Worms are similar to viruses. However, they don’t typically consume files or apps. Thus, they sometimes do their work unnoticed but increasingly eat up the system’s bandwidth. They creep through the network carrying a “payload,” code that will unleash damage.

Their intent? They usually have a sinister goal of building a “back door” into a network. This is an opening that hackers can use to delete records, steal sensitive data, or launch a ransomware attack.

Spyware:

Spyware is another type of malware, and it’s one that’s beloved by cybercriminals. This code infiltrates the computer, mobile device, or network and then shares vital data or files with the hackers.

This info can be personal customer or employee sensitive data, your company’s financials, or even your trade secrets.

The Threat Escalates

Unfortunately, as we become a more internet-driven society, this threat continues to grow year after year.

And it doesn’t stop only with computers. Think about your mobile devices—fewer and fewer people go without the conveniences of tablets and mobile phones. But those tools also pose a risk to your online safety.

According to Avast, cyberattackers have caught on to the rise of the mobile device. Thus, they are turning efforts towards stealing data from phones now, as well as computers.

What You Can Do to Increase Online Safety for Your Business

All these threats should make you pause and consider your online safety. You are responsible for secure data. Your credit card transactions, financial statements, employee records, and customer email data is all housed on a computer. And, you probably connect to it from your mobile phone, as well.

Fortunately, you can implement measures to help bolster your safety.

Computer/Network Online Safety:

Below are seven primary online safety measures you should implement right away (if you have not already!)

1- Invest in virus protection

If you haven’t already taken this first step, invest in anti-virus software. This protocol serves as the first line of defense in stopping cyberattacks. While this, alone, may not stop a determined hacker, it gives you an edge over the casual criminal whose just cruising looking for an opportunity.

2 - Install a firewall

A firewall is a means of discerning between trusted traffic and untrustworthy sources of traffic on your network. It will reject the suspicious activity automatically, keeping your network a little bit safer.

3 - Password protocols

Undoubtedly, you’ve heard that you should use different passwords for all your various online accounts, change them often, and make them randomized. Yes, that makes it more difficult for you. But that level of difficulty—well, it’s kinda the point.

Interested in learning more? Check out this blog post about reinforcing your password strength.

4 - Protect your email address

Your email is a weak point in your security. It’s where phishing attempts begin and end. Instead of publishing company emails in your newsletter or on your website, include a contact form. This step will allow legitimate prospects to contact you without disclosing your email address.

5 - Beware of phishing

Even if you use forms to help protect data security, you’ll still have the risk of phishing attempts.

This attack happens when cyber thieves send out very real looking emails to gain your information. For example, they might pose as a government agency or your bank and ask you to update your records. They might even include the company’s logo!

However, it actually directs back to the criminal, with whom you unwittingly divulged important information.

If you are ever suspicious of any email, call the alleged sender and ask them if they really did ask for an update by email. They probably did not!

6 - Choose PCI-certified partners

Do you accept payments for your services, goods, digital downloads, or anything else online? Be sure you protect customer credit card data by choosing PCI-certified partners without exception.

PCI-certified means that a company (EmailMeForm, for example) has implemented rigorous standards as dictated by the Payment Card Industry. Furthermore, they passed an independent audit that proves they are providing you top-notch security.

Because credit card data is like a gold mine to a hacker, this is uber-important. And, be sure the provider is PCI-certified versus PCI-compliant.

7 - Secure your Wi-Fi

Just because you’re a small business, it doesn’t mean you’re impervious to the unwanted attention of a hacker. Sometimes, it’s merely a crime of opportunity. Say, for example, a person nearby your location notices you have an unsecured network. That can pique their interest and make them wonder what other vulnerabilities you have.

Mobile device safety:

Below are four easy ways to help keep your mobile device safe.

1 - Lock your devices

Keep your mobile device locked when you’re not using it. One careless misplacement of your phone grants access to a dishonest person.

2 - Install all updates

Your phone requires system updates. Unfortunately, it’s tempting to ignore them. But that’s a mistake. Updates regularly upgrade any security loopholes and help preserve data security.

3 - Be choosy about apps

When it’s time to add business productivity apps to your phone, only add those from an official app store like Google Play or the Apple App Store. They are selective and vet the apps that they offer. Using a third-party app from an unknown source can infect your phone and endanger your online safety.

4 - Use cloud services

Save your data to the cloud rather than downloading it to your phone’s memory. First off, you can retrieve your information if you do lose your phone. And secondly, the best cloud service providers have built-in protection that you will receive.

Final Thoughts on Online Safety

Online safety should be a priority of every small business owner. Never assume that small equals safe. Because the fact remains that hackers are opportunists with a single goal: to steal or destroy your data. Some do it for the rush or the fun of it. However, most do it for the same reason common house burglars break into homes—because they can.

And, this list of tips we shared is not all-encompassing. These are only the tip of the iceberg in ensuring your company’s data security.

For those who want the safest solution to collect, store, and view credit card online, consider the EmailMeForm Vault.

Here, you can safely keep credit card data, demographic information, and other sensitive data collected via your forms. You’ll have the protection of multi-factor authentication, but you’ll be able to retrieve the data safely from our cloud-based solution.

Better yet, we’ll let you take Vault for a test drive! We’d love to contribute to your online safety.

cta for online safety tips

Author Deborah Tayloe

Deborah Tayloe

Deborah is a blogger and freelancer who often writes for EmailMeForm. When she’s not blogging, you’ll probably find Deborah working on DIY projects around her home in North Carolina.

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